1. Don’t try to be best friends with your roommate
It doesn’t matter if you were classmates in high school, went completely random, or matched 100% on a roommate compatibility survey; DO NOT TRY TO BE BEST FRIENDS. You’re already living together AKA you will already have to spend 90% of your time with this person, so there is no need to add extra pressure to that. Focus on being a respectful roommate first and foremost, and the friend part will come naturally.
I also strongly encourage going with a random roommate. There are tons of polls that show randomly paired roommates have a higher success rate than roommates who choose to live together. I went random and got paired with a girl who is one of my very best friends. Go random.
2. Go to office hours IF you need help
If you’re truly struggling in a class, office hours can be a huge help. I go to a Catholic university and every person in my introductory religion class except me, had gone to Catholic high school; therefore, our professor went through material very quickly. I went to his office hours every week and ended up getting an A in the class and a letter of recommendation from a professor that really knew me as a person.
However, if you’re doing fine in a class, there is no reason to waste your time and your professor’s by asking useless questions in order to try and build a relationship with them. Your freshman year professors tend to be professors for general courses that all students have to take, so chances are you will never cross paths with them again once Biology 101 is completed. Build relationships with professors within your major and don’t waste time going to pointless office hours.
3. Go through Greek recruitment
This is generally focused more towards girls, but I believe everyone should go through Greek recruitment. Formal recruitment is one of my most stressful yet treasured memories to this day. Even if you have no interest in joining a sorority, the experience of rush is unlike any other; never again will you be judged so quickly, have to speak to a girl you may have nothing in common with, or answer the same questions over and over again. You meet people you may have never met otherwise, and there is a possibility that you find a house perfect for you even if you never imagined yourself in a sorority. Recruitment is such a unique experience and you learn so much about yourself in one week that I recommend it to every college freshman.
4. Budget your time and money
You’re finally on your own, but that means no more parents making sure you do your homework or giving you a weekly allowance. Take control of your own finances and plan a budget for each semester. Go through your receipts and see what you realistically spend each month, and then track yourself.
In regards to time, your professors aren’t checking up on you as much as your high school teachers did, so your success in college is completely up to you. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether watching another episode on Netflix is more important than studying for your calculus test and your grades will definitely reflect your decisions.
(It is possible to write a 10-page research paper in less than 4 hours the night before it’s due, just saying)
5. Leave the iPhone in your dorm room
Every once in a while, leave your phone in your dorm room for an extended period of time. You won’t be tempted to check it while having dinner with friends, you’ll focus on the material being presented to you in a lecture, and you’ll actually look around your campus while walking to class. One of my favorite memories of freshman year is going on a walk with my roommate while we left both our phones in our dorm room. Sometimes it’s nice to get off the grid for a while.
6. Learn to laugh off those embarrassing Friday nights
We all have them. You will definitely have a few drunken nights that make you want to hole up in your dorm room and never interact with anyone ever again (for me, it was most of the year), but the sooner you learn to just laugh them off, the better. Everyone is getting used to being on their own and everyone has some embarrassing nights. At the end of the day, it’s just another great story for Sunday brunches.
7. Plan exercise into your daily schedule
Treat working out at the Rec like going to another class. It doesn’t matter whether it’s at 10 PM or 7 AM, but schedule an hour into your day to go exercise. Once you start getting into that routine, it feels weird to you when you don’t go. The Freshman 15 doesn’t have to become a reality if you focus on your fitness and spend an hour or so working out.
8. Embrace the baseball hat & concealer look
You’ll learn pretty quickly that you will not be able to pull yourself out of bed until about ten minutes before your first class of the day starts. Therefore, you need to embrace what I like to call the “baseball & concealer” look: put on leggings, boots, and a quarter-zip sweatshirt, smudge concealer under your eyes and on any problem spots, pull your hair into a ponytail and throw on a hat. This is quite literally the university uniform of America. Embrace it, love it.
9. Use a planner
I’m a total #sorority girl, so the main draw of my planner was the fact that it was from Lilly Pulitzer; however, I learned that you will forget things if you don’t write them down. In high school, I never wrote down important dates or deadlines and was fine, but in college, you have 100x more things going on and you’re guaranteed to forget the date of your midterm. Go through your syllabus when you get it, mark important dates, and add them accordingly throughout the semester. You’ll save yourself so much stress.
10. Help those in need
All of you are naive, silly freshmen together so help one another out. If you and your roommate are going to dinner together, invite your next-door neighbors. If you know of a party going on, ask that girl by herself if she’d like to join you. Sit next to the kid all alone in your philosophy class. You never know who might be your future best friend or if someone is just in need of a friendly face. It’s always better to be the one who smiles than the one who doesn’t smile back.
11. Friends come and go, but always remain cordial with anyone you meet
You’re going to meet dozens of people your first couple weeks of school and the chance that you remain friends with them is minimal; however, always be polite to anyone you meet. If you don’t get along, there’s no reason to hang out with them, but if you see them on campus, offer a smile and a “hi” and keep going. By pretending you don’t know one another, all you’ve done is burned a bridge and made it very uncomfortable for the next time you both are forced into a situation together, which is bound to happen regardless of the size of your campus.
12. Start thinking about your future
You don’t have to have it all figured out, but start thinking about the rest of your life. Where you want to be, what you want to do, how you want to do it. Start thinking about savings accounts or future internships. While you don’t have to have everything set in stone, your life after graduation should be on your mind.
13. Say YES
The most important piece of advice I can give to you is to say yes to any and every opportunity possible. Girls down the hall asking if you want to go to dinner? Yes. Group of kids in your math class forming a study group? Yes. Open officer position for a club on campus? Yes. Free dinner if you listen to a guest speaker? Yes. You will never look back on your freshman year and regret the times you said yes, I guarantee it. Even in the worst-case scenario, you get a funny story out of it and a chance to look back and laugh. Say yes and you’ll have an amazing college experience.