College Freshmen: How to Make the Most of Your First Year
Few students register for college with the intent to fail or drop out. Unfortunately, by the end of your freshman year, one in three of your first-year classmates will quit according to US News and World Reports. Your goal is to come in on the statistically positive side of that equation, by being part of the two-thirds of college students that stay the course. Here is how to make the most of your first year at college.
1. Be realistic. Whatever you thought college was going to be like when you registered, there will be some surprises along the way. You may find yourself home sick or soon discover that your course work is a lot tougher than you had expected. The sooner that you grasp what college is all about, the easier the transition will become. Don’t be too hard on yourself and if you need help, get it.
2. Attend your classes. Your priority for college is to attend your classes. Strive for 100 percent attendance, missing a class only if you are very ill. Although clubs, attending sporting events and part-time work may be part of your college experience and can be good and necessary, your academic success takes precedence. Missing classes can affect your grades, plain and simple.
3. Manage your finances. Your parents may be footing your bill, but you need to know what college costs are and how to budget your money. Partner with your parents on keeping college costs contained by understanding how college aid works. Look into federal Pell grants, apply for scholarships, weigh your student loan options and maintain a checking account in your own name. Do not allow money problems keep you from finishing your education, therefore stay on top of your costs to maintain same.
4. Weigh your transportation options. The high cost of maintaining a personal vehicle has many young people delaying driving. Still, if you have your driver’s license and own your own vehicle, bringing it to college may not be the best decision. Moreover, some colleges do not allow students to have cars on campus. Explore your transportation options including buses. Student fares are typically lower especially if you purchase a 30-day pass. If you live in a dorm, you are within walking distance of most of your classes. A bicycle or even a skateboard can take you where you need to go.
5. Build your relationships. Certainly, you want to enjoy your college years. Those four years, however, will fly by and most students will enter the workforce upon graduation. You know that it is tough out there with new grads having a difficult time finding work. You need to build academic, professional and personal relations while in college, people that can help you prepare for work and find a job. You can help your contacts too by passing on what you have learned along the way. Plan to find work as an intern by your junior year.
6. Avoid working the first year. If possible, try not to work a job the first year that you are in college. For many students, juggling their studies with work is simply too much. If you must work, limit your hours to what you can reasonably manage. You might also plan to take fewer credits, making up classes in the summer or stretching out your degree pursuit another year. Ideally, you will finish college in four years, but if you need the money and are able to stay on course, then plan to graduate within five years.
7. Ask for help. Now to expand on the first point made in this article: you should ask for help if you need it. Your college has many resources at your disposal to ensure that you complete your education. If it is a matter of money, make an appointment with the financial aid office. If your heath changes — physical, emotional or spiritual — make an appointment with the medical office. Should you struggle with a class, seek out a tutor — your academic advisor can refer you. People cannot read your mind, so ask for help when you need it — you will find college easier to handle when you find the right assistance to meet whatever challenges you face.
8. Have fun, but show restraint. By now, you may think that this article is a total killjoy. If that is what you are sensing, then you may be in danger of finding yourself part of the minority that won’t return to college for their sophomore year. Certainly, you should have fun while attending college. That simply means managing your priorities and making yourself aware of peer pressure. Bad peer pressure will pull you into drinking, over eating, sexual promiscuity, perhaps drug abuse. Good peer pressure will encourage you to do you best while still taking in a sporting or social event, joining a club or participating in some other fun pursuit. Know your limits and find balance in your life.
Evaluate your progress as you go through your first year. If you find yourself struggling with studying or your grades are coming in lower than expected, then meet with your professors. Own your academic progress and be determined to get the best grades possible. Your GPA isn’t everything, but it does matter. Your employers are also looking for “work readiness” and will review other factors including your skills and experience.