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How to Succeed First Year in College: 13 Tips

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John Milovich
John Milovich
ScamFighter Expert
Former college customer turned freelance writer, shares insider insights on the essay industry.

What is a freshman’s dream? To breeze through classes, getting straight As, make a dozen friends on the first day, and party all night long every other day of the week. It’s no surprise most first-year students get carried away, wash out of school, and miss half the fun they could have. To spare you the bitter disappointment, let me share some of my own hard-earned experience on how to survive a freshman year of college.

Succeed in Class

Attend classes, introduce yourself to professors, and be active. You or your parents are paying a lot of money to get you through college, so it is logical to make the most of every class. Getting to know your professors at office hours is a great way to earn extra points and get good recommendations you will need for scholarships, internships, and job applications.

Establish your perfect place and method for studying. If you can’t concentrate in your room, go to the library, coffee shop or dining hall. If you can’t make yourself get ready for tests, join a study group or find a tutor. Try active learning techniques instead of traditional reading and highlighting to memorize the tons of material easier. Among the best study tips for college freshmen I used was flashcard method of processing and learning lectures and books.

Use your school’s resources. Libraries are not the only useful resource at your disposal. Check out the college career center, its counselors will help you find an exciting internship after your sophomore year, and point potential employees your way if you are enthusiastic enough.

Start Adult Life

Get a credit card, make a budget, learn to file your taxes. Financial independence should be among your top priorities, and it is the skill you want to gain as soon as possible after leaving for college. Don’t go overboard with your credit card. If you realize you can’t balance it, get rid of the card and try again later.

Find a part-time job that complements your major. You will get professional experience while learning the tricks of the trade. This will make you a desirable applicant after you graduate from college. Another way to go about part-time jobs is by taking up hours that let you complete your homework. If you like none of the jobs for college freshmen available around town, you could start a business.

Get a loud alarm clock and use a calendar. Your siblings won’t be around to drag you out of bed, so situate your alarm clock as far away from the bed as possible. Once you get up, turn on the light (if your roommate is not still asleep) and brush your teeth. This will help you wake up before class. Google Calendar or another app will remind you when you need to be in class, professors’ office hours, club meetings, etc.

Learn to take care of yourself without your family. Your mom won’t be there to do your laundry, so you better start sorting through colors and whites, pick up detergent and come on time to pick up your clothes after the cycle ends. Otherwise, you will parade around campus in pink T-shirts instead of white, or your clothes will end up on the telephone lines. The same advice applies to groceries and other necessities.

What do you need for college? That’s a question on everyone’s mind. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled a comprehensive checklist for you.

Stay Healthy

Control your caffeine intake. Coffee might seem like the ultimate solution in your first month of college, but it doesn’t add more hours to your day. Instead, an unregulated coffee intake will make you jittery, and it will be hard for you to focus in classes. Be realistic about your energy levels and the number of activities you plan every day.

You can’t survive on pop tarts and frozen pizza long. Look for healthier options from the first days on campus. College dining halls usually offer multiple options for breakfast and lunch, you need to make a conscious choice to eat your greens without your parents reminding you to do so.

Alcohol is another indulgence you might take up when in college. However, if you want to succeed in classes, getting drunk on a school night is not the best idea. Even if you enjoy a beer or two with friends, know when to stop and help your friends make the right choice too. They will listen to your advice after the first couple of hangovers.

Make the Most of College Experience

Choose student housing in your first year in favor of an off-campus apartment. Dormitories are where all the freshmen action is, and you don’t want to miss the fun. Besides, living on campus will let you sleep in before morning classes and get around college much quicker. You won’t even need to bring your car from home. Another advantage of this advice for college students is that on-campus housing is safer and usually cheaper than rental apartments.

Try as many college clubs as possible. If you have a choice between a double major and extracurricular activity, choose the latter. You only go to college once, and the four years will fly by far too quickly. So join a sports team, a public speaking club, and volunteer community. Some of them will look better on your resume than the extra classes you could take.

Explore the campus and the city, make friends wherever you go. Don’t limit yourself to your residence and dining halls, check out all college buildings open to students. Dedicate one day a week to discover the new and exciting places around the city, you never know where you will find your new favorite coffee shop or thrift store.

I couldn’t fit all the things to know about college into one measly post. However, I’ve included all the things I wish someone would have told me when I was a freshman. I believe college is above all about finding the right balance between being responsible and having fun, learning everything you can in class and growing up. Let me know if my tips were helpful and don’t be shy about asking questions!