Summer is coming and seniors all over the states are about to graduate. You have prom, graduation, goodbyes, and college coming up. It is likely you've already chosen the school you'll be attending in the Fall since May 1st has passed (if you haven't, that's completely okay - I changed my decision in July). Now, you're thinking of dorms, the new friends you'll meet, orientation, whether or not you're going to rush, what you're going to major in, and what your classes will be like. It's exciting, but it's also exhausting and overwhelming. This survival guide is compiled with all of my tips and pieces of advice that I wish I would've known my Freshman year.
1. You probably won't stick with the same friend group all year. Your freshman year is an experience. You will grow and change throughout it. If you lose some friends along the way, it's because you're growing into the person you're meant to become. It's not a bad thing. Please don't blame yourself if you and a friend suddenly stop talking. Continuing contact with someone who you aren't connecting with anymore can suffocate you and keep you from spreading your wings. Don't feel guilty if you feel like you need to cut off a friendship with someone so you can become the person you are meant to be.
2. Dining hall swipes will be your best & worst friend. With freshman year comes a mandatory unlimited meal plan (at least, at my school that's how it is). This comes with a minute amount of dining dollars for the on-campus fast food places, but that will run out very quickly. This means you will be eating in the dining hall day in and day out. Let's be honest, usually dining hall food isn't great. Mine always tore my stomach up, but on days where I was starving and didn't have any dining dollars, it was a life saver. You'll hate it, but you'll also love it because it will give you food when you don't have any.
3. Don't procrastinate. Sure, hanging out with your friends and/or watching Netflix instead of doing your essay sounds enticing, but I promise you, when you're cramming to do an 8 page paper at 11:30 and it's due at 11:59, the fun will be lost in all of your stress. Do things that relieve stress, but do them at a time that won't interfere with your school work. Hanging out with friends and having fun is important, but you're at school for an education. You don't want to throw that all away because you've decided to put in half the effort on your assignments.
4. Go to the gym, even when you don't want to. Everyone always complains about the Freshman 15. The only way to avoid that is to eat right (which is almost impossible considering the options that most dining halls offer) and to exercise. Most colleges include gym membership in tuition. If you don't go, you're wasting your money. It's packaged into your tuition, so why not go? It's a built in stress reliever, and will keep you from getting more stress from gaining weight. If your school offers yoga, that's a great class to attend so you can have time to just relax and clear your mind. If you have the time, go to the gym when you can.
5. You'll most likely get in fights with your roommate, and it'll be okay if you do. You're living with another person and having to share your space 24/7. There will be things he/she does that you don't like, and vice versa. Just make sure you hold your tongue as best as possible. You don't want to say something that will make the rest of your year a living hell. Talk it out, and if necessary, call your RA in for a mediator. Make sure to take your roommate contract seriously. It is your lifeline for any problems that may arise. If you take it seriously, you will be more likely to avoid any unnecessary arguments or problems.
6. Talk with your advisor about any problems. You may feel like you're going to fail a class. You may need to change your major. You may need to withdraw from a class. Your advisor is there to guide you on all of this. You aren't bothering him/her if you ask for help. It's the advisor's job. He/she may give you the advice to drop the class that you may fail, or can help you to change your major. Your advisor is there to help you. Take advantage of it.
7. Call your family every day. You may not feel like it now, but you will miss having your family around. You never realize how much a 5 minute phone call can change your day. You may be worrying about something and just need someone to calm you down. That phone call may be the only way you can get in contact with your family until break. Take advantage of that. Just because you have left your house and are independent doesn't mean you don't need your family. College is a huge stressor. Sometimes those phone calls are the only way you can talk that stressor out. If you have a phone, pick it up and call your family when you need it. Not only will it calm you down, it will assure your family that you are okay and alive.
8. It's okay to cheat your diet. Yes, eating healthy is good for you, but sometimes, that piece of chocolate or bowl of ice cream is too. It's good to physically take care of your body, but you also need to emotionally take care of it. If finals is taking a toll on you and you feel like you need comfort food, treat yourself to it. And if you do binge on junk food, don't punish yourself for it. Realize that you're human. You sometimes need to treat yourself. That's not cause for beating yourself up over it.
