I can’t believe it’s been five years since I started my freshman year of college. I’ve always loved school and I loved the academics of college. I remember just how excited I was to start! However, looking back, there are some things I wish I knew when I was starting college. Hopefully, these tips help you or someone you know if they’re just starting their university career :) I certainly wish I knew these tips for freshman year of college before I went!
Write everything down
You might only be taking 4 or 5 freshman college classes instead of 7 or 8, but assignments will come at you fast, especially when you don’t have a teacher giving you day-by-day reminders of what you need to do. Write everything down, and don’t rely on looking only at your syllabi–you need everything in one place.
I don’t really like the rigidity of planners, so every Sunday I would create a list of everything I had to do for the next week, highlighting important deadlines or events. This kept me focused on what needed to be done and kept me from forgetting things. It also kept everything in one place.
Use your calendar app
Along the same lines, use the calendar app on your phone and sync it with your computer to remind you of important meetings and class assignments. Colour code to make things even easier.
Take a deep breath: school can be stressful
I often forget to stop and breathe when things get crazy. Doing this will help centre your mind and bring you back to the present.
Eat well—the freshman 15 is real
“It’s college! I can have dessert every night!” Everyone, including myself, thought this when entering college. Yes, it is nice to be able to eat as much as you want when you want, but eating healthy will help you stay happy and healthy. Have a salad or some fruit every once in a while or speak to your school’s nutritionist to get advice on a healthy diet.
Branch out: the first people you meet don’t have to be your only friends
I got lucky: the people on my freshman hall quickly became my best friends (thanks, Myers-Briggs!). It took me too long to branch out, but when I did, I made some great new friends that I’m still very close to.
I’m not happy unless I’m being challenged. Step out of your comfort zone. Take new classes. Talk with different people. Expand your worldview. I came into school thinking I wanted to be a Classics major. My classes during my first year of college also consisted of French, Poly Sci, English and Writing. Little did I know that I would fall in love with political science during that Tuesday/Thursday 8:15am class (I really fell hard, especially since I’m not a morning person) and decide to keep taking politics classes and eventually major in poly sci and French.
It’s OK to ask for help
Asking for help is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.
It took me too long to realise this but you’ll feel 100% better if you ask for help (even if it means crying in a professor’s class…)—whether it’s a professor whose class you’re struggling in or a health problem you’re having.
You don’t have to major in what you plan on doing for the rest of your life
I majored in Political Science and French, and do nothing related to either of them. I studied those subjects in school because I loved the classes and professors and found them endlessly interesting. I saw so many students stressing over whether or not what they majored in would lead to a career. But, the beauty of school (especially liberal arts school) is that you learn so many transferable skills in classes that it doesn’t matter what you major in, it just matters that you enjoy what you’re studying.
In my degrees, I learned how to handle multiple conflicting priorities, demanding assignments with strict deadlines, critical thinking, thinking in another language, presentation skills, writing skills, and so on. As long as you can prove this in an internship interview, it doesn’t matter (except maybe if you’re looking to go to med school or grad school specifically in one subject).
You don’t have to know what you want to do with your life
When I started college, I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Even senior year, I was applying to everything under the sun when it came to jobs and internships. Some people have it all figured out early, others are still searching. If you’re unsure, try different courses, speak to different professors and professionals, and take time to reflect on where you want to see yourself in life and you’ll end up where you need to be.
I’m weird. I’m an old soul who would rather eat a nice meal with friends than go out and party the night away. I’ve always known this about myself, but living in a world where it seems like everyone is the opposite of me, it can be hard to feel like I can truly be myself. Use your time in college to figure out who you are: try new things but don’t feel pressured to do anything you don’t want to do (I still struggle with this one myself).
Find a place or group that makes you feel welcome and embrace your inner and outer beauty and uniqueness :)
Feel free to contact me if you want more advice or tips for being a successful college student! I love helping people out, and starting college doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it sounds!