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7 Secrets to Surviving and Thriving During Your Freshman Year

Five happy college students walking across campus

The transition from high school to college is a big one. Not only will you be juggling new classes and other activities, it also may be the first time you are living away from home. While this transition may be stressful at times, there are many things you can do during your freshman year to help you be successful and not feel so overwhelmed. Here is a list of 7 secrets to help you survive – and thrive – during your freshman year of college.

1. Don’t buy your textbooks right away or from your school’s bookstore

You may want to consider not buying textbooks before your classes meet because some professors do not require you to buy the textbook listed on the syllabus. There are many times when a professor will tell students that the listed textbook will not be used or will post certain sections of the textbook online that will be used during the semester. If you do need to buy textbooks, you might want to shop around for the best prices and not necessarily buy them from your school’s bookstore because on-campus bookstores often mark up the cost of textbooks.

Instead, in many cases you can find the textbooks you will need from your school’s library and may be able to use the book for an entire semester at no cost. Be sure to get to the library as soon as you can because textbooks usually are taken fast. If you are unable to get your textbooks from the library, buy used books, as this can help you save you a lot of money. There are also websites, such as LibGen, that have free PDFs of many popular textbooks if you do not mind using a digital copy. Some professors may require that you have an access code to get the accompanying online homework. However, stay away from buying the textbook/access code bundles because those can be very expensive. If you only need access to the homework, you can just buy the access code by itself from a textbook website, such as Chegg or Amazon, for much less than the cost of the bundle.

2. Use your time wisely/manage your time effectively

You may have heard this before, but college is not like high school for many reasons. You will soon find out that you cannot wait until the day before an exam to start studying or wait to start a paper the day before it is due. College classes are a lot harder and significantly more demanding than most of your high school classes and therefore it is important you effectively manage your time. It can be very helpful to use an agenda/planner to make a daily schedule. Creating a schedule can help you manage your time efficiently, recognize your daily accomplishments, and help you keep focused. When creating a schedule, it is also important to make time for breaks because you need to have time to clear and refresh your mind.

3. Do not take all “hard” classes in one semester (space it out)

Do not fill up your schedule with all “hard” and demanding classes in one semester. Instead, try to take one or two “hard” classes in a semester, and balance them out with a few “easier” classes. If possible, spread out the “hard” classes throughout your four years in college. This can help reduce anxiety and stress and allow you to really focus and do better in those “harder” classes. Before signing up for a class, you can look up the professor on Rate My Professors to see what other students have said about the particular professor/class you want to take. You can also find out what certain professors and classes are like by asking other students on campus. And, don’t forget to seek advice from your advisor who can help you decide whether a specific combination of classes may be too hard or demanding for a single semester.

4. Go to office hours

Take advantage of your professors’ office hours. Look on the syllabus to check their office hours and send them a quick email to give them a heads up you are coming. When you visit a professor for the first time, make sure you introduce yourself including year of study (e.g., freshman, sophomore, junior or senior) and the class you are taking because the professor may have hundreds of students in a given semester and may teach more than one class. Even if you do not have any specific questions about the class itself, it is a good idea to develop as many relationships with your professors as you can because they can provide valuable guidance and direction on your college career as well as beyond, help you later in the class if you are struggling, and may help you find a mentor or even become yours.

5. Join clubs!

Joining clubs that you are interested in is a great way to get involved on campus. Most colleges have hundreds of different clubs to join – whatever you are interested in, your college most likely has a club for it. Check to see when your school’s club fair is being held, usually at the beginning of the year, and be sure to attend it. Attending a club fair is a great way to see what clubs your school offers, and what exactly each club is about. Joining various clubs is a way to branch out, explore different interests, and meet new people. There are also many clubs that focus on particular career paths. Getting involved in these types of clubs is a fantastic way to build connections, stay up to date about information related to your career path, and gain research, internship, and volunteer opportunities.

6. Make use of academic resources on campus (career center, tutors, writing center)

Take advantage of the resources that your school offers. For example, many colleges have a career center that offers specific career advice, resume building tips, cover letter help, and more. Furthermore, if you are struggling with a paper or a class, many schools offer free writing centers and tutors for students to utilize. Writing center instructors are there to help you improve your writing and review your papers, while tutors are there to work with you so that you can ace and excel in your class problem sets, quizzes, and exams.

7. Make time for yourself

College can be very overwhelming at times as you try to balance school work, club involvement, part-time employment and social pressures while in many cases living on your own for the first time. It can at times be hard to keep up and balance everything you have going on. That is why it is very important to make time for yourself, whether it is going for a walk, working out or taking an exercise class every day, reading a book, cooking a healthy meal, or even watching a television show or movie. Taking this time to yourself can help you clear your head, bring you some peace of mind, and alleviate some of the stress that comes with being a freshman in college. It is also very important that you try to get enough sleep every night – about 7-9 hours. Sleeping well is not only good for your physical health but can help you to be more productive and alert throughout the day.

Taking advantage of these 7 tips is a great starting point to a successful and productive freshman year of college. We wish you great success!

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