Heading to college can be both a life-changing and overwhelming experience. From dealing with roommates and new social situations to interacting in a completely different educational atmosphere, it can be difficult to know how to make the most out of your experience. Luckily, starting off on the right foot can make all the difference and we have the knowledge to get you there!
Check out these 24 helpful tips for college freshmen. We’ve split them up into four different categories to make it easier for you, including social, academic, health & wellness, and financial! (P.S. if you’re also looking to start off on the right foot financially, have a look at our step-by-step guide on applying for scholarships!).
8 Social Tips for College Freshmen
1. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
When you first start college, you’ll likely feel out of your element. After all, this may be the first time you’ve been away from home for so long and you’ll be exposed to lots of new experiences. Our #1 tip for how to be successful in college is to try as many new things as possible!
Don’t be afraid to meet new people, take the initiative with starting conversations, or join new clubs and activities that you normally wouldn’t. College is filled with opportunities and it’s completely up to you to take them.
2. Put Your Roomie Issues Out in the Open
Living with a roommate isn’t always easy, but being honest can make the situation much simpler. The best approach is to determine a set of rules that you both agree on at the beginning of the semester. If something your roommate does bothers you, don’t be afraid to say something (nicely, of course!) and try to find a solution.
3. If Possible, Live on Campus
While it’s not always possible for money reasons, living on campus can completely transform your college experience. You’ll be able to see what it’s like living on your own and it will make it much easier to get involved in campus life, go to parties, and get a feel for the overall college experience.
4. Don’t Lock Yourself in Your Room to Study
Most campuses invest a lot of money to make sure that their students have great study spaces—so take advantage! Instead of staying in your room, head out to the library, a café, or even an outdoor space. It will give you a change of scenery while making you feel less lonely at the same time.
5. Involvement is Key
So many students make the mistake of ignoring this college tip for freshmen and not getting involved in campus life, but involvement is so important! Not only does it give you the chance to meet new people, but it gives you an outlet for other interests. Don’t be afraid to get involved in student government, sports, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, or any other activities you enjoy!
6. Use College as a Fresh Start If Necessary
You are under absolutely no obligation to be the same person in college that you were in high school. Don’t be afraid to use college as a chance to completely reinvent yourself!
7. Make Your Space Yours
Having a boring dorm room or apartment can really make a difference in your mood, so don’t be afraid to customize your space. Put up pictures of friends and family, hang a tapestry, or put up your favorite movie posters—get creative with it!
8. Have fun!
Don’t forget that college is just as much about the experience as it is about getting an education. Enjoy yourself and live every day to the fullest! College will likely be some of the most transformative years of your life.
4 Health & Wellness Tips for College Freshmen
9. Don’t Let Homesickness Control Your Life
Being homesick is completely normal, especially during your first year of college, but it doesn’t have to control your life. Set aside time each week to talk to your family, but don’t overdo it. Make sure that you’re not sacrificing time that could be spent getting involved in campus life. Finding a balance between speaking with family and experiencing college is crucial!
10. Remember That You’re Not Alone
Among all the tips for college freshmen, this one is often overlooked! College can be overwhelming, but there are thousands of students around you who are going through the same experience. If you feel like you’re in over your head, academically or emotionally, don’t be afraid to reach out to on-campus psychologists, roommates, fellow students, family, friends, coworkers, professors, or anyone else. It’s completely normal and talking it through or seeking help can be extremely beneficial!
When we were at university, we were told about the ‘duck syndrome’. It refers to the fact that when you look around everyone seems to be swimming along smoothly, but under the surface, they’re all kicking furiously to say afloat! At the times when you are struggling, know that you are not alone.
11. It’s All About Balance!
Unsurprisingly, your grades are a super important part of your college experience, but don’t forget to balance things out! When it comes to figuring out how to survive college, you’ll soon realize that this tip is key. Make time for going out with friends, extracurricular activities, alone time, and whatever you enjoy. Stressing out over grades will only lead to you feeling burnt out and frustrated. Plus, learning how to balance various aspects of your life is a life-changing skill to develop!
