Advice for College Freshmen

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So, you’ve gotten into a college and you’re about to start your adventure. It will be a lot of fun and a lot of work. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re getting ready for your first semester. 

DON’T PANIC

Look, you got into the school. You’ve done work in high school that proved to admissions that you are capable of succeeding and making an impact with your education. If you keep up your work ethic, learn a few new tactics and study practices, and keep your focus you’ll do fine. College isn’t so different that you’ll feel like it’s a totally new environment. You know what classes, homework, and exams are like. When you start, it’ll be a lot of survey, introductory, and elective classes so there won’t be much to worry about—just be sure you don’t lose focus of your final goal, to graduate and start a career that you love.

Figure out a schedule

With so many extra curricular and social goings on, it can be tough to make sure you get the work done. Once you have your class schedule, find times during the week that you can dedicate to study and homework. For me, what has worked best is planning to get reading, note taking, and writing done shortly after class time. Doing the work while it your professor’s lessons and insights are fresh can make for an easy flow. For example, if you have two classes on Wednesday, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, instead of taking a late morning break to binge watch your favorite show or just nap, going over your class notes and doing light preparation for next week (or the next morning class day) will make for effective study. If you wait until Tuesday night or super early Wednesday morning, you’ll stretch yourself thin trying to cram the work in. Plus, what if the Wednesday afternoon class work builds up too? As the semester extends, the pace of the work will increase and start to compound. Get the work done early and you will always have time to do good work and stay ahead of the curve.

Make time for fun

With a study schedule in place, you can make sure to enjoy your first time away from home while you make new friends and try out new things. Find out what student club activities are going on, any concerts or movies in town, and of course, any parties that are going on. Make time for a little relaxation and you’ll be refreshed for studying and making it to class on time.

Be on time and don’t use your cell phone in class

Showing your professors that you are interested and willing to put in the work will really pay off in the end. I had a seminar in my senior year of college that was full of people looking at their cell phones and drifting off, and because I was on time and paid attention that professor invited me to be a guest in a future class of his well after I graduated. Basically, I have a friend in my field who knows I am a serious student. Even if you aren’t interested in getting into academia, that professor in a different field could have the recommendation letter that gets you your dream job or gives you the edge for getting into grad school. Not to mention, professors tend to be more lenient with students who obviously work hard—it might mean extensions for final projects or even something as simple as allowing the topic final project to be your own.

Get sleep and eat real food

Nothing is more difficult than waking up for class when you’re exhausted. Keep up your z’s and healthy (or healthy-ish) diet and class will be a breeze. Going hung over or on zero sleep will hurt more than you think. Writing final papers and studying for exams becomes a cake walk when you’ve paid full attention in class and have energy. I usually eat a meal or a snack before class. Coffee or an energy drink helps, but it won’t survive you. As a graduate student in three hour long classes, coffee zips the first hour by but dragged me down for the last two. If you have multiple classes in a day or have an all nighter ahead, keep your body happy and it will make sure you do well.

College is a great time to learn about yourself, the world at large, and your course of study. Keep your head on your shoulders by getting rest, having a study schedule, and show your professors you are really there to learn. You’ll be fine. You can do this.

For the study supplies and basic tech I’ve used in college and grad school, check out Essential Study Supplies and College Student Tech for those tools to help you be a successful student.

Remember, study hard!

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