This was originally published on my blog in May 2015 and is being republished for college month. Enjoy!
About a month into my freshman year of college I sat down in my favorite coffee shop on campus and starting writing this list. I outlined the major things that I had already learned and slowly added onto this list as the year progressed. Now, I’ve just finished up my freshman year of college and added a few more things that I learned along the way. Because if I’m being completely honest, freshman year is scary. I went in worried about things that didn’t end up mattering and unaware of the things I should truly have been worried about.
1. Get involved. Yes, you’ve heard it about a million times, but honestly the best thing to do in college, or any form of school, is to get involved. It’s a great way to network, meet new people, improve your time management skills, add to your resume, and allows you to be involved with something you are passionate about.
2. Know your priorities. In college, there are lots of events being held that you can fill your free time with, but you need to know your priorities. A weekend long service trip may not be the best idea if you have three tests the next week.
3. Have Goals. Take the time to make goals for yourself to reach during the school year. Set goals for things outside of school as well, such as social, financial, work out, relationship, or involvement.
4. Wear Shoes in the Shower, wash your hands, flush the toilet, clean up after yourself if you get sick. Just because your mom and dad aren’t around doesn’t mean your personal hygiene can go out the window.
5. Don’t Allow People to take advantage of you. The fact that I am a freshman on campus and have a car is a pretty big deal. Add on top of that the fact that I managed to get a really good parking spot in the parking lot right outside my dorm, people are well aware of the fact that I have easy access to a car. Just because you have a car does not mean that you should be the designated taxi driver.
6. An Ethernet Cable is the best investment you will ever make. Buying an Ethernet cable for my dorm room was honestly the best investment I have ever made. I always try to stay out of my dorm room and be on campus for the majority of my day, but when I have online homework, I am in my dorm room using Ethernet so that when Wi-Fi goes out, it doesn’t disrupt the timed math quiz that I am taking.
7. Have a College Bucket List. Start a bucket list of sorts of things that you hope to be able to do while you are on campus. Some examples of this could be to get involved in Greek life, to be an RA in a dorm, to be nominated for homecoming court, or to be a campus tour guide.
8. Keep in Touch with Friends From Home. I know you are super busy and meeting new people on campus, but keep in touch with your friends from home. They would love a quick update about how your move into the dorm went and how much you love your RA.
9. You Learn to Use Your Time Super Effectively. Coming to college and getting adjusted to the crazy college schedule took a good four weeks of getting used to and figuring out my routine. I had anywhere from an hour to four hour break between classes, each day had a different schedule, and days and times for my organization were always changing. It was a big adjustment, but I learned how to plan for each day to use my time to the best of my ability.
10. Do the “silly” freshman things. At my university we have something called a FIG, which stands for Freshman Interest Group. You can select a FIG based off of your major, so for example, since I’m a marketing major I was in the marketing FIG. A FIG essentially meant that you lived on the same floor as other people in your FIG, had two lecture classes with them, and then a FIG class with them. Whenever I told older students that I was in a FIG, many of them told me that they felt bad for me and not to worry “it will be over next semester”. Honestly, I think joining the marketing FIG was the best choice that I made coming to college, especially making the jump into 500 person lecture halls. I will never be able to explain how much it helped having the realization that twenty people in the lecture hall would be familiar faces.
11. Community Style Bathrooms Never Become “Normal”. While yes, I love that while people are showering with their music playing there is a mini dance party/singing marathon in the bathroom, I still shriek a little on the inside when my foot accidentally touches the floor when I’m getting into the shower or some part of my body touches a wall in the shower. It will never become normal that I am wearing flip flops in the shower or that I have to carry all of my stuff to the bathroom in the morning to wash my face and brush my teeth. It is fun, but I miss having all of my stuff in the shower, not having to wear shoes in the shower, and having good water pressure.
12. Take Classes Outside Your Major. This is the most common way that people find minors that they are interested in or even change their major. Or it could just be the way you incorporate something you are interested in into your class schedule, such as the textile and apparel class I took last semester.
