In the past, I have written quite a few posts to help out my fellow college students, ("8 Tips for College Freshmen," "Is College Really like they Say it Is?," and "Time Management") but I thought I would write an updated post now that I am a college senior. Whether you’re a brand new freshman or a sophomore coming to campus for the first time in person, I hope that this guide helps you feel more prepared for your first day of the school year. Here we go:
Making friends in college is one of the most important things you can do to set yourself up for success. The right friends can help you stay motivated to do well in school, encourage you when you’re out of it, and remind you of an assignment or event you may have forgotten about. When you walk into each of your classrooms for the first time, say hi to people. Get the number of at least one person in the class; this way, if you ever aren’t in class, you can ask them about information you may have missed. It is also very helpful to join groupchats and make study groups within your class; we’re all in this together, so we might as well help each other out.
You are going to encounter all types of people once you step foot on campus, so try and make friends with a good variety of people. Get close to people who are motivated to do well in their studies, who like to have fun and go to events, who come from a similar background as you, who come from a different background than you, allow yourself to interact with people you normally wouldn’t have talked to. (I would say an ideal friend to make is someone who takes their education seriously, but also knows how to take a break and have fun).
Ask for help
If you are struggling in a class, cut the pride and ask someone for help. Most professors encourage students to ask questions during the lecture so any confusion can be cleared up before they move onto a more complex topic. If you don’t ask a question during class, you can contact your professor after class, during their office hours, or through email.
Whenever you have questions about your schedule, academic progress, or anything else that would affect your schooling success, go to your advisor. These people are literally being paid to help you stay on track to graduate. I will be uploading a post about the many reasons why you should meet with your advisor soon.
If you still need more help, you can turn to your peers. This is why I think it is so important to join group chats for your respective courses; if you aren’t understanding a topic, someone else in your class may be able to share a strategy that can help you.
Don’t be mad if everything isn’t going as planned
Most people go into college expecting to graduate within 4 years with a degree in the same major they chose at the beginning of their freshman year. While this may be how some people’s college experience pans out, it is not like this for all. I know some people who have changed their major 4 times, some 1, some none at all. College is a time for figuring out who you are and what you want to do; as you start taking classes, you’ll learn what interests you and it’s okay if that means you need to switch majors. Switching majors may not always be ideal because it can increase the time it takes to get your degree, but that’s not the end of the world either. It may take you 5 years, 7 years, or 4 years & a semester to graduate, but what matters is that you do your best and stick it out even when the process is challenging. No matter how long it takes, you’ll be proud of yourself when you’re walking across that graduation stage.
Don’t buy the textbook until your professor confirms that you need to
Whether you really need that “required text” depends on both your major and the mercy of your professor. Every semester, I wait until the first week of school for each professor to confirm whether I actually need to get the textbook or not.
In the event that you do need the textbook, check your class group chat to see if any has already sent a pdf for the book, or check websites like lib.gen to see if they have the book for free. If neither of those methods don’t work, you could always contact someone who had the class before and ask if they would lend or sell you their old textbook. I’m all about saving money, so before I even think about buying a textbook full-price, I check all of these different options.
Get your money’s worth
Your tuition pays for the events on campus, student life, health fees, and a bunch of other stuff, so I suggest you take advantage of EVERYTHING. Go to events, get all of the free stuff, use the gym, if you don’t have a primary doctor, use your school’s medical facility (they usually have ibuprofen and allergy medication samples too), join a club, if there’s free food, eat it. Do all that you can!!!
Connect with professors
Once you find some courses that you really like, take some time to get to know the professor. You can do this by asking questions outside of class (etc. ask them how they got into their field of study, what steps you should be taking now to get where they are, more in-depth questions about class topics, etc). This will let a professor know that you actually care about the field you’re studying and may encourage them to let you know of any opportunities they hear about.
Some professors have research that they are working on, and if you show interest in their class and have good enough grades, they may let you help them. This kind of opportunity can help you get jobs later on and give you more experience; you’re helping them with their project, and you get exposed to the area of study you want to be in.
Getting to know your professors more is also helpful to get the letters of recommendation that you may need for future jobs or graduate school.
Think for yourself
In college, you will have a lot of opinions and ways of thinking thrown at you. Unlike when you were younger, you aren’t expected to automatically adopt these ideas; you are allowed to research them more and decide if you want to take them on as your own. You no longer need to follow the crowd or do what everyone else is doing. Don’t get caught up in peer pressure or feel like you need to live the stereotypical “wild college life” (but if that’s your style, then have fun). You are your own person and you get to do what you think is best for yourself.
Try and get some sleep
College students boast about how little sleep they have gotten because of a night full of studying. While being tired and stressed is common, it’s not a good look. There is no rule that says you’re only allowed to sleep for 3 hours every night. If you are able, get as much sleep as you can!
Being well rested is vital for being successful, present, and pleasant throughout your school day. You can’t be your best if you’re unnecessarily exhausted everyday. Be proactive and get assignments done BEFORE the day it’s due, study BEFORE the day of the test; if you get things done early, you won’t be pressed for time, and you’ll (hopefully) be able to get some more sleep at night.
If you have any other questions or blog ideas for college students, feel free to throw them my way!
Good luck this school year,