9. The first week of school is stressful, but you'll get used to it. When you first start your new university, it will seem huge. You won't know where any of your classes are, but you'll find your way around. Some schools have a day where you find where your classes are the day before class officially starts. This will help you to relieve stress the first week of classes because you will already be familiar with where you need to go. If you are worried about remembering where your classes are, screenshot your schedule with days and times and set it as your phone screen. It also helped me to write in in my planner over and over again. Writing things down is known to help you commit them to memory. If you are super worried about forgetting you have class, set an alarm 10-15 minutes before each class. With all of these tips combined, your first week should be a breeze.
10. Go to class. Unless you are crippling sick or have a serious family emergency, go to class. View college as a job. Would you play hooky at least once a week at work? Most likely not. So, don't do it with class. Skipping class is a sure fire way to fail it. It's okay to take a mental health day, but if you skip class over and over when it's not necessary, you're just hurting yourself (and wasting money - who wants to do that?).
11. Get a phone cardholder for your student ID. Your student ID will be everything. It's the way you get food. It's the way you get into the gym. It's even the way you get into your dorm building. To ensure you don't lose it, get a cardholder that can stick onto your phone/phone case, like this one. This one is RFID blocking, so it's more expensive, but I got mine from the Academy Sports checkout line for $3. They're pretty cheap and will save you from having to buy a new ID over and over again.
12. Get involved. Your resume shouldn't only have good grades. To prove you are well rounded, join a few organizations on campus. Not only are they fun and a great way to meet new friends, it will show employers that you were able to keep your grades up while also making an effect on campus. Make sure not to overload yourself, though. Having a bunch of experience with organizations on campus won't mean a thing if you end up failing out.
13. Use your syllabus. Professors give them for a reason. Syllabi have your teacher's contact information, office hours, grading policies, attendance policies, and the class schedule. Reading over your syllabus and making notes of important due dates in your planner will keep you organized and make sure you don't miss an assignment.
14. Take advantage of easy elective courses. I know so many people who come into an easy elective course, such as a perspectives class, and just completely blow it off because it's easy. They'll skip the class because they don't view it as important since it isn't a major class and will end up failing it because of having too many absences or just not caring enough to put in any effort. These electives classes are meant to help you boost your GPA. They're an easy A for a reason. Take advantage of them and work hard in them. They're meant to provide a bit of extra cushion to your GPA.
15. Be safe when walking outside in the dark. Whenever you have to walk outside at night, make sure you have some way to make sure you're safe. I always like to call my family when I'm walking so someone will know the last place I have been. On campus policemen will also escort you back to wherever you need to be to make sure you get there safely. There are apps like Companion and SafeTrek that have a timer. If you don't get home within that time, it will call the police. Some even allow your friends and family to track where you are in your walk home. Check with your school's police/public safety office to see if they have one directly connected with campus police. There are also usually posts with emergency buttons. My school has them about every 50 feet and they have a huge blue light so they can be easily detected. These buttons will alert campus police that there is a problem.
16. Backup your documents. You never know when your computer will crash or will get damaged. To make sure you don't lose your hard work or half-completed assignments, always back them up onto a hard drive, thumb drive, or email them to yourself with your student email (or more than one option). This will save you from a ton of heartache and extra work.
17. Use a planner. I've mentioned planners a ton of times in this blog post, but they are extremely important for planning everything out and making sure you don't overbook yourself. As a college student, you will be very busy. Planners will make it easier for you to schedule everything out.
18. Make friends at orientation. At orientation, you will most likely be split into groups based on your major. This is a great way to meet friends before school, that way you don't go into your classes without knowing people. This is where I met my roommate (which made it easier because I went into it already knowing who I'd be rooming with). Making friends at orientation is vital for having a more comfortable first week of school.
19. Apply for all of the scholarships you possibly can. College is already hard enough. Having it cost a ton and leaving it with hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans will make it harder on you. Apply for any and every scholarship that you qualify for. You never know, you may get it! Better safe than sorry.
20. Apply for a job on-campus. On-campus jobs are better than off-campus in the sense that they are more likely to work with your schedule. They know for a fact that you are a student and will have direct access to your semesterly schedule. They won't ask you to come in at a time when you have a class, keeping you from being put between a rock and a hard place.
Those are all of the tips I have as of now. Who knows, maybe after next year I'll upload a 2.0 of this Freshman Year Survival Guide. Don't worry, lovelies. You've got this! You'll have the time of your life your freshman year, and if you don't, evaluate your life to see if you need to make any changes. If you figure out that you need to transfer to be happier, that's okay! College is a journey. You just need to make it your journey.