Someone pinch me because I’m a freakin senior. Not to get all cliché, but it seriously feels like my parents moved me into my freshman dorm yesterday.
Now that I’ve racked up a couple of years of experience under my belt, I figured I’d share some of my “wisdom” with those of you gearing up to start your first year of undergrad.
1. Remember that everyone is the new kid
If you’re nervous about making friends in the first weeks of college, remember that everyone is in the exact same boat. So put yourself out there! Exchange phone numbers (this way you won’t forget their name) and make plans to just hang out, get lunch, or go to a club meeting together.
Are you worried that you won’t know what to talk about? Just stick with the basics. Ask what TV shows people are watching, what they did during the summer, what kind of music they’re into. Odds are you’ll have something in common and you can go from there.
2. Put your name on the email list
So you made it to the fall activities fair (you should be there!), and each club and organization on campus is waiting to tell you all about what they do each semester. If you have even a glimmer of an interest, put your name on their email list! That way you’ll know whats going on, and you can choose to show up to their meetings or not. Worst case scenario, you decide you aren’t into it and unsubscribe down the road. I had never tried climbing before I got to college, and that first day I put my name on the Outing Club’s email list. I ended up going on a trip & fell in love.
3. Always buy your textbooks online
Although your college bookstore is probably the most convenient option, you could save some major $$$ by ordering your books online. I like using Amazon Textbook Rentals when I can, and I always compare prices on BigWords.com so that I can get the best deal.
Bonus tip: wait until you get your syllabus in the first week of classes to see if you’ll actually need the textbook. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve bought and have sat on my desk collecting dust!
4. Learn how to communicate with your roommate
I am the queen of avoiding my problems & being passive aggressive, two qualities which have not helped me (ever) while living in close quarters with college roommates. You are sharing a space that is equally yours as it is theirs, and you both should feel comfortable living in your tiny dorm. If you have a concern, get it out in the open before it gets worse.
5. Choose your class schedule wisely
Your class schedule determines your entire life in college, so make sure that it’s the way you want it. If you know you aren’t going to wake up every morning for that 8:30am class, don’t take it unless you absolutely have to. I swear by this website for planning out my semester’s courses.
If you don’t get the classes you wanted, find out if your college offers some sort of override system. It depends on the institution, but I have emailed the professors whose class I want to get into and been very generously granted access into the class section. Remember to be kind and very thankful because this is a stretch!
6. Be creative in the cafeteria
For the most part, college cafeteria food sucks. You are going to get sick of whatever is in the monthly rotation pretty quickly, so start experimenting! You don’t have to eat the full meal that comes from the main dinner line. Mix and match different options, add dressings from the salad bar onto your sandwiches, add cereal to your ice cream cones, get creative.
7. Start saying YES
This one is vague, but let me give some context. In high school, I never put myself out there. I stuck to what I knew and was nervous to join new clubs and teams or hang out with new people. When I got to college, I told myself that I would say yes more often. I would go to that football game, I would follow through on those lunch plans, I would join that club. One of my best friends freshman year asked me if I would go through sorority recruitment with her, and I said yes. Doing this has led to me making so many new friends and experiences which I would have never encountered otherwise.
8. Go to office hours
In the syllabus, professors will list their office hours and TA hours. These are your greatest resource! This is one on one time to meet with the person who is making the exams and giving you your final grades. Go to office hours, ask questions, and make sure the professor (or TA) knows your name. The more dedication that you show tells the professor that you care about their class, meaning they’re more likely to round that 89% B+ to an A.
9. Make upperclassmen friends
Upperclassmen have been in your shoes. They know the ropes of your college and can teach you things like what dorm to live in, which professors to take classes with, and where to find the best cup of coffee on campus. I don’t know where I’d be without the upperclassmen friends who taught me how to navigate my school and life in general. Thank you, friends!
10. Figure out how to manage your time like an adult
Learn how to prioritize early on. There are parties every night of the week in college, but that doesn’t mean you should be going to them. Of course, college is fun, but you can’t stay in school if you are failing all of your classes. I’m not perfect by any means, but I try (keyword) to hold myself accountable to go to the gym and put in at least 2 hours of school work in at the library every day before I get to do something fun. It also helps to have an agenda, whether that be physical or online, to help you manage your assignments and precious time.
11. Have a costume box
When you do go out at school, odds are that you’ll end up at a theme party. I keep a box of old Halloween costumes and props that I can throw on and be “in theme.” In my experience, popular theme party themes tend to involve some sort of American gear (flags, red, white & blue, etc.), Hawaiian/tropical vacation attire (think floral dress & a lei), some sort of camouflage, and lots of ugly holiday sweaters come wintertime.
12. Push through the homesickness
Just like any part of life, there are ups and downs while in college. Being so far from home, there are days where I really wish I could sleep in my bed, hang out with my mom, and play with my dog. This isn’t an option for me, so I try to FaceTime home often, ask my mom to send lots of puppy pics, and make sure that I check in with myself to figure out why I’m missing home so much on the bad days.
13. Clean your room
Ok, so I’m not the best at following my own advice on this one, but I try. At school, germs and illnesses travel like wildfire. You are in public spaces all day long, and you bring all of those germs back to the tight quarters of your dorm room! I am a frequent flyer at my college’s wellness center, so I try to minimize my exposure to germs with a few easy tricks. I wipe down things like the door handles and my desk, change my sheets frequently, and eliminate as much dust as possible so that my room doesn’t add to the germ pool.
14. Don’t forget about your high school friends
There are hundreds of people in my graduating high school class who I will probably never see again, but there is the handful who I still keep in touch with. These friends are at schools across the entire country and have gone through so many of the same experiences in college that I have. Sometimes we all need to talk to people who aren’t wrapped up in what is happening on campus, and a quick phone call to these old friends can dial you back into reality.
15. Have fun!
Everyone says that these four years are the best years of your life. I can confirm that they will absolutely fly by, so enjoy every second. If I could start freshman year all over again right now, I would!
If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them in the comments below or on my contact form!