Looking back on my first year at college (attending the University of Minnesota- go Gophers!), There are a few things I wish I would’ve known going into it. I’ve compiled a short list of some of those things and given some reasons why they are important. Some may seem obvious, and some may not suit your specific lifestyle, but they are all things I would highly recommend to anyone going into college.
- Establish a routine
- Getting a job (preferably on campus) helps regulate your schedule. Some jobs on campus even allow you to study or do other homework while on the job. Having money to help pay off loans/ buy cheap beer doesn’t hurt either. Some students even find internships in fields they are interested in, which make the college experience all the more valuable, if potentially more stressful.
- Having a routine also makes managing time much easier.
- Start assignments right away
- Starting assignments as soon as they are assigned will leave you less stressed in the days coming up to the assignment deadline. It is also wise to track progress on assignments and to work on them for a short period of time each day, rather than doing the whole assignment the morning it’s due. Your project will turn out much more complete and you will have time to revise your papers.
- Go to class
- Going to class, while seemingly the most obvious way to achieve collegiate success, is often mitigated to the lowest priority level in a student’s list of activities. Professors don’t often take attendance, especially at larger schools, so I understand the allure of skipping class. Don’t do it. I thought I didn’t need my math lecture first semester, but after receiving a 40 out of a possible 100 on the first exam, my habits quickly changed. Besides, class is what you (or more likely your parents) are paying for.
- Do the assigned readings
- While they may often seem extremely tedious and incredibly dull, the books you spent all that money on are actually quite useful. Skimming over a certain chapter the night before a test might give you a slight edge over going to bed at 9, but it isn’t going to get you any real results. Professors (usually) pick out course materials for a reason: they teach from it. My sociology 1001 exams were almost literally straight out of the textbook. Reading and studying your textbooks is a sure way to gain mastery of the material.
- Have fun when possible
- College is fun. The last year of my life was the best I’ve had. The experiences I’ve had with the people I met there are beyond what I ever could have expected. Learning to have fun whenever my busy schedule allows is one of the things I’m most happy to have gained in college.
- Make a budget
- Learn to be responsible with money. I feel like a massive hypocrite even suggesting it, but it’s something I’m working on still. Sure it’s nice to go out to eat at the local spot every night with your friends, but sooner or later you’ll be flat broke. I strongly recommend against getting a credit card; I know multiple people who in their first year of school alone are already in thousands of dollars of CREDIT CARD debt, not even considering tuition costs.
- Get to know your professors and TA’s
- Getting to know professors is something I regret not doing more often in my first year. They can serve as great mentors and sometimes they might even recommend you for jobs/internships in the future. Talking with a professor about the subject matter shows you care and they may credit you with some brownie points. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to be on good terms with the people grading your work.
- Take classes you really enjoy
- I always scoff at people who come into school thinking their major is set in stone. Too often, students will take an introductory level class on their planned major topic and decide they never want to hear about it again. Take classes that sound highly enjoyable. You should be spending around 30 hours a week with class material as a full-time student, so choose carefully.
- Be careful at parties
- We all know that freshmen are legendary for “turning up” too hard at parties. Nobody wants that guy who passes out in the driveway at his or her party, and surely nobody wants to BE that guy that pisses his pants during welcome week celebrations. Simple solution: DON’T BE. Drinking with your new friends is a great way to bond, but trying to impress them with legendary kegstand abilities is more likely to find you waking up in a dumpster next to a strange, but kind drifter named Larry who keeps staring at your and rubbing his belly button. Just drink and moderation, and for your own sake, drink some water at some point in the evening. (And if you’re a girl, avoid frat parties at all costs (Unless you like being the object of creepy sex contests between a bunch of post-pubescent boys in the process of developing their very own prized beer-bellies)).
- Be on good terms with your roommate/s and neighbors in your dorm/apartment
- Living with a large number of strangers for the first time can be slightly overwhelming. It never helps when the neighbor decides to go Clapton on your ass at all hours of the night. Don’t be that guy. Be agreeable, and if someone nearby is being unbearably annoying, resist the urge to go Samuel L. Jackson on them and kindly bring it up with the person. If nothing changes, RA’s (or Residence Attendants) and landlords are generally happy to help solve the issue.
- Find a group of friends with similar interests
- Join clubs/organizations. They are a great place to meet people who are passionate about the same things you are. Often, people join in freshman year in order to meet new friends, so they are in the exact same position you are. So instead of camping out in your room playing World of Warcraft for the whole first semester like I did, go do something you like.
- Find time to exercise
- Exercise is something many college students leave at home. Lack of exercise makes focusing difficult, and personally makes me quite depressed feeling. When I joined the school’s Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club, I was hesitant because I didn’t know how well I would be able to fit it into my schedule. Joining proved to be the best decision I made the entire year. Not only did I get in fantastic shape, but I learned a skill that I hope to develop for the rest of my life and I made a group of close friends. My mind felt much clearer and I felt motivated to go to the rec center and work out, which at most universities is complimentary with tuition. It also helped me organize my schedule, and kept me from the most dangerous thing in the world: boredom.
- Try a lot of new things
- College is a time to learn. You’ll be surrounded by people from all types of backgrounds with a variety of interests and hobbies, some of which you will not even have known could exist.
Overall, going to college is probably one of the most significant events in your life so far. Make it worth the time and money you invest in your education by being a responsible student. Remember to have fun, and most importantly, develop yourself as a person. College often plays a massive role in deciding who we are for the rest of our lives. It won’t last forever, so make the best of it!
(P.S.- Remember to explore the local college-town! They are usually great places to find fun activities directed towards college students for cheap/free!)