Senior year of high school culminates in the excitement and grandeur of graduation, but once the novelty has worn off, the prospect of starting college can be intimidating. As you look toward your freshman year of college, you might feel overwhelmed by the warnings you have heard from parents and friends about the difficulty of the first year in college, the rumors of gaining the “Freshman 15,” or the possibility of major homesickness.
However, with the right mindset and planning, you will not only survive your freshman year of college but you will thrive. Here are some tips in the categories of academics, scheduling, and health to help you feel absolutely confident as you enter your collegiate experience.
Beyond the extremely obvious advice like go to class rather than sleeping in and make sure you study and take notes, there are certain academic tips you can follow that will make your freshman year that much more successful (and fun).
Of course, you will have plenty of required courses for your chosen major(s) or minor(s), but when you have a choice between a few general education courses or electives, really look for classes that are interesting to you! Even if a class does not fit your major focus, you will be surprised what you can learn in a class you are excited about.
Essentially, make your college experience as much your own as you can. Take control of your own learning, and you will feel much more in charge as a student. Remember: attending college is a choice, and approaching it with the mindset of “I choose to…” rather than “I have to…” will help you take control of your experience.
Your academic advisor or counselor is there for you, so make the most of that relationship. Share your short-term and long-term academic goals with your advisor, and ask questions when you have them. Your advisor can help you make a schedule that works for you, plan out which classes to take during which quarter or semester, and choose on-campus activities that will help you reach your goals.
This is the advice college freshmen often receive but do not always follow. Though you might be nervous to visit your professor’s office for the first time, and you might feel too busy, office hours are your professor’s way of offering extra help for students who have questions about class material. Even if you do not have specific questions, taking the time to meet your professor outside of class, especially a large lecture class, lets your professor know you are serious about your education. TAs offer office hours as well, and if you have questions about a paper or project, TAs will often be glad when you seek and then take their advice. Taking advantage of office hours could help your grade in a class, but most of all, it can help make your class experience richer and more enjoyable.
The workload of college might feel overwhelming at first, but studying over time rather than all at once will inevitably take away loads of stress, especially during your first year. You will certainly come up with your own study habits that work best over time, but get started on the right note by taking the time to study your class material over the course of the entire semester or quarter. A great way to remember to study for a class over time is to look over your notes from the last class before class and then review your notes right after class. This will help to solidify the material in your brain so that studying later becomes much easier. You should also consider taking extremely organized notes that will serve as study guides closer to an exam.
While you might already feel like an academic pro after a demanding high school career, making your own schedule in college can feel very new for freshmen that are used to schedules being packed with classes and after-school commitments. With these tips, though, you can get ahead of your schedule and set yourself up for success and much less stress.
As you may have heard before, you never plan to fail, but sometimes you fail to plan. A key to success in college is to schedule every moment of your day, even free time, so you are making the most of your time—especially during that first year when you might be new to making your own scheduling choices. Taking the extra effort to plan out your day will save you a great deal of hardship in the long run. Whether you prefer to keep a physical planner or make your schedule on your phone or computer, scheduling the minutes of your day will help you see how you are spending your time and also ensure you make time for priorities like studying and spending time with friends.
Though your classes will be scheduled already, and you should make sure you add those to your planner, you should also plan appointments with yourself for studying, attending social events, and taking time for yourself. By blocking out the time you will set aside for activities like going over notes or completing reading homework, you set yourself up for success. If that time is not scheduled, you might end up using that time for other activities and forget to study for a test or neglect some of your classwork. And here’s a pro-scheduling tip: whenever you receive your syllabus for a class, take note of dates for important tests, papers, or projects, and schedule times throughout the semester or quarter you will devote to those important deadlines ahead of the due date. That way, you will avoid getting too busy or procrastinating until the last minute.
Scheduling can get complicated in college, especially if you like to be involved in many different ways, but a planner will help you organize that time most effectively.
