As an upcoming junior, I’ve had some time to reflect back on what my first year of college taught me. You definitely learn a lot of things during your freshman year, but here are the 9 most important things that I learned!
Talk to your teachers.
Seriously. As the daughter of two college professors, I had this tip drilled into my head before I started freshman year. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to develop a relationship with your professors. Ask questions, go to office hours, talk after class…whatever it takes to show your professors that you care. Extra effort is definitely noticed.
(Bonus tip: Get to know your teachers before classes start with sites like Rate My Professors.)
Join a club.
I know. Surprise, right? Bet you didn’t see this tip coming. Getting involved on campus is critical to your transition as a college student and your overall happiness. Sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Usually, the first week of school holds lots of club fairs, info nights, etc. Grab a group of friends you met at orientation and swing by. Pick up any and all flyers that interest you and pick at least 2 clubs to get started. You might be overwhelmed at first, but getting involved is the PERFECT way to meet new people and also get your foot in the door for future career stuff.
Get help if you need it.
The Student Health Center on your college campus is specifically for college age kids with college-centered conflict. Struggling to balance classes and clubs? Go. Homesick? Go. Bad breakup? Go. No matter what, and no matter how small your problem seems, the counselors there are professionally trained and even specialize in your age group. There are tons of options, too: you can talk to someone individually, talk alongside your partner, or get started with group counseling.
Put the phone down.
It’s easy to get caught up in editing photos for Instagram or picking the perfect caption, but take a step back from social media and LIVE in the moment. You’ll blink and your first year of college will be gone, and while you might have some cute pictures, you’ll wish you had the memories to back them. When you’re talking to friends, make sure your phone is on silent and reaaalllyyyy listen. 100%. They’ll appreciate it more than you know.
It’s okay to be by yourself.
Freakin’ bask in it, actually. Sing in the bathroom while you get ready by yourself. Have the lady at the drive through window at Wendy’s know you by name because you go there so much…by yourself. Go grocery shopping by yourself. Study by yourself. It’s all good. It’s all okay. You’re actually pretty cool.
It’s okay to say no.
Your social life won’t crumble if you pass up dinner with friends to study for a test. That 90’s theme party can wait (no matter how good that 90’s throwback music may be!) if you have a big paper to write. Know what you can handle and turn down what you can’t; your GPA will thank you later.
Speaking of GPA, it isn’t everything.
I’m not saying you can slack off and let your grades slip, but it’s okay if your grades aren’t as perfect as they were in high school. And it’s understandable: you’re in a completely new learning environment, living away from family, pushed into a new social scene, and learning how to handle everything that’s thrown your way. Cut yourself some slack, take a deep breath, and do the best you can.
Treat your body well by getting a full night’s sleep as much as possible and it will treat you well right back. You might think the opposite, but we really can’t function without consistent rest! The all-nighter won’t be worth it when you’re a zombie the next day. Set a bed time everyday and wake up each morning at the same time. Wind down before bed with a good book, writing in your journal, or sweet music. Avoid watching TV in your bed or doing homework there so your brain won’t associate your sleeping space with space to work too.
Write it down.
Finally, invest in a planner or talk to your academic advisor to see if your school has a free one. Carry an empty notebook with you for To-Do lists. Download a calendar app on your phone and set up reminders. Color code with highlighters and stickers. Write. It. Down! You’ll feel MUCH better if you plan and have your schedule organized. By carrying your planner with you everywhere, you can schedule lunch with friends, a study session with your group, or a meeting with your professor without overbooking and feeling stressed.
My freshman year of college was a whirlwind for sure, but as I kept these nine tips in mind, I was a little less overwhelmed.
Do you have any tips for freshman year survival? What’re some things you took away from your first year?
Savannah Ward is the lifestyle editor at TYH and a junior in college studying Public Health and Applied Anthropology. She lives in the beautiful state of North Carolina, driving back and forth from her family home in Chapel Hill to her school in Charlotte. Savannah loves road trips, good hair days, banana pudding, Young Life, and the Nordstrom shoe department. On her blog, Always, S, she writes about surviving as a college student, traveling as that (broke) college student, and loving yourself. You can find her on her blog, Instagram and on Twitter.