Best Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Freshman YearBy Vaughn College
With high school graduation a recent memory, incoming freshmen are hanging tassels from their rearview mirrors and gearing up for their new college experience. Getting off on the right foot is the best way to set your future in motion. Whether you’re staying local or going away, the next four years will be what you make of them. So, take a deep breath and read on for the top tips to getting the most out of your freshman year.
1. Choose a major—You’re probably asking yourself, “How do I know what I want to be? Isn’t that why I’m going to college?” The answer is―you can always change your mind, as more than 80 percent of students do. Just think about your strengths and interests and go from there. Choosing a preliminary major can set you on the right track so you’re not taking classes that you won’t need down the road.
2. Attend and participate at orientation—Think of orientation as your first networking experience. It’s an event packed with valuable information and where you’ll hear firsthand about college resources and how to navigate through your new campus environment. Everyone is in the same boat and trying to fit in, so put your smile on and let your personality shine. It’s a great place to start building friendships and asking questions.
3. Get your dorm supplies—If you are planning to move away, leaving the nest and setting up your own room can be an exciting time. Be sure to review the recommended dorm supply checklist from your school and check with roommates to determine who is bringing what. Don’t forget to pack your favorite pillow, pictures or anything that will make your new space feel like home.
4. Meet with your adviser—By now, you should have your fall schedule in place, but it’s a good idea to set an appointment with your adviser once classes have started to get a handle on prerequisite and required courses. An adviser is your best resource to help you plan and balance future schedules so you’re not overloading yourself.
5. Contact professors early-on—Now is the time when being a “teacher’s pet” can be a good thing. Building strong relationships with your professors early-on shows that you’re serious about your studies and gives them a glimpse into your personality. Try emailing your professors to arrange a time to meet at orientation so you can introduce yourself in person. Put your best foot forward and be respectful.
6. Buy the book and show up to class―Believe it or not, these are two things that you can skip but shouldn’t. Yes, textbooks can be expensive, but you can often find them used, and they are worth the money. Professors mostly teach from the book and you’ll need to read assigned material if you want to do well in the class. At some colleges, professors leave attendance up to the student. This can be a liberating―yet dangerous―option since professors cover valuable material in class, as well as what is in the textbook.
7. Manage your time―So, there’s a mixer you want to attend but you have a ton of studying to do. What gives? Balancing your time can be your best asset at college. Your grades are important, but so is your sanity. If you know there’s a social event you want to attend, then be sure to get your studying in early or double-time it days before so you’ll be prepared for your next class and have a clear conscience about blowing off some steam.
8. Sharpen your social skills―Most freshmen start off knowing only a handful of people, if anyone at all. Polishing your social skills and coming out of your shell just might be the best thing you can do for yourself. After all, most freshmen are reinventing themselves, so now is the best time to get out there to meet people. It’s a level playing field. Keep an open mind, put yourself out there and make some new friends.
9. Get involved―Don’t wait to explore the many opportunities college campuses have to offer. Clubs and teams go way beyond sports, so take the time to explore what interests you and give it a try. Don’t see a club or team that matches your interests? Many colleges are open to hearing new ideas, so don’t hesitate to put a proposal together to start your own club. Getting involved with on-campus activities is a great way to stay engaged and connected with your school while building new friendships and nurturing new or untapped talents.
10. Refresh your technical skills―You’re now in the big leagues, so knowing how to comfortably navigate technology is a must when it comes to researching content and completing assignments and projects. It’s a good idea to do your homework ahead of time and know the requirements before you get to college. For example, does your college prefer a special laptop? Do you need to purchase it ahead of time or will you be able to buy it from the college? And be sure to polish your skills for the different programs your courses might use like Excel and PowerPoint. It’s time well spent.
11. Ask for help―It’s O.K. to ask for help. In fact, it’s expected and shows professors and faculty that you’re genuinely concerned and dedicated to earning the best grades possible. After all, you’re there to learn, and they are there to teach you.
12. Safety first―Staying vigilant is part of everyday life and being on a college campus isn’t any different. Having a sense of security is a priority for both students and parents, so it’s important to make yourself aware of all safety measures that are in place on your campus. Bottom line—use common sense and avoid less-than-desirable or dangerous situations. Prevention is your best defense. Be smart.
13. Get a job―College is expensive. Consider getting a part-time job freshman year to earn extra money. Not only will you be able to afford an occasional night out, but working also expands your circle and builds confidence and character.
As summer winds down, it’s almost time to start the new chapter in your life. Take a deep breath and embrace your future. You’ve got this.