13. Make Time for Yourself. A few weeks into college I realized that I was always around people, whether it be in class, studying at the library, or even my own dorm room, I didn’t have much alone time for myself. That’s when I started taking runs around campus, driving to the grocery store, and reserving private study rooms just to get away from people for a short amount of time and give me some time to myself.
14. Buy a good umbrella. I kid you not when I say eight weeks into my first semester I was on my 4th umbrella. Take the time to invest in a good umbrella because you will be using it a lot more than you imagine you will be. I’m speaking from experience on this one…
15. Utilize Rate My Professor and upper class-men. Rate My Professor has honestly saved me from almost picking some of the toughest or most disorganized professors on campus, which saved me grade wise. Another good thing to do is talk to upper class-men in your major about professors and classes and get advice from them.
16. Get to know everyone. Outside of your classmates and peers, get to know others. Talk to your RA’s, your advisers, your professors, and the lady that scans your meal card at the cafeteria.
17. Find your favorite places to study. I have a place to go to study when I want to be able to read my index cards out loud, a place for when I need total silence, and a place to go that is my absolute favorite escape for when I need to “get away”. There is nothing wrong with a change of scenery every now and then, especially when it feels like you are doing homework and studying for hours on end.
18. Invest in good tennis shoes. I kid you not when I say that a “lazy day” for me means that I have walked three miles. The Nikes that I bought before coming to school were probably the best investment that I made. While I love to look cute and put together, I can save that for going out with friends or the weekends. I’m always on campus wearing good tennis shoes and it has saved my feet and my legs from so much pain.
19. You get what you put into it. I can’t even begin to put into words the difference between the people who get themselves out there and do things and the people that don’t even try to get involved. Now, I am not talking about people who basically only have time for their job, school, and school work (trust me, I know people like this! I look up to them and want to learn their time management ways) I’m talking about the people that you want to ask, “Do you ever leave the dorm? Or your dorm room in general?” The people that seem to never leave their rooms are the ones that think college isn’t worth it, that it’s a waste of time, and that it isn’t what they thought it would be. Those that are putting themselves out there, getting involved, going outside of their comfort zones, and pushing themselves are the ones that are always talking about how much they love college and how it’s so much better than what they expected. You get out of it what you put into it.
20. Have a budget. I hear it all the time, “I have money now, so I will worry later when I start to run out.” That is not the way that you want to go about spending your hard earned money that is supposed to last all year but only lasts you half way through first semester because of your horrible spending habits. Sit down and make a list of all of the things you have to pay for that are necessities, figure out the costs for those, how much you have to spend that much, then how much money can be your “fun money.” Is being on a budget fun? No. But trust me, you don’t want to be the one spending your Christmas break trying to find an on-campus job because you already spent all of the money in your saving account.
21. “You Have a Package” E-mails are the Best. The best e-mails that you will ever receive come with a subject line of “You have received a package that is too large to fit into your mail box.” Those e-mails are literally like Christmas come early even if you are the one that ordered it and have been tracking it online.
22. Ask for help if you need it. There is this strange thing that comes with college that asking for help isn’t okay. Yes, you have this crazy new awesome since of freedom, but I promise asking your professor about that math lesson that went completely over your head will not take that since of freedom and independence away from you. Your professors are there to help you!
23. Get involved in events your campus puts on. Our school hands out a calendar to each student at the beginning of the school year that includes all of the events going on around campus. From Flick on Faurot to Spa Night, from Free Movies to the Career Fair, it is all on this calendar and online. I always hop onto the website at the beginning of the month and scroll through the calendar and add things for the month to my calendar to go to if I happen to have the chance.
24. There is a world outside of campus. I kid you not when I say that after a week of being on campus, going grocery shopping that Saturday was pretty eye opening. One of my friends even made that comment that she had kind of forgotten that there were grown-ups and little kids in “the real world”. Laugh all you want, but until you are surrounded by the college atmosphere, you truly do forget about the “real world”. I live in the dorms on a large campus and walk everywhere, so actually getting into my car and driving off campus is refreshing.
