As a freshman in college moving more than six hours away from my home town, I knew that I would need to adjust to college life quickly. I had no friends joining me at this school that is—quite literally—in the middle of nowhere. I spent hours reading different Pinterest posts and magazine articles on what to do in order to be successful in college. Now that I can finally reflect on my first semester, I can solidly say that these are the best tips that helped me survive—and thrive—during my first semester of college.
1. Utilize all resources offered by the school
Back in high school, I was the type of student that had to do everything on my own. I didn’t want to ask for help, so I suffered until I stressed myself out. I knew I couldn’t do this in college, so I told myself I would ask for help—and I did. I not only went and spoke to professors when I needed help, but I also visited the Writing Learning Center (yes, even as an English major). Sometimes you just need to make sure everything is perfect.
2. Stay up to date on all assignments and don’t procrastinate
It can be really easy to fall behind on reading textbooks and homework assignments that are assigned outside of class. I always tried to do my work during the day so that at night I would have more time to relax, however, this is not always realistic. I also tried to start any big papers or essays at least several days before the due date. This helped me keep my stress levels a lot lower than they would have been if I was up the night before.
3. Try to get sleep
This should be an easy piece of advice, but it isn’t. People often say that eight hours of sleep is best, but in college that isn’t always possible. You want to be able to have fun, do your work and relax. Although 24 hours still doesn’t seem like enough time in a day, I made an effort to try and get at least six hours of sleep. The more sleep you get, the more you can focus on class and assignments. Also, all-nighters may seem like a good idea at the time, but they have screwed up friends of mine who have missed classes.
4. Make friends in classes
Having friends in your class can make the days seem a lot more exciting. Not only is there a person you can talk to when the teacher is having issues with technology—which is a common occurance—there is also someone you can get food with before or after class. That friend is also there to help you with questions about the class and listen to you complain about the course even if you love it.
5. Join clubs that interest you and get involved
One thing that people will always tell you is to get involved on campus and join clubs. I agree. Not only is it a way to find people that you have things in common with, but you can explore new passions and reignite old ones. My first semester I joined three clubs: the school newspaper, Her Campus, and a dance club. I also took advantage of the school’s GOLD program which helps students prepare for college, jobs and life.
6. Form bonds with your roommate(s)
Unless you are given permission to have a single room, it is almost inevitable that you will get at least one roommate. I decided to share a suite with five other girls. Being friends with my roommates makes it easier to discuss living situations and set rules. It also means that at night when you’re relaxing or finishing up that last bit of work, you can hang out and talk with them before bed. They are there to help you when you need help physically, emotionally or academically. You can also just have fun with them and watch some Netflix or hang out around campus.
7. Allow time for fun
One thing my dad repeatedly told me before I came to college was to make sure I have fun. He told me to study and have a good time. I found out that while college is a lot of work, it can also be a lot of fun; however, it’s important to find a balance. This also can go hand in hand with joining clubs and forming bonds with your roommates. Doing things you love to do is a great way to relieve stress and meet people. You may also find something new to do like attend a hockey game.
8. Go to class
Going to class may be an obvious requirement, but many professors don’t take attendance. It may be easy to decide that you can skip one class, but that only hurts your grade by missing what the professor taught that day. Skipping class with professors that do take attendance especially hurts your grade because it’s showing that professor you don’t care. They understand that sometimes things happen, but it’s in your best interest to try and go to class. It’s also a waste of money. College is very expensive, so taking advantage of the opportunities and learning new things makes it worth the money.
Back in high school, I didn’t study a lot. I’d crack open my notes that night before the test and was able to get very good grades. When I got to college, I realized the material was a lot harder. I made an effort to start studying at least three nights before an exam. I’d do review sheets if the professors provided them, retake old online assignments and make quizlets to study from too. Every person has a different way of studying. It’s just a matter of finding what works best for you.
10. Don’t be afraid to try new things
This is another thing that people often tell college students to do. As mentioned above, you can try joining new clubs. I tried a yoga class. I went to my first hockey game and actually liked it. I’ve also been forced to try a lot of new foods and watch new genres of movies. Even if you end up hating it—like I hated horror movies—at least you tried. You’ll be making memories either way that will define your college years.
11. Stay in touch with friends and family
My friends and family helped me get through my first semester. They gave encouragement when it was needed. They also helped distract me if I was really stressing out. Being so far away from my friends and family makes me miss them even more, but it also makes talking to them feel extra special because we’re able to share stories. If you make an effort to stay in contact with your family and friends, it helps on the days when you’re missing home. Homesickness will happen—it just may not hit some people as much as it hits others. Also, tell them you love them whenever you talk. It makes them feel cared about and it makes you feel better too.