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Penn State Old Main
Penn State Old Main
Original photo by Emma Wesolowski

First-Years Have A Lot To Share: Advice For High School Seniors Getting Ready For College

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at PSU chapter.

With May 5th—decision day—coming up, seniors across the country are picking what school will be their home for the next four years.

There is a lot going through their minds. Where will they get along with people? Which school has the best academics or programs? How much will school cost?

College is a big deal! So, there are a lot of considerations that come with it. But, regardless of where they go, there are some core things that freshmen need to learn.

From school to school, almost every upcoming freshman goes through the same nervous-excited emotions.

It is the first time in many people’s lives that their parents are not there to guide and advise them. Most start to become financially independent if they are not already. And, they need to build an entirely new social circle.

There are totally new pressures that come with college life. So, it is nerve-wracking! I remember it like it was yesterday because it kind of was yesterday. I was going through the same nervous emotions this past summer.

The best people for upcoming freshmen to learn from are freshmen this year!

To ease some of these anxieties here is some advice going into freshman year from freshmen!

learn how to “Adult”

First of all, college may be the first time that you are away from your parents. So, there are some “adult-ing” lessons that you need to learn.

First, Devin from Penn State says, “Don’t stay up too late.” With there being no parental supervision, you can truly go to bed at any time you want.

The first semester of your first year will be filled with sleepless nights. Whether it is because of school work, club activities or partying, you will be surprised how long you can stay up. One night last semester, I stayed up in the game room of the Pollock Commons until 6 a.m. with my friends!

Granted, this is not healthy and will drain you. So, make sure to balance work, fun and school with your sleep!

Next, Sam from Penn State shares, “Stay on top of laundry or you will drown in clothes and be stuck with the ugliest outfits.”

Now that you are going to be on your own, there will be no mom or dad to nag you about doing your laundry. So, make sure to pick a free couple of hours each week to do your laundry!

Sydney from Penn State reminds first years, “don’t forget shower shoes.”

Communal bathrooms are… an adjustment. It does not matter if you share a large communal bathroom with your entire floor or an individual bathroom with a few dorms, remember your shower shoes, shower caddy, robe and towel.

These bathrooms, while regularly cleaned, are naturally gross. So, make sure to not get athlete’s foot or whatever other fungus from those shower floors.

A huge part of transitioning into college is taking ownership of your life. You need to make sure that you are functioning! And, part of that is standing up for yourself.

Kelly from Penn State advises students, especially international students like herself, “don’t worry about bothering people with questions or problems, it’s their job to help you.”

Penn State Huck Life Sciences bridge
Original photo by Emma Hogan

Remember you are there for school

Besides learning how to live on your own, you need to learn how to deal with your schoolwork.

College brings a whole new level of complexity to your schoolwork. Classes demand more work. And, you are the one who is completely responsible for your attendance, time management and grades.

And, you are completely responsible for your schedule. Gone are the days of your guidance counselor telling you exactly what classes to take. Now, you need to take the right classes, the right amount of credits and with the right professors.

Sydney from Penn State wants to let upcoming first years know to “chart out your classes and how long it will take to get places before classes start” while scheduling classes.

With college campuses, it takes a lot longer to get to classes. Here at Penn State, it can take up to thirty minutes to get to a class from your dorm. So, while scheduling classes and making your schedule, you need to make sure 15 minutes is enough time between your classes.

Next, Devin from Penn State advises students “Don’t procrastinate! Learn class material ahead of time.”

With class work being more intense, classes often require more time. Before lectures or labs, you need to make sure that you understand the material going into the class instead of figuring it out there.

Material from labs, pop quizzes in class, and everything in between can hurt or save your grade. So, you need to make sure you are ready and prepared.

THON 2023 Total Reveal
Photo by Jacob Santos

Get involved

Classes are not the only thing you need to be involved in. Clubs are great in college. They are a way to connect with people, build your resume and find out what you really like.

Personally, I have found that clubs have acted as a way to get passionate about my school and destress from boring schoolwork. I have found friends and passion in my extracurriculars. At Penn State, I have joined Her Campus, TEDxPSU, a THON committee and more.

I am definitely not the only person who thinks this. Getting involved on campus was the most recommended thing for the first-year students interviewed.

First, Hayley from West Chester University says, “Try to join as many clubs as possible even if you think some of them aren’t for you because you might find a new passion and make connections with lots of people.”

Lauren from Penn State says, “Join clubs that you are interested in! But, stick with them for a few weeks to get a good idea of what they are about if you are not enjoying them at first.” There will definitely be clubs that surprise you!

Lindsey from Penn State says, “Even if you don’t want to, get involved and try things! But don’t feel pressure to do things you don’t enjoy, there are plenty of people who agree with you.”

Lastly, Colé from Temple says freshmen “are below no opportunity. Don’t not try out for something because you are a freshman.” Just because you are a first-year student does not mean you cannot go out for different clubs, competitions, etc.

Manage your time

Time management is the most essential lesson to learn.

With your new responsibilities, both academic and life, you need to learn how to balance it all.

Segmenting time to wash your dishes, do your laundry, get all your homework done, go to club meetings, go out on the weekends, hang out with friends, get food, study, go to office hours, exercise and give yourself some leisure time is initially very hard. But, over time, it becomes easier.

You just need to make sure that you do not trap yourself into not prioritizing the important stuff.

Michael from Drexel makes a great point about time management, “Time management is really important specifically cutting your losses. If you don’t have time to do all your work and sleep then chose what work matters the least and don’t do it.”

At the end of the day, you need to make sure you are healthy and happy. So, taking the L on a test or not going out a couple of nights is not the end of the world. But, you need to make sure that you make the most of your time and freshmen year.

penn state
Ashley Quinones

Enjoy every moment of it

Lastly, all these interviewees and I are first-year students. The first day of classes truly felt like yesterday, but now, my freshman year is almost over.

College is really fun! And, there is a lot of excitement that first semester. So, as all of this happens, make sure to take moments to enjoy it all.

Jacqueline from Loyola puts it perfectly, “Prepare for it to feel like summer camp — you’re all by yourself and everyone is adjusting to being on their own and wants to make friends immediately.”

You are going to meet a lot of people, have a completely new environment and learn a lot. So, enjoy the rush!

Lastly, Hayley from West Chester University shares, “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there because everyone is in the same boat.”

Kyra is a second-year student at Penn State. She is double-majoring in Political Science and Broadcast Journalism. She is also involved in PSU's TEDx program. For fun, she loves to play tennis, read, hang out with friends, and eat cheezits!