Every year, millions of students take their first step from their high schools into college dorms and lecture halls. It’s been four years since I first did, and it was an incredible experience. That being said, there were definitely things I did freshman year to make my college experience as awesome as it was. So today, I’m breaking down my top five tips for college freshmen. These are also usable throughout your college experience, but they are best put in practice during your freshman year. So here we go.
1. Get to Know Your RA(s) and RD
There are two super important people you need to get to know your freshman year: your Residential Assistant (RA) and your Residential Director (RD). Your RA and RD are the people you can go to for any emergency situations, or just to talk things out with and help in other situations. Think of them like an older sibling or a parent. They know the rules, and they can help if you need it. Be friends with them, and you’ll always have someone to go to your freshman year.
2. Get to Know Your Academic Advisor and Professors
The other super important person to get to know is your Academic Advisor. This is the person that will help you set up a plan for your four years. Sometimes you’ll start with one advisor and move to another depending on how the department is organized or if your advisor goes on sabbatical for a semester like mine did during my senior year. If you feel you’re not getting super comfortable with your advisor and are more comfortable talking with another professor, see if they can take you as an advisee and if they can’t, see if they’d be willing to answer any questions about scheduling and classes. Then you can go to your advisor with the other professor’s suggestions. I would recommend getting to know your advisor though so that way your meetings aren’t awkward.
3. Don’t Get Involved in Too Much
It’s your first or second week at school, and they’ve announced an Organization/Club Fair for all the freshman to find stuff to do. You sign up for six or seven clubs only to find out the schedules conflict, you have little time to study, and your friends want to hang out. This is a situation familiar to many college students that no one wants to repeat. So do yourself a favor and don’t sign up for too many clubs.
Go through the fair and find about three clubs that really interest you. Four is the max I would recommend, unless one or two of them are super low attendance. For example, one organization at my school with a table at the fair was a once-a-semester game called Humans vs. Zombies. You only needed to dedicate a week out of an entire semester to it, and not even a full week if you had to miss a few days. So look for groups and clubs that really interest you and pick your top three. Plus, pick out one or two low attendance events/clubs to join just for fun. Make sure none of the schedules conflict with each other either. That’s another mess you don’t need your freshman year.
Next find the club’s tables, sign up, and you’ve got some fun activities for your first year. Plus, you can always check back the next semester or the next year if any of the clubs you joined didn’t work out.
4. It’s Okay to Say No
There is so much to do on a college campus. Friends, study groups, dances, clubs, and classes can take it out on a new student. So just remember if you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to say no. Maybe you have a big paper or test coming up, but your friends want to hang out or there’s a club meeting and you can’t do both. It’s okay to make priorities, and never let anyone make fun of you for choosing school over hangout time. You will have time to hang out once you get the studying or writing done. Plus, this keeps your from procrastinating too much on your work.
5. Get Involved with Career Services
This is one thing I didn’t do during my freshman year, and I really should have. The Career Services at your school is your key to helping you get internships and jobs as your college career progresses. Some colleges will have a job/career fair as well, or will participate with different schools to have one regional job fair. And I would highly recommend you go, even as a freshman. Getting yourself out there, meeting recruiters, and seeing what it’s like to meet with potential employers is super important. Career Services offices vary from college to college, but most will try to help you connect with alumni, give you resume and cover letter advice, find internships, and find jobs as you move towards your senior year. They’re a great resource if you actually use them, so I highly recommend you do.
And those are my top tips for college freshmen. It’s crazy to think that just four years ago, I was stepping out to take the journey you guys are starting this month. Just remember to be calm, make friends, study, and have fun. College is such a formative time in the life of a young person, and I know you guys are gonna rock your first year! Good luck and until next time.