51 Tips Every College Freshman Should Know

51 Tips Every College Freshman

A mixture of online resources and tips learned through experience

Freshman year of college can be super fulfilling, fun, and even mind expanding. But it can also be a time of realizing you don’t really know how to operate in the real world. While the new level of freedom college students obtain can be great, there are certainly times when you just really don’t know what to do. Luckily tons of people have made it through to tell the tale. Here’s a list of 51 tips college graduates wish they had known when they first showed up on campus. Good luck, and have fun!

Lifestyle

  • There are pros and cons to Greek organizations. Take your time to assess what Greek life at your campus is like, and whether or not it’s a good fit for you. Check out this US News article to weigh some common pros and cons.
  • If something is bothering you about your roommate(s) or living situation, talk to others involved. Be proactive and start taking care of issues before they become larger. This is your home for some time, make sure it’s livable for you.
  • Most schools offer a variety of free trips, oftentimes out in nature or to nearby cities. These are a great way to get into new hobbies (kayaking, rock climbing), make new friends, and travel for free (or cheap).
  • Become involved with an extracurricular, or get a job. Having something besides studying can help you meet new people and make sure that you’re managing your time decently as you begin your college career.
  • Stay on campus. Many colleges enforce the use of dorms for Freshman year, but it’s a great way to find a community on campus. It’s hard not to get to know people you both live beside and take classes with.
  • It’s OK to live with your parents if you need to, but ideally college is a guided environment to start testing out living on your own. Take the additional freedom that comes with college as a time to grow.
  • Even if it’s a non-traditional sleep -schedule, stay on a schedule. Getting enough sleep regularly is commonly the basis for getting on a schedule for work, socialization, and so forth.
  • Eat right. For many students away from home for the first time, it can become easy to slip into eating pizza for almost every meal. A quality and varied diet keeps your mind clear, keeps you healthy, and you feeling good about yourself.
  • Don’t let your dating life take over your life. College has much more to offer than potential girl or boyfriends.
  • That said, college is a good time to meet prospective boy/girlfriends and healthy relationships can be very rewarding and add to your support network at school.
  • College is probably one of the few times in your life where you’ll have access to free (well, included in tuition) health classes and world class exercise facilities. Take advantage of this.
  • Don’t mix drinking and social media. Even if you aren’t drinking watch what you post online. It’s an easy and unnecessary way to find yourself in a sticky situation.
  • Don’t bring your car to campus if you don’t need to. Many campuses are walkable and are surrounded by quality public transit. Cars can take away valuable opportunities to get to know the students and community members around you.

Grades

  • Find a hidden study nook. Many colleges have scores of buildings that are largely uninhabited after class hours. You’re paying for the ability to use the schools resources. Scope out a nook with your own coffee machine, a nice view, or that’s nice and quiet.
  • Whether or not your friends or classmates choose to use the library, they are often filled with untapped resources. Need a book? Most libraries will order books or other academic materials for you free of charge. Most libraries also host a wide variety of journals, periodicals, and events that can be great ways to impress a professor or go above and beyond in school work.
  • Always go to class. Particularly in smaller classes, simply showing up and participating can substantially help your grade.
  • Don’t be afraid to drop classes. There are tons of variables that go into whether it’s the right time for you to take a specific course. Just because you have to drop doesn’t mean you can’t ace the class in the future.
  • Get to know your academic counselor. If they aren’t competent, don’t take an interest, or don’t know what’s involved with your particular major or interests, find out how to switch counselors.
  • You may feel like cramming for tests has worked for you in the past, but it is actually the least effective way to study. Just start studying earlier. That way you can take your time and come away with a better grade.
  • Learn how to study effectively. Check out these ten study techniques from Psych Central for some noteworthy tactics.
  • If you’re just looking for ‘easy A’s’ you’re missing out on a lot of what college has to offer. Challenge yourself and jump outside of your comfort zone.
  • Go to office hours. Many times professors are bored, and one-on-one time with a professor is super valuable as far as your grades are concerned.

