Web Exclusive: Surviving freshman year
When I first began attending college I was forced to take this experience class that was made in order to help me adjust to college life. When I left the class, I began to realize how the information I learned during my first 8 weeks there really did help push me forward into my college career.
This year I have officially begun my journey as an upperclassman- junior- and with all the new freshmen around campus it got me thinking about my freshman days. I began to appreciate all of the advice people gave me back then and I remembered all the advice I wish that someone would’ve given me. For that reason alone, I thought I should make my own list of the best things for freshmen know before they start college.
1.It’s okay to have a social life.
One of the biggest misconceptions about college is that if you spend tons of times with friends, family, and in relationships, you’re not going to do well and that could end up hurting your future. However, in the real world, creating and building strong relationships can be a lifesaver in college. Between all the classes, activities, clubs, and sports, college can become overwhelming, and having a good support system can help get you through that. It may even help you do better!
2. You’re not gonna like everyone you work with.
This advice may seem obvious, but it is true. Though you are going off to get a higher education, not everyone has matured yet. When you first get to college you may be under the misconception that group projects will be productive times in which all members are working together for a good grade. In high school this was known as the impossible, but in college, people pay for this education they are gonna work, right? The answer is no. If you were that one kid who always did a five person assignment by yourself, the chance of that changing is close to none. Every once in awhile you’ll get lucky with that one amazing group that really works well together, but don’t get used to it.
For those of you who don’t help with group projects and rely on one person for a five person assignment, it’s time to consider your choices. Many college professors require students to grade their partners and that can bite your grade in the butt.
3. Rent your books
While renting books may not work for everyone, there is really no need to spend money on liberal studies books that you have no need to look at after the class ends. If you’re a business major and you find yourself needing a 500 biology book, go to amazon.com or chegg.com. Both sites offer a huge selection of books you can rent. The best part is, they send you boxes so you can make sure to send it back for free.
4. Come Prepared
Never walk into the first day of classes without your journals, pencils, text books, and highlighters. College is about learning this material and you want to make sure you have everything you need to probably learn. The moment you fall behind, or if you don’t get something done, it will impact your grade negatively.
5. Ask Upperclassman for Cafe advise.
Let’s not lie about it, cafeteria food isn’t as good as mom’s home cooking. At many universities, the food can be just a few steps above high school lunches. While some kids may use this as an opportunity to cook their own meals, it gets expensive and what’s worse, you pay board to eat at the school.
As a freshman the battle of the cafe dragon can seem like an unfair fight as you spend tons of time looking around desperately looking for one edible thing. If you find yourself having this problem, ask an upperclassman that lives on campus. They’ve spent at least two years finding out what food is good, what’s gross, what lines go faster, and what may be poisoned. In the end, it will save you a ton of time and stomach aches.
6. Go to Class
You pay for class. You’re not too cool for school, just go. While it may suck to have to sit in History of Roman Empire, it sucks even more to have to spend another $10,000 worth of loans to have to take it again. You or your parents pay for this education so take as much as you can get out of it.
Many students on my campus call this part of YOGOWYPI, or “you only get out what you put in.” If you go to class and learn the information, you’re gonna get a lot out of it.
7. Have you checked the Syllabus?
College is a lot different than high school, many of your professors may have double the work as some teachers. With all of the stuff they do, they might not want to take the time to continuously tell you something you can easily find in your syllabus. So just read it.
8. Get good at receiving critical feedback
Have you ever watched American Idol and wonder how some families and friends could let such terrible singers think they were good enough to go on national tv? Basically college is your version of American Idol, just instead of singing your studying marketing and the judges are the real world. In college everyone has a chance to accele at whatever it is they want to do, and the teachers are just there to tell them how they can get better. You don’t want to walk into the first day of your big after school job and look like that terrible singer. So let your teachers help you out, and take what they say and actually do it.
9. Procrastination will kill you
In high school I was the procrastination queen. I could do an entire math assignment 20 minutes before class and still get an A. I did a final paper a day before it was due, teachers would tell me it’s one of the best papers they received and asked if they could keep it for future reference. I never had any homework, my parents often questioned it, but my grades were too good for them to really care.