12. Throw It Back to PreSchool…Naps Are Your Friend
Naps aren’t just for five-year-olds–they’re for college students, too! Between your social life, extracurricular activities, work, and class, you’ll be lucky to get a solid 8 hours of sleep a night. Luckily, class schedules often allow for a nap or two throughout the day…and don’t be afraid to take advantage! Napping can boost your productivity and reduce stress.
7 Academic Tips for College Freshmen
13. Learn to Think Outside of the Box!
College is all about expanding your mind and growing as a person…regardless of your major! It’s where you start to not only answer your questions but to question your answers. Improve your ability to think for yourself and don’t be afraid to discuss outside-of-the-box ideas during class. You’ll learn much more during your undergraduate experience that way!
14. Be Open to Changing Your Major
While you might go into college completely passionate about your intended major, be open to realizing that your passion might lie elsewhere. In fact, about one-third of college students change their major during their academic career. College is a time to discover new interests and passions and there’s absolutely no shame in changing your major!
15. Don’t Be Afraid of Office Hours!
Professors hold office hours for a reason…because they want you to go! Too many students overlook this college tip and end up regretting it. Don’t be afraid to show up and ask questions about exams, assignments, projects, or simply topics discussed in class. Office hours also give you the chance to get to know your professors, which can open more opportunities for you and give you someone to turn to for letters of recommendation and references when you’re applying for internships and jobs.
16. What’s the Earning Potential of Your Major? Don’t Worry About It.
Unless you want to enter a highly-specialized field where you need to know very specific knowledge, such as engineering, don’t worry too much about guessing your future earnings. In this day and age, the most important thing is that you have a college degree in general! For example, a degree in philosophy doesn’t mean you have to enter a philosophy-related field; there are opportunities all around!
17. Look Forward to Studying Abroad!
Studying abroad is possible for all majors, from international affairs to geology, if you choose the right program! Completing part of your education abroad can give you a strong advantage when you enter the job market and also give you a new perspective on life and your future career. Not to mention, it’s likely the only time in your life that you’ll be able to travel without adult responsibilities, so take advantage of this college advice and do it!
18. Form a Relationship with Your Academic Advisor
Your academic advisor will be with you throughout your academic career—so it’s important to develop a relationship with him or her! Don’t be afraid to take their classes or ask them for career advice…they were in the same place as you at one point. Plus, your academic advisor can be one of the best people to turn to for a letter of recommendation in the future.
19. Participate in Class…Don’t Be Passive!
One major difference between high school and college is that class participation is much more important. Don’t be afraid to come out of your shell and share your opinions…that’s what college is for! In fact, depending on your major, participation in class might make up over 50% of your grade!
5 Financial Tips for College Freshmen
20. Wait to Buy Textbooks!
While it may seem tempting to show up to the first day of class completely prepared, it’s actually better to wait to buy your textbooks (unless your professor says otherwise)—yet another one of the tips for college freshmen that students tend to overlook. Often times, the syllabus is wrong or the professor can recommend a cheaper version of the book that will work just as well. Also, always try and buy used—it can save you loads of money in the long run! Some great places to check for used textbooks are Amazon, Chegg, AbeBooks, BIGWORDS, and local bookstores around your campus (although the actual campus bookstore is usually overpriced).
21. Working Is Beneficial
While it can seem a little overwhelming, getting a part-time job in college is actually a great college tip! Not only will it help you meet new people and expand your social circle, but it will give you a little extra spending money!
22. Get Your Money’s Worth
College tuition isn’t cheap—and most students don’t even take advantage of all the free resources available to them! Take some time to figure out the campus resources available to you, like the gym, fitness classes, the career center, writing center, seminars, career fairs, and more!
23. Budgeting is Your Friend
Unless you’re one of the lucky ones, you probably won’t have much money in college. Learning how to budget is key…and luckily the internet makes it easier! Check out resources like Pinterest to see how you can get the most for your money when it comes to groceries, apartment decorations, going out, and more. Plus, don’t forget that you can get tons of discounts with your student ID!
24. Minimize the Financial Burden by Applying for Scholarships
It’s no secret that college isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s a huge investment. Of all the tips for college freshmen, this is one of the most important and directly impacts your future. Applying for scholarships can help take some of the stress away. Create an account at Going Merry and we’ll match you with the scholarships you qualify for then allow you to directly apply through our site—saving you time and effort!
What are your best tips for college freshmen? Let us know below!