Don’t Just Survive it – Thrive! Tips For Your Freshman Year in College

You’ve chosen the school you want to attend and you’ve been accepted. Congratulations! You’re preparing to embark on an entirely new and exciting stage of your life. College is more than just continuing school. You are charting the course for your future. Beginning college life is the greatest year of transition you will have experienced so far. That may seem overwhelming, but every step you take prepares you for the next one. You’re excited, a little frightened and full of questions. Attending orientation is a good starting point, but you may still have some unanswered questions.

Experts are the best source of information, so I’ll share advice from college students who have “been there and done that” and survived to talk about it. Their best overall advice to incoming freshmen is: Try and balance your time between schoolwork, making friends, and relaxing. College isn’t studying 24/7 or partying 24/7; Hang in there in there; once you get past that first stage, it gets easier; and Stay true to your beliefs, but be open to new challenges and experiences that college life offers.

HOMESICKNESS, SEPARATION ANXIETY AND OTHER FUN THINGS

Whether school is two hours from home or halfway across the country, you’ll probably experience some degree of homesickness. It’s perfectly normal, so don’t be surprised by it. Those first few weeks are an adjustment period. However, you’re more likely to feel lonely and homesick if you spend too much time alone. So get involved. Join clubs and groups that interest you. Talk to everyone. This may be difficult for you shy types, but college is an opportunity to grow. You can present yourself differently than you ever have before. If your friends think of you as shy and quiet, why not see what it is like to be outgoing and friendly? Your new friends will accept you as you are. Your RA (Resident Assistant) can also help you make the transition smoothly.

Stay in touch with family and friends back home by phone, email and IM. Being able to vent your feelings with people you know and trust will go a long way in helping you adjust. As you meet more people and settle into the routine, you’ll feel more comfortable.

SO WHAT’S THE BIG DIFFERENCE?

College is different from high school.

No one checks to see if you go to class or complete assignments. Classes meet less frequently, sometimes only once a week. If you miss classes and don’t hand in assignments, no one checks up on you. You go from highly structured classes, parents and teachers hovering over you to almost total freedom. You’ll quickly find you need to be very careful how you exercise this freedom. So go to class, take notes and pay attention! College is your new full-time job.

If you have difficulty with a course, it’s your responsibility to get help. And the sooner the better! Take advantage of every resource available to you – teaching assistants, tutoring programs, speech and writing centers, mentors, peer advisors and academic advisors you can speak to. Don’t forget about your professors. You can meet directly with them during their office hours or get in touch via email. Meet with your academic advisor regularly to ensure you are taking the courses you need. Working together with other students in a study group can be very helpful.

TICK TOCK

Time management skills are absolutely critical. If you haven’t already mastered this, get a handle on it now. One of the most daunting tasks for many students is the large amount of reading that is assigned. Reading boring material can be difficult. Discipline yourself to set aside time just for school reading. Plan ahead and keep track of when assignments are due. You need to realistically estimate the amount of time to allocate for academics (studying, reading, doing papers, completing assignments), your work study job, if you have one, adequate sleep, social activities, as well as maintenance tasks like laundry.

A good (loud) alarm clock, watch, post it notes on your computer, planner or palm pilot will help you get to class on time and keep track of assignments, quizzes and tests. The more organized you are, the less overwhelmed you will feel. Here’s more advice from the experts:

DORM LIFE

Keep your room as clean as you can. You spend most of your time there so it will affect your mood one way or the other. Make friends with those on your floor. They may turn out to be your best friends.

FAITH/SPIRITUAL LIFE

It’s so important to believe in a higher power because there are so many situations that are out of your control. Remain true to your faith and continue to practice what you believe in.

GETTING ALONG WITH ROOMMATES

Be friendly, be courteous, be honest and be yourself. Never be afraid to confront your roommate if you have a problem. Be polite and respect each other’s space. Be willing to compromise with each other and avoid selfish thinking.

CHOOSING CLASSES

Try to balance required, core classes that benefit you in your career path with ones that interest you.

PROFESSORS

Using ratemyprofessor.com can be misleading. Some of the best professors have poor ratings on that site. Ask around and see what other students say about professors. If your choice is creating problems, switch the class as soon as possible.

OK, you’re armed with some practical advice from those who have gone before you. Here’s a last thought to keep in mind as you step into your future:

Change is a necessary part of life. Some changes are harder than others. Hang in there. No matter how hard things seem at first, have faith that it will get better – and it will.