10 Tips for the College Freshman

This one’s for the high school seniors. If you are anything like me, by this time in the year you are freaking out just a little (or a lot) about the whole “college thing.” Maybe you’ve been accepted, maybe you’re still waiting. No matter what your situation, I’ve compiled a list of things that have been on my mind for a few weeks now.

1) You will not be best friends with your roommate. If it happens, good for you, but that is about 1 in a million chance. Scenario 1: you room with someone you know and love from high school. Result: you will drift apart, resulting in a less-than wonderful relationship. Scenario 2: you room with a stranger. Result: still not likely to become best friends.

My advice: Don’t room with your best friend from high school. Trust me, when things get tough, you will need a friend to lean on, not someone who doesn’t wash their dishes or do laundry. And don’t worry! You will make plenty of friends, so even if your roommate and you aren’t best buds, you will have plenty of people to hang out with.

2. Leave your door open whenever you are there for at least the first few days. I can’t stress how important the first three or four days are after move-in. It’s not impossible to make friends after this, but this is the time when you will have wonderful opportunities to meet completely random people. Even if you never talk to them again, you will always have someone to go to dinner, explore campus and search out classes. Don’t isolate yourself, and don’t confine yourself to just spending time with friends from high school.

3. Pack, remove half the stuff from the car, move. No, you don’t need three sets of sheets. Thirty pairs of shoes? Cut it down to 10. Oh, and forget about trying to display every single poster/artwork from home. It just ain’t gonna happen. Also, think about what you’re bringing. Renters’ insurance is great, but that still doesn’t stop your new Wii from getting stolen because someone forgot to lock the door.

4. Prepare to be broke. There is basically no way around it: college kids are not wealthy kids (for the most part). Prepare to get down to your last four dollars in your checking account plus some change in a jar. There is no way around it. Even if you have a full ride and work all the time, you aren’t going to spend money the way you did in high school.

5. Leave the car at home. Do your homework, but for the most part I bet at least a third of the freshman who bring a car to campus only use it once a month or less. Make a friend with a car, and use them shamelessly. Or learn how to take advantage of the bus system.

6. Get involved. It’s harder than you think to make friends (real friends) in classes. Get involved in some type of activity or group. Whether it’s a club sport or a spiritual group. Joining the Equestrian Team was probably one of the best decisions I made last year.

7. Don’t overextend yourself. On the flip side, don’t push yourself too far. As a bumper sticker says: “Class, Social life, Sleep. Pick two.” Learn how to balance your time. Some weeks are going to be more challenging than others, but you will be fine if you’re smart about it. So you are taking 21 credit hours, joined a sorority and three other on-campus groups and you work 40 hours a week. Um, good luck making it past your first semester with anything above a 2.0. Although everyone is different, but for me a balance of about 15 credit hours, 15-20 hours of work, and Equestrian Team once a week and several weekends a semester leaves me just enough time to keep my GPA good and still have time to go out at least once a week (even if “going out” means sitting at my friend’s house in sweatpants watching a movie).

8. High school sweethearts: don’t dump ’em, but don’t bank on it working out. Sometimes it works. My brother and sister-in-law are a perfect example of success in this area. However, realize that in the first few months of college your life will change dramatically. You will suddenly have a totally different perspective on the world. Sometimes that doesn’t include a fling from the past.

9. Go to class. It seems like a no-brainer, but you will be surprised how many people just decide it’s not worth it to get up for a 10:30 class on a Monday. Or a Friday. And Wednesday is bad for them too. Pretty soon, you will be completely lost and miss a ton of important information about tests and papers. Hold yourself to a higher standard. Find a morning routine that really works for you. Some people just roll out of bed and go, others need time to wake up, shower, grab some coffee, read the paper and look over the day’s tasks before setting foot outside their dorm building. Try different things until you find something that will work.

10. Finally, live on campus your first year. Please, just do. I know it’s a little more expensive and a pain to have to deal with frat guys running around like idiots, but campus living is a great way to accomplish every single other thing on this list. You will meet people, get involved, be more motivated to go to class (it’s literally 100 steps from your dorm!), and learn what college is all about. After that go do whatever works best for you. Sometimes that’s living on-campus again, sometimes that means moving to the other side of town. Even if you hate your roommate, hate your RA, hate dorm food, you will still have a built-in support system of people exactly like you. That’s not something you will get from an empty apartment.

Not to sound too much like a big sister trying to help, but if there are any high school students who want more advice, just let me know!

Happy college searching!



2 thoughts on “10 Tips for the College Freshman

  1. thanks for the list- my son is getting ready to go to college (and I am trying not to freak out- lol) but this list is a big help.

    • You are very welcome! There are some things that no one is going to tell you about college, but so many things kids (and parents!) worry about are never going to come up. Good luck to both of you this fall!

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