When you add activities in your planner for each week, find blocks of time, whether five minutes or an entire hour, to relax. How you relax is up to you, but taking time for yourself is crucial as you navigate your first year in a new environment. Yoga, meditation, running, reading for enjoyment, watching a new show or movie, and spending time outside are all ways you can take a deep breath and recharge.
Meanwhile, planning for sleep is also important. One of the major pitfalls of freshman year is the allure of a life without parents or guardians forcing you to get to bed, and many freshmen end up sleep-deprived and miserable. Though it might seem fun to stay up late and still wake up early for class, your body and mind need sleep to function. Try your best to schedule your bedtime as if you were your own parent. You will absolutely never regret getting enough sleep!
As you are planning your days and weeks, make sure you give yourself enough time to travel between classes or to your activities. Sometimes taking the time to walk or ride a bike can serve as your downtime or relaxing time, but even if you have to drive to class, budgeting enough time to get from place to place will help you feel more prepared for each commitment and save you from unnecessary stress.
Last but not least, your health as a freshman in college is crucial, as you will be at your very best when you are taking good care of your body, mind, and spirit. Whether you are worried about gaining weight your first year or not getting enough sleep, following these health tips will help you avoid some of the major mistakes many college freshmen make.
Sure, it can be fun to eat pizza for every meal or dessert for breakfast when you are away from your parents and creating your own life, but eating unhealthy meals will eventually come back to haunt you. Remember, you are choosing to go to college to prepare for a successful life and career, so you can also empower yourself by eating healthy.
Think of food as fuel. Whatever you put into your body is helping you function at the highest level for your classes and activities. Eat a balanced diet that works for you, complete with fruits and vegetables, protein, and healthy carbohydrates. Of course you can splurge on some snacks every now and then, but do yourself a favor and enjoy desserts and junk food in moderation. Your body will thank you!
Exercising is not only important for your body but also for your mind. Taking even just 15 minutes a day to walk or work up a sweat will help you manage stress and potential freshman year weight gain. Of course, if you can manage to exercise more than 15 minutes a day, that’s great, but giving yourself manageable exercise goals will help you avoid feeling overwhelmed. Some days are just too busy, but you can always find an extra 15 minutes.
Being social is part of a healthy life, so make social activities a priority along with your classes and study time. Meeting new people is part of the joy of college, so pick one or a few organizations on campus that interest you, and get involved! If you live in a residence hall, you will usually have opportunities for residence hall activities on and off campus, so put yourself out there! The more involved you are, the more you will get out of your college experience. Just make sure you avoid overloading your schedule. Balance is key.
If you are living on campus or with a roommate, you might have to fill out a roommate agreement form. Take that seriously. Even if you don’t have a formal agreement, take the time to talk with your roommates about what you expect in terms of cleanliness, noise at certain hours, and communication. A healthy living area is important for a healthy freshman year, and as long as you communicate, you can avoid stressing out about roommate woes and put your energy toward your classes and activities.
Homesickness is pretty normal your freshman year, but you can combat that by prioritizing calls and letters home to friends and family. Feeling homesick is nothing to be ashamed of, so make sure you take good care of your mental health by staying connected with the people you love and miss.
As you make the transition from high school to college, one of the most important things to remember is to believe in yourself and remember to make your college experience your own. You know what your priorities are, and as long as you take the time to plan how you want your freshman year to go, you will be just fine! There are people on campus and at home who believe in you as well, so use them as resources and ask questions when you have them. Enjoy this wonderful time in your life and learn as much as you can!
Since 2002, NSHSS has supported young academics on their journey to college and beyond as they prepare to become the leaders of tomorrow. The mission behind NSHSS is to recognize academic excellence and honor high-achieving students, providing them with the resources and network to excel in college, career and community. In doing so, NSHSS connects members with global events, , college fairs, internships, career and , partner discounts, and more. Discover to student members and how you can get involved.
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