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Things I wish I knew before my freshman year of college

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bradley U chapter.

Let me start by saying this list is based solely on my experience. Everyone will have a different experience during their first year of college.This article is just my way of sharing my experiences and what I have learned. For the most part, I will be discussing general college tips; however, I may mention a few things that are specific to the university I attend.

I started my first year at Bradley University in the fall of 2021, and now I am beginning my junior year. Freshman year feels like ages ago, but also like it was yesterday all at the same time. Over these past few years I have learned so much about life. Thankfully, I am not the same person I was the day I moved-in freshman year. Even if time travel was possible, I don’t think I would go back and change a thing. Everything I have experienced in college has made me more wise. Like it or not, those experiences are part of who you are, and I don’t want to deny myself the ability to use them to grow.

In a previous article of mine I wrote about some of the social aspects. However, this article is about my experiences when it comes to adjusting to the academic aspects of college.

College was not at all what I expected. Most high school teachers that preach they are preparing you for college are dead-wrong. Chances are, they haven’t taught you crucial social skills; academic prioritizing; effective techniques for being an adult; or how to balancing classes, work, homework, mental health, physical health and friends. I know that may sound intimidating, and it certainly can be if you go into the situation blindly. No matter what, you will find your footing and get the hang of it. Now on to the long await list of things I wish I knew when starting my freshman year of college.

Some people just have a natural ability to focus on school. I, however, am not one of those people. Therefore, when given the freedom to make a lot of my own decisions, I definitely picked the wrong priorities. My first semester of college was pretty in line with my academics in high school — I have always been an A/B student. Unfortunately, things did not go that well second semester. That semester, I failed three of the four classes I was taking and dropped my GPA to a 1.75. Yeah … not one of my proudest moments. Because of how low my GPA got I lost all of my financial aid, including both government and university issued aid. Everyone always told me to keep a good GPA because it will be hard to get it back up. I treated that advice like it was coming from prehistoric times. Let me tell you, they were absolutely correct. Because of that one semester, I am still trying to get my GPA back up to the full financial aid requirements. A great mantra I wish I took seriously my freshman year is, “your GPA can drop fast and effortlessly, but it is exponentially harder to raise it back up.”

Staying on top of assignments and tests can be a lot. You are taking four to six courses, and each one is assigning homework like they are the only class you are taking. It is important to stay organized. However, there isn’t just one way to do it. I have tried a variety of things. If you don’t already know what your preferred method of organization is, finding it will be a bit of trial and error. So far, I have tried paper planners, a physical calendar, Google calendar, Google sheets, phone reminders and so many more. I created a fun little method for staying on top of school. Brace yourselves, I call it the due-do list. I won’t judge if you laughed at the name — I always do. Anyways, I list the days of the week and designate what color pen is for “due” and which is for “do.” Obviously, it doesn’t have to be colors, as long as you can tell them apart. From there I write down everything that is due with the corresponding day that week. I then work out my schedule and determine what things I want to work on each day. Thus designating what days I want to do each assignment and ensure nothing fully falls through the cracks.

I would also recommend using the resources your school provides. When it comes to your major’s requirements and what classes you have/need. Personally, I always find myself worrying about getting everything I need for my major and minors done in time to graduate. This makes me plan way ahead when it comes to courses. For instance, Bradley University uses the site uAchieve. This site produces audits of your courses. I use this site to see what requirements I have completed and which I still need to complete. It is really helpful because everything is in one spot. Another place to find your requirements is your school’s website. At Bradley they provide a brief overview of everything that is needed to complete your major and/or minor(s).

Your freshman year experience will not be the same as mine. That’s okay! Take each day as it comes, and embrace every little detail of those experiences.

Josie Smith

Bradley U '25

I'm a junior, journalism major at Bradley University! I love serving as this chapter's editor-in-chief.