Freshman year can be one of the most confusing and exciting times of your life. All of a sudden, you are completely surrounded by members of the opposite sex, have almost total freedom, and your only responsibility is to make good grades. There are things you can do to make the transition into college smoother, but there are going to be bumps in the road regardless.
There is no avoiding them, but if you follow these tips, you should be able to come out ahead. And by ahead, I mean not having a dismal GPA that you have to work to bring back up for the next three years.
1) Get to know your professors.
Seriously. Everyone shares this sage piece of advice, but few college students actually follow it their first year. Build relationships with the professors you have something in common with – whether that’s a passion for bird calling, gender equality, or belonging to the same department.
It’s important to establish relationships with your professors early on so you have time to build on them and make them stronger in future years, which will only make for better recommendations and advice (since they know you better), grades (they’ll be more understanding since you talk to them regularly), advantageous connections on your campus and community, and an overall better college experience.
2) Leave your dorm room.
Though it is tempting to spend hours on end watching television and procrastinating, leave your dorm room. Mingle with your hallmates and attend campus events with people, even if it’s not up your alley. It gives you an excuse to be exposed to the campus culture and a lot more people you may not have met.
3) On that note, get to know your hallmates.
You are spending a year with these people, so you might as well make some friends while you are at it. Besides, getting to know people makes things less awkward for future in-the hall encounters and allows you to avoid the awkward saying hello dilemma when you see someone.
4) Explore and find good places on campus to study that work with you.
Studying in your room really isn’t advisable because it’s really easy to become distracted. From the alluring appeal of your cozy bed, blaring sounds of music, your roommate’s problems or chatter, to the need to tidy up your room before you study … when you’re trying to study and/or procrastinate everything becomes an excuse. At the same time, the library doesn’t always work either. Find what does work and explore your campus at the same time.
5) Explore your food options on and off campus.
Know where you can get food on campus and figure out your late night and date night options around town.
6) Don’t be scared about befriending upperclassmen.
Grade boundaries aren’t as big of a deal in college as they are in high school. You will have upperclassmen in some or many of your classes and these upper-classmen can unlock doors, in the academic and social world, that you never realized existed.
7) Don’t party too hard – know your limits.
It’s way too easy to get too crazy your first year. You’re independent, and free from your parents. But remember why you’re paying for college – it’s not only for the awesome social scene. It’s not a big deal to party every weekend as long as you have time for yourself, your academics, and other things that matter to you.
8) Explore the city, town, or rural setting that you are currently located in.
There’s tons to do wherever you are and each place offers its own charms and quirks – don’t wait until your senior year to find out what your area has to offer.
9) Break the bubble.
Go beyond your university. It's easy to be on campus all the time, especially if you go to a big school where much of the city is also your campus. Go beyond the obvious locations that students at your university frequent and truly immerse yourself in the community-at-large and its residents
10) Get involved, and try out clubs and activities that sound even remotely interesting.
College extra-curriculars are like a buffet; you are allowed to sample everything before you select your main entrees. This is your time to explore without constraint or judgment.You may just fall in love with something like the fencing club.
11) At the same time, don’t overburden yourself with extra-curriculars.
Everything does seem fascinating and engaging but it’s more important to choose activities that you are interested in and can actually devote your time too. Prioritize – academics have to come before anything else.
12) Be open and honest with your roommate.
Don’t be passive-aggressive and engage in Post-It war battles with your roommate and/or suitemates. Seriously, it’s just going to create more animosity.
13) Be willing to compromise – it’s a shared living space.
Pick your battles. Figure out what bothers you the most, and try to accommodate other people’s needs as well.
14) If you’re going to engage in any kind of illicit activity, you’re better off doing it on campus.
Campus police will be a lot more understanding and tolerant than the local law enforcement. Check out the alcohol policies at your school, and know the consequences of your actions so you’re always prepared. Some universities (like mine) have a "Responsible Friend" policy that allows you to call the campus police if you or a friend requires medical attention without any consequences because your safety is more important than punishing you.
15) Be communicative. Be communicative. Be communicative.
Having read this advice, there are only two other things to keep in mind:
No matter how put together and on top of it everyone looks on the first day, they are all just as nervous as you.
Everyone wants to make friends, so introduce yourself to everyone —and remember that the most important part of the college experience is stepping outside of your comfort zone all the time.
Written in conjunction with Abby Miracle, a sophomore at Trinity University.