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7 Things I Wish I Had Known Before My First Year of College

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

My first year of college is coming to an end. Going into this year, I thought that I knew everything there was to know about what my college experience would be like. But in reality, I have learned so much this year that no one told me about going in. So, for all of you incoming freshmen out there, these are the seven things that I wish I had known before starting college:

Getting Involved in school activities is different from high school

Sports Volleyball Hands In
Tiffany Meh / Spoon

Everyone always tells you to get involved in activities in college, but no one really mentions how different involvement can be. At schools like UCLA, student organizations can be really competitive. Almost all of them require an application to join. Don’t let this scare you! Apply to any organization that you’re interested in, and attend meetings and activities. You’re an adult now; no one is going to mandate that you go to team meetings. But going to these things is how you get involved, so do it!

Grades are based on tests and papers

I’ve only had a few classes where I have weekly homework, and even in those, grades are weighted to heavily favor final exams and papers. Unlike high school, assignments and busy work aren’t going to carry your grade. Most classes put at least 50% of grade weight on a combination of midterms, finals, and papers. Which means…

You’ll have to study

Trust me. Before going into college, I was that kid that never studied and passed every test with an easy A. But three hours of lecture per week isn’t enough to have an A-level grasp on the material before going into exams. Lots of freshmen get a rude awakening during their fall quarter because they’re used to not studying for classes. Don’t let that be you. Even if you think you won’t have to study, you will. So you might as well start early.

Become friends with your roommates

My biggest regret from my first year is that I didn’t put in a large amount of effort to become friends with my roommates. I’m picky on who I hangout with, and neither of my roommates seemed like my kind of people. But even if your roommates aren’t your people, if you can become friends with them during the first few months of school, it’ll make your living situation much better down the road.

Attend your lectures

Walking half an hour to a 50-minute lecture at 9 AM isn’t fun, I’m well aware. You will be tempted to stay home instead of going to class. But lectures help you out, especially in humanities classes. Oftentimes, the professor will tell you exactly the kind of analysis that they want to see in your papers or on your tests during the lecture. So try to attend your lectures, at least a majority of the time.

Group your classes together in blocks

I’m much more likely to go to my class if I have another one right after it. If you group your classes together in blocks, it’ll minimize the amount of time that you spend walking to and from campus.

Don’t enroll in a series as a GE

This is an oddly specific tip, and only one that I know from experiences. Any classes that are taken as a part of a series (typically marked with a letter at the end) are usually year-long classes that are intended to give majors of that subject a good starting point before they start upper division work. Even though you can enroll in Lifesci 30A as a GE, don’t. Just don’t.

These are just a couple of things that would have made my freshman year a little easier for me, so follow them and you’ll have a leg up entering your new life!

Jessica is a first year English major at UCLA. She loves both reading and writing, having even published her debut novel "The World Above the Waves" in 2022. When she isn't delving into literature, you can find her playing d&d, listening to music, or wherever either her twin sister or girlfriend are. She's so excited to be a part of the Her Campus team.