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6 Problems You’ll Face Your First Day of College (& How to Deal)

There’s been a lot of hype over higher education since around the beginning of high school, but now it’s finally here: your first day of college. You’ve gone through orientation, your room is set up, and you think you’re ready to go. But, of course, it’s normal to get nervous about how the day will play out. After all, you don’t really know what to expect.

But no need to hit the panic button quite yet, because Her Campus is here to get you through a timeline of your entire first day, from the moment you wake up to the moment you hit your pillow at night! We’ll be breaking down some of the biggest snags you could potentially hit (Alarm didn’t go off? No one to sit with at lunch?) as well as how to deal with them should they arise.

7:31 a.m.: Waking up late

You set eight different alarms to make sure you’d get up on time for your 8:00 a.m. class, and you still woke up late!

How to deal

First of all, waking up late is not the end of the world. “Everybody almost expects freshmen to be all over the place the first day of college, so take a deep breath and relax,” says Megan Showers, a junior at the University of Florida.

And Megan knows what she’s talking about; She woke up late on her first day of college! “I had a 9 a.m. class and woke up to my alarm clock reading 8:48 a.m.,” she says. “So obviously, I was freaked. It was at least a 15-minute walk to class plus the time it’d take to get ready, so I was pretty much on the verge of hyperventilating.”

Luckily, Megan had taken some proactive steps the night before to shorten her morning routine. “I’d been so neurotic about starting college that I’d actually laid out my clothes the night before and packed up my schoolbag like I was starting kindergarten,” she says. “At the time I felt paranoid, but as I was running around trying to get ready, it was a godsend.”

Megan highly recommends that other first-day college students do the same thing to avoid any surprises that pop up a little later than expected on day one. The night before your first day of classes, take 10 or 15 minutes to pick out your outfit and pack your school bag (notebook, pens, folders, your keys, student ID, the works!). Also, make sure you set out toiletries or know where they are the next morning so that you’re not searching for a toothbrush when you’re running around. If you want to earn extra preparedness points, set out a granola bar or some cereal in case you need to eat on the run!

7:47 a.m.: Getting lost on the way to class

You rush out of your dorm, and you’re so excited, nervous, and scared that you get extremely lost trying to find the academic building you’re supposed to be in. What’s a newly minted college student to do?

How to deal

Kate Masters, a junior at Wesleyan University, says that if you get lost on campus, don’t panic. “Go up to someone who looks a little older (and friendly) and ask him or her for directions,” she says. Everybody’s been there before!

If possible, though, Kate recommends visiting your classes (or at least the buildings) before your first day. “The night before my first day of college, I actually spent 45 minutes walking around campus to all of my classes just to make sure I knew where the buildings were,” she says. “Some of my new college friends came with me, and it was really fun!”

Like planning your clothes the night before, checking out the campus ahead of time may seem like a little too much preparation, so don’t be afraid to smile and ask someone for directions! Additionally, you could print a campus map and bring it with you for day one.

8:07 a.m.: You didn’t bring the right supplies to class.

You sit down in class and pull out your laptop, only to have your professor announce that he has a no-laptops policy. The problem? You didn’t bring a notebook and pen.

How to deal

Kate faced this same issue during her first college class. “I felt so dumb for not bringing pens and paper to write on,” she says. “So, obviously, my tip is to bring a couple of different note-taking supplies.”

Rachel Nelson, a sophomore at the University of Southern California, says it’s not the end of the world if you don’t have everything on your first day. “Usually the first day of classes is just the professor handing out the syllabus, asking questions, and maybe giving a mini-lesson, so you really won’t be missing much,” she says. “Just make sure you go buy your supplies directly after class!”

Still freaked out about forgetting stuff? Feel free to ask the person next to you if he or she has an extra pen. Hey, you might make a new friend!

Related: 15 Things You’ll Learn Your First Semester of College

11:17 a.m.: You don’t know who to sit with at lunch.

Thought you were over the days of scanning the cafeteria looking for a seat? Think again. What happens if your orientation friends or hallmates haven’t gotten to the dining hall yet? Should you sit alone or awkwardly stand there waiting?

How to deal

Megan had this situation come up during her first day of college. “A bunch of the girls I had agreed to get lunch with were running late from class, so I got to the dining hall first and found myself having to wait 15 minutes,” she says.

