Each month, I write The Freshman 15, my list of fifteen tips for college freshmen based on various themes, such as homesickness, time management skills, dating and dorm room must-haves. About to begin my third year of college, I have definitely learned a lot from my experiences and feel that I have some pointers for incoming freshmen, but I still have plenty to learn from the people around me. This month, fifteen other college students and college graduates have contributed their own advice with us about navigating through university life, and I am excited to share the tips they sent me with you. Enjoy!
The Freshman 15: Advice From Readers
1. Get involved in Greek life.
Joining a sorority does three things, in stages: as a freshmen, it give you an instant social network outside of your dorm floor; as an undergrad, it gives you leadership opportunities for your resume and something extracurricular-related to talk about at internship interviews; and as a college graduate, it gives you friends for life. (It will also in general improve your choreographed dancing skills and guarantee you never eat lunch alone). I recommend Greek Life to almost every incoming freshman I know.
- Molly, Northeastern University, Smart Pretty & Awkward
2. Know your resources.
I think college students should take advantage of the resources they have on campus, especially the mental health/counseling department. As a student away from home, you’re very prone to feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, etc. It’s good to talk to someone about it, and it’s even better to recognize that you’re not alone.
- Kevina, University of Florida, Kevina-Lee.Net
3. Find your perfect balance.
My first semester I holed up in my room most the time and studied a ton, and I got great grades. My second semester, I went out and partied, worked on some extracurricular clubs and events, dated, and had a ton of fun. My grades, however, suffered. It takes a while to learn how to balance having fun and enjoying your year with making decent grades, however, it is much more rewarding to try. One of the things my dad told me he regretted about his college experience is that he stayed in his room all the time, worked 3 jobs, and didn’t go out and meet people. It’s taking me some time to learn the balance, but I’m definitely enjoying it more.
- Carson, University of Central Florida, the sky and trees all blur
4. Follow the First Five Rule.
For every class especially giant lectures halls, sit within the first five rows. This enables you to pay attention and not text or go on facebook. You also may learn valuable information before class when other students are talking to the professor that may help clarify something or help you with the next test. Sitting in the first five rows also lets the professor see your face more which in return may help your grade since he/she realizes you make the effort to come to class all the time and pay attention! (If a classroom only has five rows… then sit in the first three rows.)
- Heather, Broward College
5. Work on your group project etiquette.
Participate in your group projects. Do more than you have to. Go above and beyond. People always remember slackers, and one day, you may see these slackers again looking for a job where YOU work. You will gladly tell your boss that this person was a slacker. Just because you’re in the “real world now” doesn’t mean your work ethic has changed. Treat the classes in your major like your job and your classmates like future coworkers because one day, they might be.
- Karina, University of Central Florida, Karina Creative
6. Find a unique way to get involved.
Get involved in interests/hobbies outside your major. It helps you stay sane when you get stressed/burnt out and continue to meet new people, because you end up seeing the exact same people in class when you hit junior/senior year.
- Courtney, Boston area, Coffee and Debussy
7. Look for a university job.
If you plan on applying for a job, look for one on campus. They will be more flexible with your schedule.
- Jessie, University of Central Florida
8. Know your strengths and trust in them.
Don’t let anyone discourage you from taking a class. Just because someone else thinks it’s hard doesn’t mean you can’t step up to the challenge. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you can’t be the best (such as advisors, friends or anyone who might just be jealous of you).
- Alexandra, University of South Florida
9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Professors are more than willing and eager to help students who are either struggling or looking for reassurance. If you feel like you could use some extra guidance battling homesickness, exploring majors, picking classes, or healing a sore throat, all schools offer help through counseling enters, career services, advisors, and health centers! Take advantage of the resources your school has to offer and don’t be afraid to ask for help or guidance! These offices are there for a reason!
- Beth, University of Central Florida, The Utterings and Mutterings of a B.A.G. Lady
10. Keep your place clean.
Clean the place at least once a week. If you don’t, before you know it, it will look like a hellhole. It’s harder to clean a hellhole than just cleaning once or twice a week. Besides, hellholes are hell to live in.
