Summer is almost over and the start of the school year is nearly here again. If you are an incoming college freshman, you may be anxious, nervous, or wondering what is the best advice for college freshmen. This is where I step in: Hello, my name is Jazmin Orozco. I have just finished my first year of college and perhaps that makes me qualified to administer advice for college freshmen.
When I was an incoming first year just 11 months ago, many people gave me advice, but it was mostly the general advice for college freshmen. No one really told me some of the things that I should have known before diving into college life. However, that is part of the college experience: stepping into a world you hardly know anything about. But if you would like to step into this world armed with a bit of knowledge and specific advice for college freshmen, read on!
As one who has survived freshman year at college, I give you ten tips that will help you along the way:
10. Do Not Be Afraid
It is perfectly normal to be a little nervous or anxious about your first year of college. But remember, as nervous as you are, so are the thousands of other freshmen in your school. You are not alone. And remember, college is an exciting, fun time in your life, so don’t be scared! Things may seem overwhelming at times, but you are smart, so you can get through those tough times.
9. Learn to Be On Your Own
For most college freshmen, this is the first time you are going to be away from your parents, family, and friends. It may seem a bit scary, but it really is not. You will be forced to do a lot of things by yourself in college, and for those of you that are shy, this may seem incredibly intimidating. However, sometimes you are only going to get by on your own, so you must be brave and start stepping out on your own. It is okay to go to others for help, but you are an adult now, and you have responsibilities. Sooner or later, you will get the hang of it, and you will be wondering why you were so scared of being on your own in the first place.
8. Try to Be Healthy
If you haven’t heard of the Freshmen 15, then I will tell you about it now. It refers to freshmen gaining 15 pounds because of their unhealthy diet practices during freshmen year. It is true, most of the people I knew, including myself, gained a little weight. Whether it’s from the meal plans, the dorm food, late night snacks, or the lack of sleep, people gain the Freshmen 15 (and in some cases, the freshman 30, 40, etc.). If your school gives you free access to a gym, please use it. If they hold intramural sport competitions, please join. Try to get sleep, try to eat healthy, and don’t mistake “all you can eat” to mean that you should literally eat all that you can.
7. Bring All Your Essentials from Home
If you had things at home that you simply could not live without (even your stuffed bear named Pookie) take it with you to college! If you are living in a dorm or an apartment you either bring your own stuff or you are going to have to share things between you and your roommate(s). In most cases you have to share a bathroom, shower, and living space, and sometimes this can be a bit awkward and challenging for some freshmen. If you feel uncomfortable with this, make sure that you reserve places and times for yourself, such as your own study space, and take things that remind you of home, such as that stuffed bear you cannot live without. Sometimes, when things get hard at college, reminders of home can comfort you. But hopefully you will get along great with your roommates so that you won’t ever have to need any comfort.
6. Do Not Stress
College can be very frustrating at times, but the best thing you can do at those times is not stress. Especially if it’s about a class, talk to someone about it. Do the work with a classmate. Go vent at the gym or an arcade or with friends. There are many ways to relieve stress and your school will have tons of those options waiting for you, free of charge. If you stress too much, your sleeping habits will get worse than they already are (because it is impossible for most college students to have a normal sleep cycle), you will start gaining weight easier, your skin will start to become unhealthy—ultimately it means bad things for your health. So why not stay healthy and live stress free? It’s not as hard as it sounds.
5. Be Open to New Experiences
No matter where you go for college, things are going to be drastically different from high school. The whole system is different, the way of life is different, and the experiences you will have are going to be different from the ones in high school. These new experiences may even shape who you are. If you are going to be living in a dorm, you are going to have to live with many different people you’ve never met who are going to be different from you and may possibly come from very different cultures. College brings people from all different places and backgrounds together, so you may learn things and meet and befriend people in college that you wouldn’t otherwise. This is why it is important to be open-minded, and not to stubbornly stick with your own way of thinking or judge people from your perspective. College is a place to learn—not just on campus, but also from the people and places in your life.
4. Read, Read, Read!
In most of your courses, there will be required reading which you must keep up with. You must make sure that you do not get behind in any of your classes; otherwise, you will be playing a big game of catch-up and that is not fun at all. Especially if you have to discuss the readings in class, you better make sure that you have read what you needed to or your professor will embarrass you. If you do not read what you have to, you may end up getting lost and come midterms and finals, you will be floundering through chapters that you should have read, but neglected to, and your only chance of passing the class will be extra credit and a miracle. Now there are some people who find reading pages and pages of textbook extremely boring, but these pages and pages have lots of information that you may need. Even if the textbook is mostly reiteration of a lecture, there are always differences between the two, and I have found that reading the book always helps, especially when the professor cannot deliver a good lecture or neglects to mention certain things that are going to be on the final exam.
3. Make Connections
It is very important to make connections in college, as you are most likely going to need these if you plan on pursuing a career after college. As much as an excellent resume can get you far, an excellent recommendation from a professor will get you a little farther. Even though you won’t need these recommendations so early in your college career, my advice is to start early. To get to know professors better, talk regularly with or email them—but make it relevant to the class subject. In larger class sizes, this may be difficult, but that is what office hours are for. Make a point of visiting your professor(s) regularly in their office hours. That time is reserved to discuss your questions and concerns, so don’t feel timid to go. I admit that I, myself, only went to office hours once during my whole freshman year. I never thought that I needed the extra advice, but looking back now, maybe it would have helped even a little if I did go. However, not all professors are the same, and not all of them will be as helpful as the next. But if you take a particular liking to one of your professors, I say to stick with them and establish a relationship with them so that they can assist you when the time comes.
2. Think Ahead
You have to remember that college is not just an extension of high school—You are here taking classes in order to obtain a degree, a degree that will help you get that career that you’ve either been dreaming of or will dream of shortly. So in order to ensure that you accomplish your goals after college, you have to plan ahead. Nearly all the classes you take are going to contribute to your college graduation and the degree you’re getting, even General Education requirements. Make sure that you look into the degree requirements, school requirements, classes, schedules, professors, and even the T.A.’s before signing up for classes. Especially if you are thinking of studying abroad for a semester or applying for grad school, the track there begins now. So make wise plans and talk to counselors, upperclassmen, professors, T.A.s, your R.A., or your friends if you feel unsure or confused on what plans to make.
1. Have Fun
It’s not worth years of hard work in high school, your parents’ money, and your future if you decide to treat college like it’s a prison where the only tasks are to study and do homework. These are the last years of freedom you have before you’re obligated to become a real adult with a real job, real bills, and real obligations. As daunting as college may sound and seem sometimes, overall it really is not that difficult. In some cases, it is easier than high school and in my case, definitely a lot more enjoyable. So why not have fun? As important as studying and passing exams are, it’s equally as important to have fun along the way. Make as many friends as you can, take the classes that sound interesting to you, do as many activities as you can, try all the new foods you can, take all the opportunities that you can to visit new places, and find all the reasons that these years, your college years, will be the best years of your life (so far). Trust me; it makes all the hard work in college and the endless hours of studying all worth it.
That is all the advice for college freshmen that I can give for now. Good luck to all of you first year students!