I thought College would just be the same, but boy was I wrong. It took two assignments for me to realize that procrastination could actually be the death of me. With all the activities in college, as well as a huge increase in homework, if you hold things off last minute, it’ll become a jumbled mess that’s hard to pull yourself out of. My pro tip, do what you’re supposed to do it, when you’re supposed to do it. If you get an easy assignment, do it ASAP that way you have more time for harder ones and free time. It also allows you time to relax without worrying about the six page english paper hanging over your head.
10. Try Everything
College is a time to explore and many colleges offer a variety of different activities and clubs for just about anything. Trying new things can help create hobbies and relieve the stress that comes with college. You may also find something you truly love and want to pursue it more than the field you have picked out. Or maybe it makes you want to work harder in your field so you can spend tons of money on this hobby in the future.
11. Communicate well with your teachers
In college professors began to treat you like employees and you wouldn’t just not show up for work without a call first? If you would, then change your attitude because you won’t get far in life like that. Emailing professors to let them know what’s up can make your college experience that much better and save you as ton of grey hair.
12. Never say “Did I Miss Something Important” when you are gone… unless you have a death wish.
If a professor was teaching something non important, they wouldn’t have bothered to show up to class either. Teachers take their job very seriously and saying something might not be important is just an insult. In fact, this isn’t just advice for college, it’s advice for school and work. Follow it.
13. It’s okay to say no
If you are an exceptional student who works hard, you may find a ton of really amazing opportunities coming your way. At first it’s extremely exciting, but after a while you realise there is no way to fit a job, an internship, a work study, sport, major project, and classes into your schedule. However, it may be hard to say no when you feel like an opportunity is to good to pass up.
In these situations weigh the pros and cons, and if the cons currently out weigh the good just let them know you have too much on your plate right now to add anything else. Chances are they are going to understand.
14. Use your planner.
College is overwhelming, extremely overwhelming. There is just so many classes, activities, clubs, sports, and homework stuff that it can seem impossible to get it all done. If you have a planner and actually commit to it, it can help you go far in college and save you a lot of stress,
Planners help break everything apart and makes your daily load seem a lot shorter, it also allows you to figure out what days may be the best day to do this particular assignment. To top it off, it also helps you remember when different assignments are due so you don’t forget.
For me, my planner is extremely well organized. I make sure everything is color coordinated and as well organized as I can get it. If it wasn’t for a planner, I wouldn’t have made it through college.
15. Network, Network, Network… have I mentioned Networking?
For people who don’t know what networking is, it’s creating connections with people who can help get you further in your career. Professors alone are a great source to connect with because often times they have worked in this field and are highly respected. A good recommendation from them can sometimes be the difference between a $40,000 salary and $100,000 salary.
And don’t just network with professors in your field, work with everyone, you never know who is gonna be where in the future and how they can help you out. This can include outside teachers, friends, acquaintances, and coaches.
The main rule of networking, don’t burn bridges. Don’t put yourself in a position where someone, no matter how unimportant you may think they are, hates you. If you burn a bridge, you can’t get it back and it will hurt both your reputation and your future.
16. You don’t have to know everything right now
One of the easiest things to fall into in college is the belief that you have to know everything right now. In reality, it’s hard to be 18 and decide your entire future. Many freshman may find themselves in their advisors rooms the first day of school asking “is this the right field,” “Am I making a big mistake.” By the middle of the semester, you may feel the need to change your major, and then maybe change it again.
Relax, college can be scary and having to decide what you want to do for the next 50 years add a lot of pressure on you. The best tip I can give, is take your liberal studies first, and branch out a little. When you start to put yourself into new experiences, you get a better understanding of what you want.
Also, keep in mind that changing majors is totally normal, and many students will change majors multiple times.
Bottom line: relax, pass your classes, and enjoy it. Unless you’re heading to your second semester of your sophomore year, you have plenty of time to see what you want to do.