Some students find the adjustment to college exciting and nerve-racking at the same time. During freshman year, you will be immersed in new classes and activities, and you might also be learning how to live on your own. Here is a list of freshman year do’s and don’ts to help you navigate your first year of college.
In college – as in high school – it’s important to keep track of your assignments, daily schedule, and deadlines. The planning system you used in high school — whether it was an app or a notebook — might work just fine in college, but you might want to consider a different or more robust organizing system or tool. For example, you might need something that helps you set reminders or manage deadlines, or a different note-taking app. Staying on top of your schoolwork and other activities will make for a less stressful first year and help you to enjoy it!
DO: GO TO OFFICE HOURS
Professors may seem intimidating, but remember that they were in your shoes once and are there to help you. Don’t be hesitant to visit them during their office hours to discuss homework, tests, grades, study tips, or other advice about their class. This could be the start of a valuable relationship and may help you with future coursework. Take advantage of opportunities to connect with your professors, whether it be by email, office hours, review sessions, online chats, or other opportunities to talk with and get to know them.
DO: GO OUT AND MEET PEOPLE
Even if it’s only over Zoom, take a step out of your comfort zone and make an effort to meet new people. Great ways to do this are by joining clubs or a fraternity or sorority, participating in campus activities, or even forming study groups with classmates! You never know, you could meet some of your best friends on your dorm floor, in the classroom, or at a club orientation event.
DO: MAKE TIME TO EXERCISE
Make sure to stay physically active. Exercise is not only healthy but it also can help you reduce stress, improve your focus and memory, and avoid the “freshman 15.” It’s important to find a routine that fits into your schedule and that you enjoy — whether that’s taking a brisk walk between classes, hitting the gym with a friend, or riding your bicycle.
DO: BUY USED TEXTBOOKS
College is already expensive without including the cost of textbooks. Depending on your classes, one new textbook alone could cost over $200! Purchasing used books — or renting them — can save you a lot of money. There are many resources for used, electronic and rental textbooks, including your college bookstore, Amazon.com, and other online sites.
DO: USE CAMPUS RESOURCES
Various student resources are available on most college campuses, including writing centers, librarians, tutors, study groups, health services, and counselors. If you need help navigating available resources, check in with your residential advisor or the student affairs office. Make sure to use the many campus resources available to you — reach out online if necessary — as they may improve both your academic and personal college experience.
DO: FOLLOW YOUR COLLEGE’S SOCIAL DISTANCING GUIDELINES
Especially during COVID-19, it’s important to follow any guidelines your college has put in place regarding social gatherings, masks, vaccinations, and social distancing. For ways to get involved and meet people safely, reach out to your school’s student life coordinators, student affairs office, residential services office or counseling center.
DON’T: STAY IN YOUR ROOM AND HIDE
By going out and exploring your campus, you can learn so much about your environment and the students in it! Keep an open mind about trying new things, joining clubs, and getting involved in campus activities. This will help making friends easier, some of whom could become lifelong friends.
Don’t procrastinate in doing your schoolwork! Procrastinating is how you get behind which, in turn, can affect your grades and academic performance. Professors are not as lenient as high school teachers and typically won’t accept any late work. Also, if you turn in an assignment that you started last-minute, the content may not be as well-thought-out or presented had you prepared and started it sooner.
DON’T: PURCHASE YOUR TEXTBOOKS TOO EARLY
Some professors or instructors recommend additional books that are not required for the course. It may be a good idea to reach out to the professor or to someone who has taken the class to confirm which books are actually required. Be sure to convey to professors, however, that you want to do well in the class but you'd like to keep yours costs down.
DON’T: OVERSCHEDULE YOURSELF
Your first semester is about adjusting to a new environment, getting comfortable with college-level classes, and learning what works for you. Overscheduling could be overwhelming and could make it hard to keep up.
DON’T: STUDY FOR 20 MINUTES AND EXPECT TO KNOW THE MATERIAL
Most college classes are a lot different from high school classes. Generally, college courses move at a faster pace, there are fewer assignments and tests determining your grade, and most of your studying, reading, and classwork will be completed outside the classroom. To be successful, you may need to study differently than you did in high school, work harder to keep up, read ahead and prepare for discussions, and review material regularly. You’ll also need to attend class and budget your time effectively.