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13 Tips for First-Year College Students

Composite photo of the Wolf Law School Building at the University of Colorado at Boulder. (Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado)

With the semester coming to an end and textbooks being cracked open that have never seen the light of day, I’ve been reflecting heavily upon my first year of college. It was nowhere near what I expected. I was relieved to hear that others feel the same.

The first year of college is probably one of the hardest transition periods of anyone’s life. If you’re planning on going to a 4-year university away from home, it can be tough.

Here are 13 things I’ve learned throughout the 8 months since I started my journey toward adulthood:

  1. You won’t always get along with your roommate(s). When I first came, I thought my roommates and I would become lifelong friends. Instead, I ended up going through 7 different roommates over the course of both semesters. And I didn’t get along with a majority of them. It’s easy to think your roommate(s) will be your first friend, but they don’t have to be your only friend.
  2. It’s okay to fail. Whether it’s tests, assignments or classes, it’s not going to reflect on who you are as a person. College is a huge transition from high school, and it’s hard to keep up with all these new changes. Just keep trying, and don’t completely give up after one bad score on a test.
  3. Go in for office hours. Professors hold weekly hour(s) where they set time aside to help students out. They do this for you, so try and meet with them one-on-one at least once throughout the semester. Especially when they teach 100+ students, putting a name to a face is helpful. You don’t even have to go in for help. Most of them just like to chat and get to know you. They may even give you some extra credit opportunities or bump that B up to an A at the end of the semester.
  4. You don’t always have to be social. Going out every night may be fun, but it sure does affect your grades. There’s so much pressure to always be doing something while you live in a dorm, but sometimes just hanging out in bed for the night with some music and books is all you need.
  5. Sitting alone in the dining hall is perfectly fine. Even during dinnertime, which tends to be the most social time. I was terrified to sit alone for a good chunk of my first semester, but the reality is that no one cares who you’re sitting with. It’s not high school.
  6. It’s better to withdraw from a class than fail it. Of course, as the very last option, receiving a W on your transcript will look better than an F. But make sure your professor is caught up on what’s going on, and make sure they agree as well.
  7. It’s okay to change your major, and change it again. It’s nice to know what you’re passionate about studying and what you want to do with the rest of your life. But sometimes, we don’t end up liking the path we chose. And it’s not the end of the world if you do end up changing your major.
  8. Visiting home and keeping in contact helps the transition process. If you moved really far away for college, it may not be practical to visit home a lot. But calling your mom and sending your dad a quick text could help you feel way better if you’re homesick. If you are in-state and still feeling homesick, see if it’s possible to travel back home once a month or every other month. This will help you feel better about living far away from your family.
  9. Most professors don’t want you to fail. As the semester comes to a close, you can ask for extra credit opportunities or ways to improve your grade. Although some professors don’t like giving unfair opportunities to some students, others will try to help you raise that grade up to get your desired grade.
  10. Skipping class can become an addiction, so don’t start. It’s way easier to miss college classes with no excuse, especially those classes that don’t take attendance. Depending on the tuition rate of your specific college, skipping one class could amount to losing $80. You are paying to be there, so make sure to take advantage of everything you can.
  11. You will go through many relationships and friendships. And it’s fine if the friends you made at the beginning of the semester barely talk to you by the end. It’s a tough time for everyone, and the people you thought you liked in the beginning may not be the best fit for you. You aren’t going to make a lifelong friend with the first person you meet.
  12. Getting a job with other college students is a great way to make friends. Sure you can make friends in classes, but getting a job on-campus or near campus can help you meet even more people with different interests. You’ll ultimately be spending more time with them than you will be with people from class.
  13. Many freshmen don’t do well their first year. There’s always those smarties in the bunch, but if you don’t do so well your first year, don’t stress too much about it. That C you got in freshmen biology isn’t going to change the course of your career path if you’re a political science major. Just keep working toward your degree, and soon you’ll be taking classes you really do enjoy.

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Written By

Jenna is an eighteen year old girl who grew up in Colorado. Her mom is Jewish and her dad comes from a Christian background. She wants to make the world a better place. She is passionate about writing, the environment, and helping people whenever she can.

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