Mindset

  • Manage your expectations. Known as the Freshman Myth, perhaps the largest reasons why students drop out after freshman year include overconfidence, under-preparedness, and a lack of realistic expectations about college.
  • If you left home for school, quit comparing your location to your hometown. You aren’t going to college to continue comforts of a home and family. You’re going to create opportunities for yourself and expand your horizons.
  • Keep an open mind. You never know when a class might bring up an interest you didn’t know you had, or an unexpected friendship will grow.
  • A recent study shows that today’s freshman are socializing less than ever, largely interacting through social networks, and studying more. This has led to the lowest measure on record of freshman emotional health. Studying is important, but the chance to socialize with smart and like-minded individuals is also an important part of higher education.
  • College is supposed to be exploratory. Take advantage of general education requirements to try some new things. Unless you head to grad school, you probably won’t be surrounded by as many experts in diverse fields ever again.

Opportunities

  • Have an idea for a project or organization? Check out funding opportunities at your university. Oftentimes there’s money just waiting to be claimed for student ideas.
  • Go ahead and create a basic resume, even if you don’t have much to put on it. When you’re involved in extracurriculars, work, or internships, think about how they fit into a narrative about who you are and what your goals are that you can communicate on your resume.
  • Many fields are increasingly filled by knowledge worker positions. If you have work or projects that you can share online, grab a domain name and start posting your own projects.
  • Particularly at large schools, there are often student led clubs for tons of interests. You can visit most clubs and be under no obligation to join, but if you do they can be a great place to make friends with similar interests.
  • There are often a number of jobs around campus that just need a student to sit and answer occasional queries (front desks at athletic centers, libraries, etc.). These are often great ways to make money as you can often do schoolwork while you work.
  • Start thinking about internships early. Even if you don’t end up pursuing the field your internships are in, at least you now know it’s not the field for you. Internships also allow you to gain applicable workplace skills early.
  • Check for funding opportunities at your university. There are often grants for internships, trips, and research projects. You just have to seek them out.
  • Forge relationships with faculty members. Besides giving you an excuse to hang out with interesting and intelligent people, you oftentimes need professors to provide letter of recommendation.
  • Even if you know you want to go into one field, or have already decided on a major, augment your learning with a wide variety of topics. If you want to study physics, don’t let that stop you from taking a class in art history. If you want to major in English, don’t let that stop you from studying geology. Being a well-rounded student and thinker is one of the most valuable job skills out there.
  • Seek out performances and talks outside of your area of focus or comfort. You can’t know whether you interested in things that you haven’t been exposed to.
  • Don’t postpone goals, get started on them early in your college career. Universities have a ton of support for a wide variety of project types, use it.

Socialization

  • Join some extracurriculars. Whether they’re centered around exercise, academic interests, self expression, or your future career, extracurriculars are often structured and relaxed ways to meet people. And you already have at least one thing in common.
  • Look beyond the types of groups you were a part of in high school. Don’t miss out on one of the best chances to meet motivated classmates from a wide variety of backgrounds.
  • Enjoy yourself! One of the largest factors in freshman year success centers around college meeting your expectations for socialization.
  • Even if there’s an event you’d rather go to, your parents miss you. Spend time with them if they come to visit occasionally.
  • Use meals on campus as a time to unwind and meet with your friends and professors.
  • Trying to get along with a roommate you don’t like is unfortunately a common college experience. If worst comes to worst, draw up an agreement, talk about expectations, and at least keep the relationship cordial.

Life Hacks

  • Particularly if you have some type of income, take out a credit card. Just utilize a portion of the credit line every month, and always pay it off. This will give you a little leeway with money flow as well as build up some credit by the time you’ve graduated. However, if you’re having trouble paying off your balance, just get rid of the card.
  • Always backup your work. If you’re having technical difficulties, be proactive. Pretty much all schools offer tech support for free, and you shouldn’t wait until right before a big assignment to start trying to fix your computer.
  • Use an financial planning app. There are a number out there for both iOS or Android that can let you know how much you have left to spend while remaining on budget every day. Check out a few options here.
  • Use flip-flops in communal bathrooms. Even if they aren’t shared by many, they’re easy to keep track of and way better than an infection.
  • Pick up your clothes after they’re done washing and drying. It’s inconsiderate to leave them in the dryer, and your clothes will get stolen if you leave them for long enough.
  • Use your campus’ health services. They’re a great resource for free or cheap health care. They also often have counseling services if you ever feel like you need to talk with someone.
  • College towns generally have tons of ways to save money if you just show a valid student ID. Check out a list of national brands who offer discounts for student ID’s here.