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12 Tips for Surviving Your First Day at College

Starting college is a daunting experience, and your first day can often be the most daunting. But it doesn’t need to be! While many people think that the first day is the most stressful, we’ve come up with some tips to make sure that your first day is as fun and as easy a transition into college life as possible.

1. Leave your dorm room door open.

An open door policy is the quickest way to get people to introduce themselves. Open door = friendly resident who wants to chat. If you’re looking to make friends quickly, then be sure you pack a doorstop to wedge your door open! People will drop in and say “hi” as they move in, and this also lets you know when your dormmates have moved in.

And if you need help with your unpacking, you’re likely to get helpful dormmates asking if they can help with anything!

2. Unpack your things as soon as you can.

There’s one sure way to make yourself feel homesick, and that’s to not move into your dorm room properly. If you’ve ever tried living out of a suitcase for a few weeks, then you know that it can be a complete nightmare. The best thing that you can do is to get rid of all your boxes and give the empty suitcases back to your parents. Set up your room the way that you want it, and make sure you have all your homely decor displayed where you can see it; this way, your dorm room feels like a little piece of home and not the empty shell that it was before you moved in!

3. Explore your campus!

Once you’ve unpacked and made yourself feel a little more at home, go and explore your new surroundings! Whether you head straight to figure out where your classes will be or you’re more interested in seeing the recreational facilities, try to orient yourself and see a bit more of the campus. You’ll be feeling at home in no time!

4. Don’t spend your first night alone.

Whether people on your halls are going to a party or they’re all staying in with a chick flick and some popcorn, get out of your room and find a fun activity to engage in. Even if you’re really tired, try to meet some new people before retreating to your room. It’ll make your first night memorable and less lonely.

5. Meet as many people as possible…

Be prepared to meet as many people as you can in your first day. Everyone is going to be smiling and keen to make new friends, so be sure to take advantage of this! Don’t judge anyone yet, and don’t automatically decide who your friends are going to be—just take it easy and play it by ear.

Just be sure that you introduce yourself to as many people as you can! Whether you go around your hall knocking on doors or are just hanging out with people who knocked on your door, be sure that you spend time with other people who have just moved in.

6. …but if you don’t make any good friends, know that it’s okay!

So you don’t think you’ve met anyone who is going to be your new BFF? Don’t panic! It’s just the first day. Honestly, most college students change friendship groups a few times before they settle into one that suits them. The people you meet on your first day don’t have to be your new friends; in fact, it’s highly possible that they won’t be.

You have four years to make new friends, so don’t be disheartened that you’ve not settled in on your first day. Many collegiettes continue making friends until the end of their senior year. Just keep reminding yourself: it’s only day one!

7. Let your mom fuss over you.

Your mom is going to want to fuss over you. A lot. When she asks to help you unpack, or to vacuum your room, just let her. Remember that this is stressful for her as well—she’s just packed you up to live on your own for the first time! Your parents might even want to take you out for lunch or dinner. While we just said that you should meet as many new people as possible on your first day, you might also want to make the most of your family time. You can spare an hour or so for a meal with your family—and just think how happy it will make your parents feel!

8. Know that everyone is as nervous as you are.

The other college students you meet might be beaming, but that doesn’t mean they’re not panicking on the inside. This is an entirely new experience for everyone, so don’t think that you’re the only one who is either homesick or worried about not making friends. It would take a very strong person to move into a new setting and have no worries at all.

The other thing is, everyone is just as eager to make new friends—so don’t worry about knocking on someone’s door and saying hi. They’re likely to appreciate that you made the effort.

9.  Pack snacks—everyone loves cookies!

It’s great to have a box of cookies or chocolates in your dorm to offer your dormmates when you first move in. If you do go around your halls knocking on doors, it’s nice to have something to offer people. Your choice of food doesn’t have to be anything fancy; even just M&Ms will be very well received, especially after lifting all those heavy boxes!

10. Make sure you have a noise-canceling device.

It’s possible that your halls will be noisy and that you’re not used to this, so it might be a bit more difficult to get to sleep. The worst thing to be during Welcome Week is exhausted: it’s a long week, so try to make it easier by sleeping properly.

Earplugs might be enough for you, but if they aren’t, there are a few things you can try. If you like listening to music at night, invest in some noise-canceling headphones. If you don’t want to sleep with headphones on or earbuds in, then you might want to pack a white noise machine. Clara Beyer from Brown University says that “it’s like having a little fan next to your ears. At first, you notice the noise, but then you’re quickly able to tune [it] out. It made it so much easier for me to sleep in my first week at university!”

11. Wear something you’re comfortable in!

So you’re freaking out about what to wear? Wear something that you’re comfortable in, but also something you feel you look good in. If you feel confident, it’s likely to come across in your body language and your gestures. Remember when you’re choosing your outfit that you’re going to be moving boxes for most of the day and unpacking, so make sure you’re wearing something practical. We would recommend putting the high heels away for now, collegiettes!

12. If it isn’t the best day, don’t worry! You have four more years!

If you haven’t had the best first day, don’t worry about it! There are many people who don’t love their first day of college but still go on to have a great four years at college, so don’t put too much pressure on these 24 hours. Just think, you’ll meet even more people tomorrow, and one of those people could be your new best friend! Tomorrow is another day, collegiettes!

Your first day, and in fact the entirety of Welcome Week, is a very stressful experience—and many people don’t have the best time. But it’s okay! You’ll settle in soon, especially once you’re in the routine of classes and have met people with similar interests in your classes and through the extracurriculars that you choose to join. Try and make the most of your first day with these tips, but don’t panic if it isn’t perfect!

Lauren is the President/Editor-in-Chief of Her Campus Exeter, as well as the Manager of UK Expansion and a National Writer for HerCampus.com. While she has worked with Her Campus Exeter it has achieved Pink Chapter Level status and has grown to its current status as one of the most successful chapters internationally. She's determined to grow Her Campus in the UK this year and so is looking foward to working on increasing the number of HC UK chapters and to helping the established chapters improve and develop. This summer she was lucky enough to intern in the Her Campus Head Office in Boston, and had the most amazing time -- any time she can go back, she will! In her spare time Lauren loves to play tennis, catch up with her friends, go for long walks in the Scottish countryside or to watch chick-flicks under her duvet. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @laurenhudson25.