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Freshman Year 101: What to Expect as a First-Year in College

Leaving the comforts of high school, your home, and your friends can be a stressful time. People say college is the best years of your life, but you never know what to expect when you move into a new environment with new people. Here are some advice and things to expect as a freshman in college.


1. You will feel lonely.

You’re moving into a dorm without your family and friends. It is completely normal to feel out of place and lonely for a while until you find where you belong and get the feel of college life. The first few weeks are particularly difficult because your roommate is the only person you will talk to and hang around with before you meet other people. But remember, this won’t last forever. 

a woman sits on the edge of a deck overlooking the forest
Chris Ainsworth | Unsplash

2. Not everyone is partying.

You may feel pressure to go to parties or go out with friends, but that isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time; find your people. Don’t do things you don’t want to do, put studying first and enjoy being alone, even if you have FOMO (fear of missing out). If you do like going to parties, make sure you still have a balance of school life and social life. School is for learning, and partying is a reward if you have time after studying. 

Alcohol Drinking Hands Party
Alex Frank / Spoon

3. You will fight with your roommate.

Living with another person, especially if you knew them before, is hard to figure out rules and boundaries. Don’t take your roommate agreement lightly and don’t be afraid to change it halfway through the year. Start your roommate agreement with more strict rules than you think you would want, as it is easier to change to looser rules later rather than creating stricter rules. Everyone will have disagreements with their roommates, but communication is key. Do not avoid arguments or problems; address them right away and set your boundaries! Remember, you can always change rooms or roommates if it is not a healthy environment for you or if you’re not vibing. Remember also that you do not have to be friends with your roommate. You can have separate lives and still live in the same room.  

a man and a woman sit on a park bench looking frustrated
Vera Arsic | Pexels

4. You will have to figure out how to eat healthily.

Eating healthy food is important because it gives you the energy to study and do everyday activities. Make sure you are making time to eat three meals a day and have snacks in between meals. Easy snacks like granola bars are perfect for between classes. Many students gain weight during their first year because they are not eating the right foods. There are also students who lose weight because of the stress of college and other factors, such as not finding time to get your meals in. Learning how to eat healthy without living at home is difficult, to say the least, and may take a long time to learn. 

a woman stands in front of the health juice/kombucha shelves at a grocery store
kc0uvb | Pixabay

5. Expect to be broke.

Many college students do not have jobs, especially during the first year of college. You may be limited in the activities you can do or the food that you can eat from restaurants around your campus. If you are struggling with money, there are many jobs on campus that include work-study, where you can study in between your work and get paid while doing it! Remember that there are still plenty of free activities to do with friends; getting healthy food is the most important (either from the dining halls or your own groceries; restaurants are luxuries) and you won’t struggle forever!

HCM Design

6. You have a lot of freedomdon’t take it for granted.

Going from living with your parents to almost no supervision is a huge transition. Remember that you are still responsible for getting things done—homework, cleaning, getting enough sleep, self-care and maintaining a social life. This freedom can also be easily taken for granted. Although you are excited about your newfound freedom, there are still consequences, whether that be talking with your residence hall director, getting kicked out of the dorm, disappointing yourself or getting a bad grade. 

Kayla Bacon-Dramatically Skipping Down Road
Kayla Bacon / Her Campus

7. You will need to read… a lot!

In almost every class, there will be a textbook or other assigned readings. It can be overwhelming, but if you get in a routine of studying and reading, it will set the tone for the rest of your college career. I am someone who hates reading. If you’re like me, here are some tips: skimming is better than not doing any reading, taking notes is always your friend and finding videos on Youtube for more explanations and reading over notes will really help you. 

books on a bookshelf
Tasha Young

8. You may need extra help.

Don’t feel bad about needing help. Professors love a student who takes the time to learn the material and ask questions during class or during office hours. Most colleges also provide students with a writing center and free tutoring. Utilizing these can really help you to build your knowledge and learn how to be a good college-level writer.  

Original Illustration by Gina Escandon for Her Campus Media

9. You must find a balance.

Finding a balance between social life, school and being healthy is very difficult. It took me a year to find the perfect balance, so don’t get down on yourself. Put school first, do not procrastinate, write things down in a planner and plan to study every day before hanging out with friends. On days where you don’t have time to be with friends, you could do a group study or simply study alone and have downtime. 

girl with arms open in nature
Celina Timmerman / Her Campus

Freshman year is a very exciting time, but it can also bring a lot of stressors. Have faith in yourself that you will figure everything out in time. And remember, balance is key. 


Jenna is a junior at Winona State University majoring in Social Work with a minor in Sociology. She hopes to go on to get her Masters and become a clinical social worker working with teens. Jenna was born and raised in Eagan, MN. In her free time she enjoys anything outdoors, painting, singing, and learning about astrology. On her page you will find a range of articles from astrology, to listicles, to serious topics.
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