So what did Megan do? She got her food, found a seat, and stared at her phone the entire time. “I was so embarrassed to be sitting alone, but looking back now, two years later, I see how stupid all of my worrying was,” she says. “People don’t really care if you’re sitting alone, and no one will think you’re friendless or something just because people aren’t with you. It’s fine! I eat alone all the time now because I like to.”

If sitting alone is a little bold for you, remember that it’s college, so feel free to just wait for your lunch crew or meet some new people and sit with them (people are super friendly on the first day!). The important takeaway: No one is going to judge you, no matter what you choose.

1:42 p.m.: You don’t know what to do with all of your free time.

Your classes have wrapped up way earlier than they ever did in high school (ah, the beauty of the college schedule!), so what are you supposed to do with all of this extra free time?

How to deal

There are definitely a lot of options out there if you have a little time on your hands on the first day, from running errands to checking out your class syllabi. First, you can go to the campus bookstore and buy whatever school supplies and reading materials you’re missing for your classes. It’s always good to be prepared!

Second, there’s always the option of getting a head start on academics. Kate recommends combining schoolwork with social time. “I was actually assigned a ton of work in my first college class, so I went to the library with some friends so we could all work on stuff,” she says. “As someone who procrastinated all the time in high school, I thought it was awesome to begin college on a good note by getting an early start on assignments.”

Kate also encourages students to really try to be social during the first couple of days and weeks of college. “It’s easy to feel tired and want to sit in bed watching Netflix all day, but this a crucial time in your college career!” she says. “Make friends, hang out with people and get involved. It’s an awesome time.”

Free time is a great thing, but definitely make sure you still have a game plan so you don’t spend the first couple of days just browsing the internet. Make a list of what you hope to accomplish on campus during the beginning of the semester and go for it!

9:34 p.m.: Your friends want to party, but you’re not sure if you want to.

It’s your first night of school and you’re beyond exhausted, but a bunch of your friends want to go out to a party. You want nothing more than to crawl into bed and pass out, but you also don’t want to miss out on a social opportunity.

How to deal

First off, don’t feel like you have to go out to have a great freshman year! Rachel found herself in this situation during her first couple of days of college. “On the one hand, I didn’t want to seem like a party pooper, but I was also bogged down in homework on my first day,” she says.

So, how did she deal? Rachel met her friends in the middle. “My friends were actually pregaming for a couple of hours before they headed to this frat party, so I joined them for that and then left them when they went to the party,” she says.

It turns out Rachel made the right choice, too. “My friends only ended up staying at the party for an hour tops, so I didn’t miss much!” she says.

Another huge perk of having so much to do on a college campus is that you can pick and choose what you want to do with your time, so if partying one night isn’t your thing, no one will fault you for wanting to stay in and study or check out extracurriculars!

Overall, your first day of freshman year will definitely be filled with ups and downs, but just remember that everyone experiences them! Problems will pop up, so as long as you go in with a game plan and take a couple of minutes to prepare ahead of time, you’re going to do great. All of your classmates are as excited and anxious as you are to see how the first day goes, so relax and enjoy it!

Lily is a member of Wesleyan University's class of 2016, where she double majored in government and sociology. She's a writer, editor, and social media manager, as well as co-founder of The Prospect (www.theprospect.net), the world’s largest student-run college access organization. In addition to her work with Her Campus, she also serves in editorial roles at HelloFlo and The Muse.
Quinn Cohane is the Product Manager at Her Campus. She develops new features for Her Campus's web properties, including HerCampus.com, HerCampusMedia.com, HerConference.com, and CollegeFashionWeek.com, from initial conception to final installation. She collaborates with the Client Services team to implement custom landing pages, content hubs and sponsored content for client campaigns. Quinn also works closely with the Chapter Development team, training new team members on using Her Campus's content management system and leading the onboarding of new Campus Correspondents, national writers and bloggers, and national interns. Additionally, she oversees technical support for Her Campus and the uploading of national content. Quinn first joined the Her Campus team as a remote intern in February 2010; her past roles include Production Associate, Digital Media Manager, Chapter Advisor, and Study Abroad blogger during her semester in Copenhagen, Denmark. She graduated Cum Laude from Bowdoin College in 2013 as an English major and computer science minor. A native of Scarsdale, New York, Quinn enjoys attending theater and dance performances, traveling the world, reading, the beach, and apple crumb pie. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @quinncohane.