- Emily, Palm Beach State College
11. Confidence is everything.
Before you go to any smaller class for the first week or so, be prepared to say something about yourself. And when you get called on, act like the most confident person in the room at that moment. People are attracted to it and you make instant friends– or get a relationship out of it!
- Kate, University of Central Florida, Concrete Canyons
12. To get the meal plan or not get the meal plan?
I say don’t get the meal plan. Understanding that some people can’t afford anything other than the meal plan (you are the only exceptions), for those of you doing it because you think it’s the real “college experience” and you’ll meet tons of people, you’re wrong. The food is horrible, even if a slice of pizza looks good, it will never taste good. The amazing looking pasta will also taste disgusting as will anything else you eat there. The appeal of the “bottomless” food is also your worst enemy. The only thing worth eating in a dining hall is the desserts and eating too many of those will lead to the very thing that gives this blog its namesake. Instead, locate some convenient inexpensive food joints off campus or in the student union, or make monthly trips to the grocery store to stock up your dorm room. It works and it’s actually pretty convenient. (Hint: Always grocery shop after eating a big meal. If you’re hungry, those Cheez Its and Oreos look really good. If you’re full, you’ll be happier settling for granola bars and 100 calorie pack pretzels.)
- Melissa, Florida State University, Melissa Thinks You Should Read This
13. Stay on top of things!
Make yourself a schedule of all your activites and classes, as well as when you have to study. Organization helps a lot.
- Shantel, Arizona State University, Girl Meets World
14. Listen to your mother.
You can never have too many washcloths or pairs of underwear.
- Susan, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (my mom!)
15. Don’t put yourself in a box.
Make sure to not limit yourself. This is college. You can be yourself without labels and preset stereotypes. You are supposed to try new things and explore your interests. Join clubs that are different. Try activities and events that stand out from the norm, because these are the experiences that will make the best memories and possibly uncover talents you didn’t know you had. Your new best friend, style, major, hobby, or career could be just around the campus corner.
- Jessica, University of Central Florida
From Melissa, Florida State University, Melissa Thinks You Should Read This
16. Some friends are semesterly.
It happens. You meet someone you have a class with or that lives in your dorm and you get along really well. You have a lot to talk about whether it’s the number of times your teacher snorted in a single class, the lack of usable washing machines in the laundry room, or the creepy old janitor who plays practical jokes on you in the hall. You text occasionally and instantly accept their Facebook friend request. Then after a semester or two, you have different classes and maybe you’re living in a different dorm or apartment. You’ll make new friends and the cycle will start all over again. Don’t fight it and don’t be angry. This isn’t to say that all friends are semesterly. Some are for years and some are for life. However, some of them will always tag team it.
17. Don’t make long-term plans with high school friends.
This isn’t to say that you and your besties from high school will never speak again. However, before you leave for college, you might feel nostalgic and scared and plan a specific weekend in the far future to visit a friend at another school. This is a no no. As hard as it is to believe, you will make new friends in college. You’ll have parties to go to, football games to tailgate for, study groups to attend, and just about a billion other things that you and your new friends will do. Don’t risk already having a perfectly good weekend blocked out because you were scared a few months ago. You could miss out on something really great and even more opportunities to meet people. Once you’ve started college, wait a while to make plans to visit people. Even then, you might be so happy and comfortable at school that you’ll tell your friends from home, “Sorry, buddy. See you at Thanksgiving.” You can tell them all about your awesome college life as you pass the yams.
From Emily, Palm Beach State College
18. Stay in shape!
Don’t abandon the gym. Although it takes time away from partying and schoolwork, all that partying adds fat, and without the gym, you’ll gain weight.
19. Be mindful of your health.
Although you’re too lazy to make a gourmet meal like Mom used to make, don’t live off of fast food. Make a rule to only eat it three times per week max. A lot of stores have college student easy cookbooks you can use, and you should always have bread around to make sandwiches.
From Karina, University of Central Florida, Karina Creative
20. Only buy the books you need.
Never buy your books in the bookstore; order from Chegg. If your professor says you don’t need the book, you don’t need the book.
21. Maintain some social media discretion!
NEVER post anything on your facebook/twitter/flickr/tumblr you wouldn’t want your boss/grandma to see.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this blog! You guys are amazing!
To my readers who have gone through college: what was the most important thing you learned your freshman year?