25. Treasure every alone moment you get. Living in the dorms, having a roommate, and all of the amazing things that come with being a college student has a down side: you don’t get much alone time. I used to feel bad for the students that sat by themselves at dining halls until I realized that is how they are getting away from people and finding that alone time. The most cherished time I have (yes, cherished) is driving by myself to go get groceries. It’s amazing to actually hear yourself think and not have other people talking around you.
26. Track your involvement. Did you have an on-campus job? Where you a volunteer at your school’s annual blood drive? Did you have a leadership position in your sorority or fraternity? Have an organized way of tracking your involvement. I personally have a Word document saved in my college folder that tracks what I was involved in each semester. Thanks to tracking everything, I won’t forget things that can be put onto a resume, including the things I thought I would “never forget”.
27. Get out of your dorm room. Get out of your dorm room and go somewhere else, even if it’s just the dorm’s lounge that is on the floor below you. I am honestly only in my room to sleep, get ready, eat breakfast, use Ethernet, and to watch too much Netflix with girls on my floor. Other than that, after I leave in the morning, I’m on campus all day unless I go back to use Ethernet.
28. Talk to your adviser. Your adviser is there to guide you through the next 4, or even 5, years of your life, so you have to use them to your advantage. It is recommended that you talk to them at least once a semester to check up on things, make sure you are on track to graduate, and plan classes for next semester. I honestly LOVE my adviser. I walk into my appointments with my list of required classes for my major, a list of questions, and a list of classes that I am looking at for the next semester and she always is happy to answer everything, walk me through things, and explain things that I completely misunderstood.
29. Homesickness is real. The hardest thing for me about going to college was that I was the only person from my graduating class at my university and several of my friends went to the same university and had classes together. Getting onto Facebook and seeing their posts with pictures of them together was very hard. The thing that I couldn’t figure out though was that I loved my university and I had always had the impression that if you were homesick you didn’t like your school. That is not the truth at all. The truth of the matter is, you are at this strange in-between place in your life. You are torn between two places because you have your room at school and your room at home. You are adjusting to new found independence and are trying to figure out your life. If you are homesick, it’s okay! It is completely normal and doesn’t mean that you don’t like your school. I promise, from experience, it is all okay and will get better.
30. Use your school’s GPA calculator. Your GPA in college is a lot different in college than it was in high school. In high school your GPA is typically based off of 6-8 classes, while your college GPA is typically based off of 4-5 classes. That one B or C+ can make a big difference on your overall GPA for the semester. I definitely recommend using your university’s online GPA calculator and figuring where your GPA will be based on grades you feel you can reasonably obtain.
31. It can be difficult living with a roommate. While living with someone else can be great, sharing one small room together is difficult and issues can occur. Don’t be afraid to speak up if you don’t like how she is handling something within your room or you feel that you are being taken advantage of in some way.
32. College students have some of the best deals offered to them. From free access to the gym or discounts at retail stores, college students have lots of wonderful deals offered to them. Never be afraid to ask if a store offers a student discount because often times they do!
33. Get to know people within your major. Just from getting to know upper level students from within the marketing school, I’ve heard all about good GPA boosting credits, professors that I need to have, and which classes I need to be prepared to have a lot of work in.
34. Talk to you RA. Your RA’s are there to help you and want to help you, so talk to them and use them as a resource! And if you are having roommate issues, they are the people to turn to because typically they have been there too.
35. Go to class. In college, you (typically) don’t have your parents there to wake you up or tell you that you need to get off of Netflix and go to class. Even if you feel that you don’t get anything out of going to class, go! You or your parents are paying a lot of money for you to be there, and you never know, a professor who never gives out extra credit might actually give it because of how few people show up to his class.
36. Do the extra credit. Even if it’s just one point, do the extra credit. You never know, that one little point could be the difference between a B+ and an A-.
