Off to your Freshman year of college? 15 Tips and Tricks from a recent graduate

15 Tips for HS grads

When I was finishing the summer of my senior year of high school, I was both excited and also terrified. I was the oldest in my family, neither of my parents had the "traditional" college experience (both started college in their early twenties at public universities) and no one in my family had attended the college I was about to go to, so I really didn't know what to expect. Looking back, I learned more about myself in that first semester/year then I did all 3 years afterwards. Here are a few tips that I learned that would have saved me some grief that first week, month, semester. Although I believe mistakes are learning experiences, some of these tips I would like to extend to those who I don't believe should have to go through it as well.

Tip #1. Label your stuff in boxes.

This helps with moving. Basically the whole moving thing is strange. You have a very small room that you are sharing with a stranger. If you live nearby, you don't have to bring all your stuff the first day, take a couple trips. You end up bringing more than you actually use (take note of what you need/don't need a few months into the semester, then bring it home over Christmas).

Tip #2. Figure out your schedule before the first day

Find out where your classes are and when, my first day I thought TR meant just Thursday, well it actually meant Tuesday/Thursday and I panicked after realizing I missed my first college class ever. *Note: The first day is ALWAYS syllabus day so GO because they explain a lot. Sometimes there is homework before the first day so check that too (I learned the hard way, go watch Legally Blonde for this lesson as well!)

Tip #3. Friend your roommate on Facebook (but don't meet before your first day).

Meet with your roommate the day you move in, that way you see them in the environment that you will be sharing and it will be less awkward than meeting them beforehand. Don't creep on them on Facebook either; it will give you false information.

Tip #4. Communicate with your roommate.

This was my biggest learning lesson and regret from freshman year. My roommate and I had barely any communication and it was very stressful and sad for both of us. I have had 11+ roommates since and I learned different things from each experience, but this lesson is key.

Tip #5. Don't put all of your friendship eggs in one basket

I tried very hard my freshman year to befriend girls on my hall. However, looking back I should have realized that I didn't click with many of them and it wasn't until the end of the year that I started making friends with girls not on my floor, and these are the girls I ended up rooming with later on, and now still keep in touch with. Join clubs/sports/music groups and you will find people with similar interests. Most of my friends ended up being nursing majors and I was a communications major (go figure!) This would have saved me from the loneliness I felt my freshman year.

Tip #6 Don't leave buying your books last minute (and don't buy them from the school book store, it's a rip off)

Find sites like Amazon where you can rent books. Saves so much money.

Tip #7 If you hate a class/think it is too easy or too hard, don't be afraid to drop it.

The only class I dropped in 4 years was during my first semester freshman year. It was a high level spanish class I had somehow gotten into, it was a night class and I spent an entire weekend trying to translate what I was reading and I was so stressed out/was crying all the time. I dropped it, figured out I could test out of taking a language in general and it all worked out great! So if you've found yourself in too difficult of a class and it isn't necessary, don't continue taking it.

Tip #8. If you are living in a dorm, be careful about what you put on the walls.

I put up a command strip and double sided tape, took it down at the end of the year and it ripped part of the drywall. The walls were so thin and gross in my dorm. If this happens, you will be fined (you will be fined for little things when checking out at the end of each semester! Clean your room as often as you can! I didn't!) HOWEVER some Universities and Colleges let you call the facilities management and they can come fix things before you check out and get fined (I learned this my junior year-YIKES!)

Tip #9. Experience it all and take lots of pictures.

Although looking back at my freshman year, there were many things I would have changed, some of the memories I have are irreplaceable, as I did so many things for the first time and there were events and experiences that I absolutely loved and were so memorable. Freshman year has many events and things they just don't offer to people later on. Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors tend to get a "IDGAF" attitude towards events so do everything freshman year with people who are actually excited about events/freshman parties. Also, stay on campus on the weekends if possible, as many people at my school left and it tended to not be as fun as if everyone had stayed.

Tip #10. Don't be afraid to change your major(or be undecided) your freshman year.

Even though I never changed my major, I knew many people who did (some sophomore/junior year) and many wish they had done it earlier. Freshman year you are mostly taking core classes that everyone takes and most of the major classes don't begin until sophomore year. Try out classes in different subjects you are interested and it may click that the major you are in isn't the right one for you.

Tip #11. Take part in all the career events/seminars the school offers (the earlier the better)

My junior and senior year, I attended resume classes, networking seminars, practice interviews with real employers, job fairs, etc.. It always bothered me that people never seemed to get that our college degree wasn't going to hand us a job; we had to go out and pursue what is out there. Most are unprepared when graduating but by having some experience and knowledge, it will help you in your job search (Case in point-I now have 3 paid job positions). Create a LinkedIn account and look up different jobs in your field that you may be interested in and take classes that would help you in that.

Tip #12. Get a job freshman year if you can.

Many students do work-study programs, but if you don't, get a job anyway if you can. More to put on your resume when you graduate. My first job EVER started after my freshman year of college and I wish I had had more experience.

Tip #13. Read all the books assigned. Even though most of the tests are from the lectures/class notes.

The professors assigned them for a reason. Some of them have greatly influenced me. Also, ask upperclassmen what their favorite classes were. I saw someone do this on Facebook, took that class and it changed the way I think about things in life (no joke!).

Tip #14. Don't bring your laptop to class if you know you will be distracted.

Take notes by hand and then type them later (especially if you have horrible handwriting like me), which helps you focus while you are in class. Studies have shown, writing things down help you remember more later.

Tip #15. College is not a right, it's an opportunity that most struggle to achieve. Think of it that way

I read this story recently about a kid who lived in his car to afford college. This made me realize how many people don't take college seriously. College opens doors later on, but it will be a big waste of money if you don't take advantage of it while you are there. There are people in the career center to talk about your career, free therapists to talk to if you are depressed, sad, lonely or stressed out and teachers who have office hours. College can be difficult at times, but if you stick with it and work hard, it flies by and you are graduated before you know! Appreciate having free time during the day before you head into the real world, which isn't structured and no one holds your hand.

Hope you have gotten something out of these tips. Enjoy your freshman year!