10 Top Tips for Incoming Freshmen
The transition from high school to college is a huge one, especially if you’re moving away from home for the first time to experience dorm life. Along with the stress of living in an unfamiliar place and rooming with strangers, you will be faced with new academic and social pressures.
The next four years of your college life will set you on an exciting, and sometimes difficult course to adulthood. These 10 tips from Your Best Edit will help to ease the way:
1. Schedule Work & Play: The earlier you plan your time out in college, the happier and less anxious you will be. Allot plenty of hours to study, read, and write papers. The demands of college coursework are much more rigorous than high school and you will need every extra minute. To create a balanced experience on campus, also give yourself time for fun, meeting new people, and trying unfamiliar activities. The friends and partnerships you make now will likely last a lifetime. Balance is the key word to having it all.
2. Register Early: If possible, sign up for your required courses and electives as soon as possible. Group classes back-to-back into a few days of the week, preferably Monday through Wednesday. This will leave you blocks of time on Thursday and Friday to do your homework, without pulling too many all-nighters in your freshman year. Make your schedule work for you, not the other way around.
3. Network, Network, Network: These four years will go by in the blink of an eye and you should make the most out of them. Connect with fellow students of all backgrounds, religions, and nationalities. Make an effort to get to know your professors and take advantage of meeting with them during their office hours. Seek out esteemed faculty and administrators in your chosen major. Go to events where you might meet alumni and garner yourself a crucial internship for next summer. Join a special-interest club, sorority, or fraternity. This is the time to forge connections that promise to reap rewards in the professional world long after you graduate.
4. Reach Out Without Doubt: Unlike the real world, your college campus is teeming with people and places designed solely to assist you. Take advantage of the help without feeling a single twinge or hesitation. Whether you need guidance in choosing or changing a major, finding a source for wise and grounded career advice, getting over that hump in your advanced physics course with a tutoring session or three, or seeking out a campus counselor for therapy--go for it. The goal of all of these professionals is to help you succeed and have a wonderful (and less fraught) college experience.
5. Find Your Happy Place: Do you love to curl up in the farthest corner of the university library to read Chaucer, or prefer blasting tunes in the dorm lounge to find your groove with your Econ homework? Some like it hot and some do not. Discover what type of space works best for you and you won’t waste time being distracted by too much silence or noise, as the case may be. Are you a loner, or do you thrive by bouncing ideas off of your fellow students in a study group? The fictional Rory Gilmore found her bliss under a tree at Yale. A special place awaits you this fall--you just need to find it.
6. That GPA Matters: An incoming freshman faces many challenges, primarily academic and social. You may feel torn between the crushing demands of your course load and the urge to get out with new friends and have fun. Both are pulling for your attention, time, and energy. Don’t lose sight of the importance of maintaining your GPA in the inevitable swirl of activities. If your grades slide and your GPA slips into the lower digits as a freshman, it is very difficult to make up the shortfall over the next three years. It’s a lot of stress to put on yourself. Stay focused on your academic goals first, and party later. You won’t regret it.
7. Explore and Expand: The most often-quoted advice for freshmen is to keep an open mind. That means setting aside assumptions about your fellow students, campus activities, classes, and the part you play in all of it. Are welcome events cheesy and awkward? Sure, but there’s free food and you might make a few new friends laughing about it. Head to an involvement fair to explore clubs and organizations. Volunteer at a local charity and expand your world. No one is judging you except yourself. Stay open and you’ll be surprised at the opportunities and relationships that come your way.
8. Note to Self: These days, learning takes all kinds of shapes and forms. Podcasts, webinars, traditional lectures, labs, etc. One thing that has not changed is the inherent value in taking notes during a class. Whether you write by hand or type into a laptop, you will retain and process the information more quickly and readily by taking notes. Your observations will expand far beyond the data found in textbooks and syllabi.
9. Move to Groove to Snooze: Sitting in a classroom all day and then studying all night will not keep your energy up. Join an athletic team or club, walk around campus every morning before class, bicycle around town instead of driving, and get your circulation moving. The endorphins you produce with exercise will keep your mind sharp by day and allow you to rest at night. Speaking of which, getting adequate sleep is very important and something many college students ignore. Keep your body in peak physical shape to keep your thought processes sharp.
10. Accelerate to Save: We all know how expensive tuition is, and it goes up exponentially each year. Many students are saddled with huge loans when they graduate, and starting salaries barely keep them in groceries. There is another option to combat this perennial problem: finish your education in three years instead of four. One year less of tuition could represent $50k. If you have the energy to carry more than a full load of credits (18+), and/or continue your education full-time into the summer months, you can check out early and jumpstart your professional career ahead of your classmates.
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