37. Utilize your syllabus. Your syllabus outlines your class, assignments, and tests, so it’s always good to reference it so that you know what’s coming up. There have been several times when I am the only person in the class that was aware of an assignment or quiz because I check my syllabus to make sure that I am on top of everything.
38. Be careful with caffeine consumption. Before I went to college, I had actually never drank anything that had caffeine in it. Crazy, I know. Once I got to college, I had to be careful to not lean on coffee to get me through my day.
39. Invest in a good pair of ear plugs. The kind of school work I’m doing determines the kind of environment I want to be in while working on it. If I’m doing homework or making a study guide, I love going to Starbucks or the lounge in my dorm because there is always a little bit of noise. If I’m studying for a test or doing a reading assignment, I need (almost) complete silence. I love going to the silent rooms in the library or sitting in my dorm room, but sometimes there is still a little bit of unpreventable chatter. Investing in a good pair of earplugs was one of the best things I’ve done for my study routine.
40. Do something productive every day. Every once and a while you will be blessed with a day where you have nothing to do, but do something productive anyways. Even if it’s just making a few quick flashcards for your business law class or getting ahead on your math homework for the week, just doing something will help you stay on top of things. And give you less to do when your weeks get crazy busy!
41. Not everyone drinks. There always seems to be a looming pressure to drink or that you will be one of very few people that doesn’t drink. As the school year progressed, it amazed me the number of people that I met that have chosen not to drink. While it is up to you, just know, you are not the only one choosing not to.
42. Use a planner. I’m being completely honest when I say I don’t understand how people make it through school without a planner. My planner manages when homework assignments are due, when review sessions and tests are, when classes are cancelled, when I have organization meetings, and so much more. I refer to my planner multiple times a day and I’m not sure what I would do without it.
43. Learn how to manage your stress. During my second semester, I had a three week span that was one of the most stressful times I’ve ever endured. In fact, it was probably the most stressful time of my life. After getting through that period of time, I realized I had to make time for myself to step away from everything I was doing and make time for myself. For me, that means painting my nails, going to the gym, writing for this blog, or taking a short drive.
44. You learn to appreciate the littlest things. I never thought how much I would cherish the ability to eat a home cooked meal, shower with no shoes on, not have to jump to get into bed, and the three hours to myself on the drive home.
45. Make a professional e-mail. There will be times that it is required to use an e-mail that isn’t your university e-mail, so you want to make sure you have an e-mail that isn’t lovetodance or basketball4lyfe. It’s typically suggested to use your first name, middle initial, and last name to make a personal, professional e-mail account.
46. Check your university e-mail. It’s amazed me the number of people that don’t stay on top of their university e-mail. At my university it is very common that we are e-mailed about upcoming school events, internship opportunities, on-campus job opportunities and reminders about when and how we should sign up for classes. If you are involved in organizations it’s also very important to stay on top of your e-mail because typically meeting times, leadership and volunteer opportunities, and meeting cancellations are e-mailed to you.
47. Do something for yourself every day. Just like you should do something productive every day, you need to do something for yourself every day. Whether it’s facial and hair mask in the shower or trying out a new yoga class, always make sure that you are making time for yourself.
48. Know the difference between casual, business casual, and business professional attire. It’s amazed me the number of events there have been that have requested business casual attire and people show up in yoga pants and an oversized t-shirt. Make sure that you know what attire is appropriate for the event you are attending.
49. Enjoy every moment. Even though it can be very stressful at times, remember to enjoy your time in college. It is a wonderful time of making memories, meeting new friends, finding yourself and growing as an individual.
50. No one’s freshman year is ‘perfect’. While yes, I will tell you how much I loved freshman year and that I am excited to see what sophomore year has in store, freshman year definitely had its challenges. From a severe care of homesickness, to roommate issues, stressing over a class to being sick for two and a half weeks and plenty more imperfect moments in between, what makes freshman year so perfect is looking back and seeing just how much you have grown.
What are your tips for soon-to-be college freshmen? Did I miss anything? Did any of the things I wrote stick out to you? I would love to hear your input in the comments below.