12 Foundational Tips for College Freshmen
You can and will succeed at college if you want to.
How is college working out for you? If you’re new to the college scene, that is you’re a college freshman — you already know that college is different from high school. Far different. You’re on your own, the decisions you make will have a large impact on your life and the people you hang with can make or break you.
Are you feeling intimidated yet? Well, don’t be. However, if you’re feeling a little bit humble, you’re in a very good place.
Read on for some tips on how not only to survive, but thrive during your freshman year.
1. Never give up. You may be aware of the statistics that approximately 4 in 10 college students don’t hang around to get their degree. Those numbers are sobering, but don’t tell the entire story. There are many reasons why students quit, with money problems just one of them. Tell yourself from the start that you will finish college no matter what. Yes, there may be obstacles, but your mind should not be one of them.
2. Keep applying for financial aid. Unless you have a full-ride scholarship or your parents have the funds to pay for your education, you’ll be relying on financial assistance to cover your college costs. You’re familiar with FAFSA and SAR, and you may already have a Pell grant. Make a point to keep applying for college scholarships throughout your college years. The more assistance you get, the less money you will have to borrow. Plan to finish college with as little debt as possible.
3. Attend every class. Make a point to attend every class. Stay away only if you are sick — and that doesn’t mean you will stay home if you have the sniffles. By taking in each class you’ll keep up with your studies. Your attendance can also be counted toward your final grade.
4. Meet your professors. College professors don’t teach simply because they love instruction. They also teach because they enjoy shaping young people’s lives. Your professors want to have a positive impact on you personally. Make appointments with your professors to discuss an assignment, to go over course material or simply to introduce yourself and to discuss your educational and career aspirations.
5. Become financially savvy. You already know that college costs a mint. You also know that there isn’t always enough money to pay for everything, at least with cash. Become a student of your finances, working with your parents to manage your money. Open a student checking account, secure a credit card ONLY if you exercise discipline and use it for school expenses and emergencies, and develop a college budget.
6. Get involved. If you’re prone to solitude, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But, complete isolation apart from attending classes isn’t good. Get involved with a sorority or a fraternity, join a club and make friends. If you find that you’re having difficulty fitting in, a visit to your college’s health and wellness center may be in order.
7. Watch what you eat. This just in: the “Freshman 15” is just a myth. This news is according to Ohio State University’s Jay Zagorsky, co-author of a study that examined weight gain among college freshman. The 15-pound gain is not accurate notes Zagorsky, stating that the weight gain is more like 2.5 to 3.5 pounds. Regardless, the habits you begin in college can last a lifetime and those gains can become 25 to 35 pounds after 10 years. Eat right. Exercise more. Live well.
8. Make peace with your roommate. If your roommate is a gem, consider yourself blessed. If he or she is difficult, don’t bottle it all in. Keep a dialogue going whereby you can air your grievances and share what is on your minds. Be reasonable. Be considerate. Ask for help from your RA if you come to an impasse. Try to work things out between yourselves first.
9. Track and plan everything. Well, almost everything. Make use of a calendar, a journal or a smartphone app to track your assignments, your due dates, the beginning and the end of your semester and other important deadlines. A decent and free online app is Google Calendar. Refer to your schedule 7 days per week to keep up with your busy life.
10. Get a job. Try to avoid working your first year and definitely during the first semester of your freshman year. You need to spend the first year adjusting to college, learning how to balance your schooling and personal life. Resolve to limit your part-time job to a manageable number of hours, say 10 to 15 hours per week. Check with your college and career center for on-campus opportunities. Work off campus if the gig is a good one and can enhance your resume. Come to think of it, any part-time job can teach you valuable work skills.
11. Join LinkedIn. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn account, then sign up for one. LinkedIn becomes more valuable as you navigate your way through school, helping you find connections that can prove invaluable. Connect with alumni, find experts in your field and link in with potential employers. Work on improving your personal page which will mirror your resume.
12. Build a resume. When should you craft your first resume? About the same time you open a LinkedIn account. Even if your schooling and work experience is thin, having a basic resume is the foundation you’ll need for building a comprehensive resume later. By your senior year, your resume should be polished and complete, ready to go out to hiring personnel and recruiters. Work with your school’s career center to develop your resume. Check out the Cornell University Career Services page for resume help.
We can and should add another point here — have fun. You’ll be in college for just four years and the time will fly by. Your college studies should be balanced with some fun activities, to round out your education and give yourself a break. Take in a sporting contest, hang out with your club friends and pick up that “study abroad” brochure that can turn a dream into a reality by your junior year.