The Do's & Don’t's of Freshman Year

By now you’re probably overwhelmed by all the advice from people who know you’re headed off to your first year of college: Make lots of friends, study hard, don’t party every weekend…

Lucky for you, we’ve got it all written down with some personal input from real collegiettes to help guide you through your first week of college! The first week is a tough transitional period that can be endlessly fun but also overwhelming, so this is the time to put all that advice into practice.

DO keep your door open

This is an oldie but goodie when it comes to making friends during the first week or two at a new school: Now that you’re living dorm-style, it’s up to you who comes in and out of your room. An open door or a welcoming sign is a friendly invitation for your neighbors (and possible future friends) to step inside.

“I met one of my best friends during the first few days of college because she had a sign on her door saying they had cookies to share,” says Alex Watson, a junior at New York University. “My roommates and I lived on the same floor and decided to indulge in cookies one day and ended up gaining a few friends, too!”

Whenever you and your roomie are having some downtime and are hanging around the room, open the door and see if any future friends wander in!

DON’T buy your textbooks early

No, this doesn’t mean you won’t be doing any studying. Buying school supplies for college is a bit different than it was in high school. Unfortunately, one big difference is the cost. Textbooks can cost up to hundreds of dollars each semester, depending on your school and courses.

However, there are ways to avoid the worst of the bills! Some professors don’t even use the textbooks that are on the bookstore’s list, so we recommend waiting until the first day of class before making any purchases. That way you won’t shell out your savings on anything you don’t truly need.

Ivy Stafford, a junior at Keene State College, says, “I originally bought my textbooks too soon and almost always ended up not needing them, which could get pretty annoying.”  If you’re too nervous about showing up empty-handed, shoot the professor an email beforehand asking for his or her suggestions.

Once you have a final list of books, see if you can rent them, buy them used or even find them at a cheaper bookstore in the area. There are tons of deals online for students, so check out the six best sites for cheap textbooks.

DO try new things

It’s important to head into this new chapter of your life with an open mind. If you want to get involved and meet new people, you’ll have to try your hand at a few new things! Don’t hesitate to join extracurricular groups you may not have considered, try out for a team sport or approach a group of students at the dining hall. Check out your school’s a cappella groups, look into an art class or try your hand at a group fitness class. Many schools offer job fairs and/or club fairs that allow you to see all your options at once, gather some info and sign up on the spot. Now’s the time to try new things, so take advantage of it!

Kendall Donohoe, a third-year student at Northeastern University, says that the first week of school is a great time to branch out and meet new people. “During the first week of school, everyone is trying to make new friends and will be especially friendly, so try hanging out with different groups of people, not just your roommate or someone you knew before coming to campus,” she says.

DON’T overschedule yourself

That being said, you should limit yourself to some extent. We do encourage you to try new things, but there’s a line that can easily be crossed when you’re given more freedom than you’ve normally had. New students can often get overwhelmed by the array of options they receive when they come to campus, what with all the events, fairs, info sessions and new people. While it is important to go into the first week with an open mind and an eagerness to get involved, make sure you don’t get carried away with your obligations. Make sure you’re not messing up your regular sleeping or eating patterns, or you may be stuck in an unhealthy lifestyle for the rest of the semester.

DO make a roommate contract

If you want to avoid any potential conflict with your roomies, we recommend the classic roommate contract. It may feel a little awkward to sit down and have a serious conversation about living standards with someone you’ve never talked to in person before, but trust us: It’ll be worth it! This way you’ll know what to expect from your roommate and what she will be expecting from you.

Ivy says she’s definitely benefitted from roommate contracts she’s made in the past couple of years. “It’s a good way to at least figure out what your roommate's schedule will be and how you can handle chores or whatever and just get to know each other's quirks a little better,” she says. “It doesn't need to be formal, but just set some boundaries (like the classic sock on the door), and it will make everything about your first year so much easier.”

Have a chat with your new roomie about cleaning, visitors and what’s generally allowed in your room so you can start the year off on the right note.

DON’T get a boyfriend or girlfriend right away

While it may be hard to resist the new dating pool that college will present you with, we recommend holding back in the boyfriend/girlfriend department. While it’s always fun to flirt around and test the waters with new crushes, you want to be careful about making a big commitment in your first week at school. Nothing’s wrong with spending time with someone you’re interested in, but you’ll want to commit your time to other things, like class, friends and studying! If you’re devoting most of your time to your SO, you’ll risk falling behind in class and missing out on building lasting friendships, and you’ll perhaps end up having had a not-so-fulfilling first semester at college.

Alex says she regrets throwing herself into a relationship during her first semester at school. “My freshman-year boyfriend was a great guy, but I wish I had waited another semester or two before I committed to [a] relationship with him,” she says. “In retrospect, it definitely held me back from other freshman-year activities, because I was more focused on spending time with him.”

While campus cuties can be a definite step up from those high-school sweethearts, it’s not always the best decision to commit yourself to one person while you’re still in a transitional period of your life. Hold off on starting up that first-semester romance until you’re fully settled in to school!

DO go to class

This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’ll be surprised at how many no-shows there are on your first day of class! With the first few overwhelming days of moving in and meeting friends behind you, you might feel tired and less motivated to attend your classes. Once you get used to having more freedom, it can be tough to resist sleeping in and easy to forget to set an alarm or to get lost on the way to your lecture. We’re telling you to push past your unmotivated thoughts, plan ahead and get to class!

While all of your class periods are important to attend, the ones that fall during those first few days might just be the most important. During the first few class periods, your professors are likely to go over the syllabus, assign textbooks and get a feel for the class roster. And if you’re not marked as present on the roster, he or she might just consider cutting you from the class! Those first few days are your best chance to make a good impression, and you certainly don’t want to start off on the wrong foot.

College will be a fulfilling time in your life, so you should start on a strong note. Follow these dos and don’ts for a smooth first week of school!

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About The Author

Megan is a Community Manager at Her Campus, working to grow and maintain networks of 1500+ Influencers and 600+ High School Ambassadors. She conceptualizes and executes new programming initiatives for network members, assists the Integrated Marketing team on paid client campaigns for bloggers and ambassadors, and serves as the public face of both the InfluenceHer Collective and the High School Ambassador Program. After attending Emerson College, where she spent semesters in Boston, London, and Los Angeles, Megan has settled in New York City. Before Her Campus - where Megan started as an Editorial Intern - she held various positions in public relations, education, and entertainment marketing. When she's not at the office, you can find her jet-setting with a good book, bingewatching Friends (again), or on the hunt for a new restaurant. Find Megan on Twitter and Instagram: @mshuffleton