It’s your first semester of college, you’re pulling up to campus with your life packed away in boxes and bags, bracing yourself for the goodbye you’re about to have with your parents. Then you get out the car and realize you’re not in Kansas anymore Dorothy. Your first year of college can be exciting and scary all at the same time, and full of mistakes that you’re going to make, guaranteed. Still, the whole year doesn’t have to be trial and error. With it getting closer to your first semester of your first year of the next four years of your life, here are a few things that every freshman should know going down the rabbit hole.
1. Don’t Pack your Life
I know it seems like you need to bring every article of clothing you own and all your favorite books and video games, because you can’t choose between them and love them all, but be realistic about it. You’re moving into a smaller space that you’re going to be sharing with one, two, or even three other people sometimes. Instead of trying to find a spot for all of them and cluttering your space, bring less, bring only essential staple items, and invest in storage units that you can keep in under your bed or in your closet.
2. Get to Know the Ones You’re Living With
This doesn’t just mean your roommates, you’ll be seeing everyone in your residence hall a lot, so get to know them. This creates a sense of community, and you can’t get through this experience alone. Having people around you who you can go for various reasons no matter how small is extremely helpful. Whether it’s venting time about your classes and professors or even just needing someone to be in the library with, being surrounded by familiarity is better than feeling like you’re in a sea of strangers.
3. Don’t Buy the Textbook Right Away
Yes you’re professor did post the syllabus online. Yes they did include a textbook in the required materials section…. No, this does not mean you buy everything they included before the class has even started. Each professor is different, some pull exam questions straight from the textbook study guide, and others may never use the book at all and have discussion classes and create questions based off that. It’s usually best to wait till the first day of class and let them tell you how often it will be used before you go off and spend a ton of money on something that will just collect dust in the corner (I actually had one professor straight up tell us that the text was garbage and not to buy it).
4. Don’t Spend Your College Savings on Textbooks
Every college upperclassmen you speak to will probably tell you the same thing. If you can, avoid the college bookstore, and avoid actually purchasing your textbooks. If you have to or prefer to buy them, you can get them from cheaper sources than your college bookstore, like Amazon or Half.com. Another option is sites like Chegg or textbookrenter.com, where you can buy or rent your textbooks. Of the three renting is usually the best option. You get the book up to 80% cheaper, have it for the entire semester, and retur it when you’re done without having to deal with the hassle trying to get the school to buy it back. Only thing is that you have to remember to send it back, but they send you a post label in your email to tape to the box your textbook was sent in and it’s free to return.
5. Take the Max Amount of Classes
This may not seem like a good idea at first because it does come with a lot of work and a little less free time, but it’s worth it. You should do this for two good reasons, one, if you’re doing poorly in one of the classes you can drop it without disrupting your fulltime student status and getting a call from the financial aid office about it. Two, if you can keep up with all the work and do well then you can knock out more classes sooner and have time later to contribute more on campus and participate in an internship. You will also get to graduate sooner, and though leaving can be hard it cuts cost also.
6. Take Summer Courses!
You have the rest of your life to go to DisneyLand/World, the beach, music festivals, and whatever else seems like the most important thing in the world right now. Taking a 3 credit course in 6 weeks and knocking it off your required degree class list is something that you should much rather want to take advantage of though. Yes once again its adding more work and taking away from your free time, but yes again, it’s worth it. You get more done in a shorter amount of time, you can use it to make up for the classes you didn’t do well in the semester before and apply grade forgiveness, and if your GPA dropped a little bit, you can use it as a booster so you go into the next semester without fear of going on probation.
7. Don’t Take Out More Student Loans Than You Need
I know refund time is the best and buys you amazing things and you feel rich for a few weeks, but if you don’t need it don’t take out excessive loans. If you can get the majority of your tuition paid through grants and loans then take advantage of that and supplement what’s left with a loan. A loan is not free money and if you can make it that you get everything perfectly paid for then do it. You’ll be sacrificing that refund check, but you’ll also have thousands and thousands of dollars less in student loans when you graduate. In addition to taking out loans, while you’re still in school pay the interest! Doing this saves you from dealing with it accumulating and having to pay that on top of the principle.
8. Get a Part-time Job
Not only does it get you extra money to spend, save, burn, do whatever you want with, and etc. it will also help you develop time management skills. Balancing school and work is tough, but if you stick with it, it’s an invaluable life skill. Being able to multitask and handle numerous projects at one time is useful in any career.
9. Be Involved on Campus
Whether it’s joining Greek Life, the SGA, peer counseling, a club, or some other type of organization, get involved! Open yourself up to the different experiences you can have, friends you can make, and skills you can develop. Being a part of an organization on campus looks good on your resume (especially if you held a leadership position in that organization), gets you out your dorm and out your head about classes, makes you socialize, and will have you trying new things. Even if you join multiple ones or jump from club to club, that’s okay, it’s all about finding where you fit and what will be best for you.
10. You Have Technology, Use it!
With all of this going on, school, work, clubs, and campus life, you need to keep your life in order and you have a million different apps that can help you do this. First you’ll need a calendar do keep track of important dates to start hands down, Google Calendar is a good one to use. Blackboard also has an app that you can download to your phone and tablet to keep track of your classes and use to download the syllabus and study guides. There are also a lot more that you can search for and take advantage of to make the next four years as simple as possible.
*Bonus: Use RateMyProfessor.com
This site is one of the best ideas for college students.
ALSO READ: Surviving Freshman Year: THE COLLEGE CHRONICLES: FRESHMAN MILESTONES by Kelly Owen
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