College is a very different experience from high school. First of all, the courses are much more difficult. Second, your parent or guardian isn’t there to remind you to do your homework. You’ll probably also have to balance academics, work, and social life. Here are some tips, based on experience, to help you get through that freshman year and lay the groundwork for college success.
Get organized. Seriously. Unlike high school teachers, college professors aren’t going to keep reminding you when your papers are due; it’s up to you to remember. Read the syllabus for each of your classes and use an organizing tool—whether that’s a big wall calendar, an app, or whatever works for you—to ensure that you’ve read what you need to read and you’re prepared for exams.
Go to class. This seems like a no-brainer, but since your parents aren’t there to get you out of bed and onto the school bus, it can be tempting to sleep in and miss that 8 a.m. class. Besides having the chance to be involved in discussions, by attending class regularly you’ll learn the material better and get information from professors about what to expect on tests and when or if assignment due dates change.
Work for good grades. If you sailed through high school and still managed to get A’s, it’s not going to be the same in college. The workload will be heavier, the courses more difficult—you’ll have to earn those grades by studying, reading, and doing your homework every day.
Don’t feel pressured to decide your major or career. At most colleges, you aren’t required to declare your major immediately. If you’re not sure what you want to do with your life, you’re like a lot more college students than you might think. Take classes in a variety of disciplines and find out what makes you the most passionate.
Eat right and stay healthy. College campuses have a dizzying array of food on offer, much of which can be tasty but not very nutritious. You can’t live on fast food and pizza without packing on the pounds. Take advantage of healthy options and use appropriate portion sizes, and you’ll stay fit and focused. Don’t forget to get enough sleep, exercise, and take your vitamins.
Keep track of your money. This is the time of your life that you should develop a budget, if you haven’t done so already. It can be really instructive to find out where your money is going and see if those expenditures match up with your priorities. Also, try to avoid those credit card solicitations; the last thing you need at this time in your life is a pile of credit card debt.
Stay on campus as much as possible. It’s normal to feel homesick, but the more weekends you spend on campus, the more likely you are to make friends and find activities that will give you an incentive to continue your education. Do your laundry on campus or at a local laundromat instead of taking it home every weekend. Staying on campus will help you to become more independent and master some of the skills that will help you to be successful after you graduate.
Do these things and you won’t just survive your freshman year—you’ll thrive. Good luck to you in your college endeavors!