Heading back to school this year will be much different compared to the past three years. For every incoming freshman, it will be emotional in every sense of the word—nostalgic, exciting and even scary. Your freshman year will be a year full of trials and tribulations, a year of exploration, life lessons, new challenges and self-discovery. Before you hit the road, here are things every incoming freshman should know their first year of college.
YOUR FRESHMAN YEAR IS EXCITING, BUT TAKE IT SLOW
Graduating high school and starting school as a freshman all over again in college is an exciting milestone that puts your future into focus. The excitement is so hard to contain that you’ll probably end up with a list of 10 student organizations you want to join by the end of your orientation. Let’s face it, joining 10 student organizations isn’t realistic with a full course load, a job and other responsibilities.
If you really want to hit the ground running and get involved, limit yourself to one organization your first semester and leverage your time and energy later in the year once you’ve developed study habits, a sleep schedule and have become an expert at managing your time and responsibilities.
Understand that it’s okay to ease into the transition and solely focus on your academics your freshman year. You’ll have plenty of time to get involved in organizations that interest you later on so don’t be afraid to test the waters before making too many commitments at once.
DON’T GO HOME EVERY WEEKEND
Despite moving away to college and coming home every weekend my first semester of freshman year, I denied every accusation of being homesick. Instead, I justified my time home by saying it was my escape from the hectic schedule I maintained at school, it was limited time I had to spend with my family and that there was something I just had to come home for—a birthday party, a holiday, a get together with my high school friends, etc.
The reality was that I was homesick. Being away at school was like nothing I’ve ever done before. I was alone, surrounded by complete strangers and struggled to make a dorm feel like my home away from home.
Despite moving back home my second semester and really discovering my true passions because of my move back, I wish I would have stayed at school more and came home less. It would have taught me how to be independent and self-sufficient early on and would have challenged me to find peace in uncomfortable situations.
Keeping your focus in classes can be tough, especially when you’re in and out of classes all day long. It’s important to participate in class discussions for a number of reasons.
Participating in class discussions will keep you engaged but is a also a great way to further your own understanding of class material. It will provide you with clarity, further the discussion on a topic and help you retain information once class has ended. Being an active listener in your classes will also help you build a reputation with your instructors which can later make asking for a letter of recommendation a breeze.
WORK AT YOUR OWN PACE AND BE DILIGENT
There’s a lot of pressure to finish college in four years. A study from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, researchers found that over the last 25 years, 70 percent of students have worked while in college while 25 percent of students have both worked and attended college full-time. In a day and age where the number of students who are also employees continues to rise, completing a bachelor’s degree in the traditional four-year window can be challenging.
According to a 2014 study by Complete College America, only 36 percent of students graduate on-time from public research universities. There are a number of reasons for why students don’t graduate on time such as change of majors, transferring to another university and taking unnecessary courses.
While finishing college in four years is ideal, don’t sweat it if you need more time. Simply work hard and be diligent. Stay up to date on requirements for your major and make sure you’re taking classes that will fulfill the necessary requirements to help you graduate on-time.
TAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF
Being away at school can be overwhelming and it won’t take long before you’re swamped with academics, extracurriculars and real life stuff. Despite a demanding course load, it’s important to step away from the textbooks and take time for yourself to regroup, relax and reflect.
Taking time for yourself outside of academics will help you manage stress, manage your responsibilities and also spark creativity when you return to the drawing board.
Making the transition from high school to college can be tough, but it doesn’t have to be. All it takes is a little bit of effort and planning to make sure you’re putting your best foot forward when stepping on campus your freshman year. Starting off strong will make the coming years easier to handle.
If finances are a stress factor, be sure to consider alternative incomes while in school. Many students become brand ambassadors for big name brands while in school, giving them the opportunity to work at times that are convenient for them.