Freshman year can be a little scary.
Suddenly you’ve crash-landed onto an unfamiliar, all-encompassing campus filled with thousands of strangers, you’ve got classes at weird times of the day with more people than you’ve ever seen in such a concentrated area, and you’re sharing a cramped room with someone you’ve just met. Sure, the transition from high school to college can be daunting—but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, if you play your cards right and prepare yourself, your freshman year will be one of the most challenging, exciting, and rewarding years of your life.
How do I know this? Well, I’ve lived it. I was the freaked-out freshman last year. More accurately, I was the angsty, I-don’t-care-about-anything punk girl who hid her terror of new experiences behind a mask of indifference and apathy. I realized pretty quickly that my attitude issues were holding me back tremendously from some pretty amazing experiences and changed gears, but I was in your shoes once and I’ll be the first to admit that it is terrifying.
So if you’re, you know, human and have some qualms about coming to college as a freshman this fall semester, then have no fear and let me guide you into the great unknown with this foolproof list of do’s and don’ts.
1. DO: Go to your professor’s office hours.
There’s a reason they’re standing in front of four hundred students—they know what they’re talking about. If you’re unsure about the material being taught to you, then just ask them.
With the exception of the occasional asshole, your professors are ready to offer their services in any way they possibly can to make sure you excel in their course. It’s not like their aim is for you to fail in learning material they’ve dedicated their life’s teachings to!
Plus, meeting and building a rapport with your professors on a more intimate level can pave the way for recommendation letters that you’ll need in the future for jobs or other further education, such as medical or graduate school.
2. DON’T: Harass your professors via e-mail.
Your profs are very busy people. In most cases, they’re balancing up to two or three classes of said four hundred students per semester, and chances are they don’t have time to be bothered with your stressed e-mails. Save those for the poor TA’s and only communicate via e-mail with professors for topics of the upmost importance, such as make-up exams
3. DO: Change your major as many times as you feel necessary.
Some students change their major several times before finally deciding what they want to do. Personally, I changed mine three separate times over the course of freshman year and, seeing as I’m much happier now than I was when I started out with my original major, I know I made the right decision. So don’t fret if you’re not sure about your current major— you’ve still got time to figure everything out.
4. DON’T: Stick with a career path that you don’t enjoy.
Just think: you could possibly end up with this career for the good majority of your life. Is it really something you can see yourself doing when you’re thirty-five? What about fifty? You don’t have to love it with every nerve ending in your body—it is a job, after all, and not a vacation—but you should at least find aspects about your career path that interest you and keep you wanting to wake up every morning to continue pursuing it.
5. DO: Make every effort to meet new people.
It’s natural human instinct to stick with what feels familiar and safe, but coming into college with your high school buddies glued to your side might not be the best idea. These next four years of your life are going to change you in ways you can’t imagine just yet, and a part of those changes are the friendships you’ll make along the way—but you can’t really do that if you’re entrenched in the safety net of your old friendships and resistant to making new ones. Whether it’s in class, at University-hosted events, or even at parties around campus, try to get out there and meet someone new.
6. DON’T: Go into your college experience closed-off and shy.
Like I said, you’re going to be encountering people from all walks of life, and if you let your guard down a little, you might end up building long-lasting relationships with some really amazing humans that you might have missed out on if you stayed safely hidden in your shell, little turtle.
7. DO: Accept free food when it’s offered—and in college, that’s often.
It’s a universal assumption that once you leave for college, you suddenly become the equivalent to a starving child in Africa—and maybe that’s true in some cases, but I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be. With all of the events that your University will most likely hold—most of which are specifically geared toward freshmen—you’ll have plenty of opportunities to stock up on some yummy treats. Don’t take them for granted!
8. DON’T: Spend all of your extra money on take-out.
Say goodbye to the days of fancy eating and decadent restaurants you treated yourself to in high school, and say hello to your new friend: coupons. I can’t stress enough how important those little coupon books the University gives out during Welcome Week are.
Instead of spending the cash right away on instant gratifications like food, you could maybe, you know, save it.
9. DO: Date around a little bit.
You’re going to be meeting so many new people, and you’re bound to find a few that you’re interested in as more than just friends. Try to avoid the seriousness of a labeled relationship—instead, enjoy the fun part of dating by actually going on dates. They’re a fun way of getting to know a person while still keeping things very casual and relaxed.
10. DON’T: Make having a significant other your sole intention.
There’s that “safety net” thing again. Look, don’t get me wrong: long-term relationships are great. They help both parties to grow and learn from each other, but they are not the be-all and end-all of life, and they are especially inessential to your college experience.
At such a critical time as this, it’s a good idea to do some of your own soul-searching and try to get a sense of your personal self-identity before adding anyone else into the equation.
11. DO: Make friends with your roommate.
You’re going to be living with this person in a cramped, shared space for nine months. This time can either go by very slowly or it can breeze right by—and it all depends on how you and your roomie get on. A healthy relationship with your roommate where both of you are honest, understanding and compromising can make all the difference in your experience with dorm-life.
12. DON’T: Develop an antagonistic relationship with your roomie.
You can either love or hate dorm life, and your roomie definitely plays a large part of which one you identify with. Skip the melodramatic roommate horror stories and just try your best to forge a good relationship instead. Forming an open and healthy line of communicate with your roommate will help both of you make the most out of your time in the dorms.
13. DO: Utilize campus resources like tutoring
centers and libraries.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed and off-track when you’re taking six courses that each demand an intense amount of commitment and a deep understanding of their material to pass—and, if it pertains to your future career, leave you knowing enough to actually employ the information you learned after the fact. Tutoring centers, which are usually free to students, come equipped with near-experts on the courses you may be struggling with and are proven to help students immensely with their overall grades.
14. DON’T: Assume that the material will magically seep into your brain with minimal studying.
Cramming the night before a big exam or skimming over the study guide as the teacher is passing out the quiz might have worked in high school, but those days are over now that you’re in college. Unless you’re a natural-born genius or possess that ever-illusive eidetic memory gene, then this is probably one of the worst study habits you can adopt. This is the year for you to really discover which study methods work best for you.
15. DO: Make some mistakes, and learn from them.
We’re all human. Nobody comes to college knowing exactly what to do—if they did, then what’s the point of even coming? This is a new and exciting learning experience for all of us, from the wide-eyed freshmen to the itching-to-graduate seniors, and it’s natural for you to make a few mistakes along the way. Embrace them and learn from them, because that’s the only way you’re going to grow as a person.
16. DON’T: Expect everything to go perfectly.
Life is imperfect. Someone is probably going to be blasting music at one in the morning when you’re trying to study for that chem test. You’re going to forget to turn in assignments until ten minutes before they’re due. And you are definitely going to lock yourself out of your dorm room at least once a semester. But I promise you that as many times things go wrong in your life, there’s also going to be just as many times—perhaps even more—where everything goes right, too.