The Incoming Freshman’s Ultimate Guide To College

The Incoming Freshman's Ultimate Guide To College

August is always one of my favorite times of the year because it’s when college campuses get flooded by new, wide-eyed freshmen. No seriously, I remember when I was in their shoes and while it was crazy, it was also exciting. When I was an incoming freshman, I clawed through the internet in search of all the top notch college guides because, well, I didn’t have anyone who could tell me what to expect and what I should and shouldn’t do. So, I wanted to be sure that I went in at least kind of knowing what I had to do. I could just wing the rest. Since completing my freshman year four semesters ago, I learned so many things about college life, made a few mistakes, had even more amazing experiences, but also wished I had done a few things differently.

Make no mistake, your first year of college will hardly be perfect. But, you can still make it fun, awesome, and super fulfilling by learning a few tricks of the trade ahead of time. Here are some important things you should keep in mind for freshman year.

1. Be-friending people at orientation is a great start for making friends.

Be prepared for everyone to be super bubbly and extra friendly at orientation. Well, not everyone but nine times out of 10, the person you’re talking to will be ready to send you a friend request in a heartbeat. You might even be the person friend requesting everyone at your table. It’s a great way to start connecting with people. And when you get someone’s contact info, be sure to hit them up during the first week to grab lunch! Check out my 10 Secrets For Making New Friends In College for more tips.

2. EVERYONE is stressed out on move-in day.

Nope, you’re not the only one. Move-in day requires a lot of thinking ahead, but as a first year student moving in for the first time, it’s kind of hard to figure out what problems you might run into and how you can solve them ahead of time. Luckily, I’ve gone through move-in day not once, not twice, but three times and I have so many Tips For Making Move-In Day Less Stressful, and I can tell you that freaking out and biting the head off anyone who gets in your way is not one of them.

3. Your RAs make great friends.

I know some people may think that being friends with an RA is the middle school equivalent of eating lunch with the teacher, but it really does help to have an RA as a friend. They’ve been in your shoes and can give you advice, and they can help you with some of your housing needs and questions. Not to mention the fact that they’re extremely involved on campus and can score you some great roles in campus projects and programs.

4. Sometimes, the crazy roommates from the movies do exist!

Luckily, I’ve never had one but I’ve heard so many stories about roommates who threaten to put Nair in shampoo and poke holes in condoms with a sewing needle. Not every roommate is like that, obviously, but if you do have a conflict that leads to vindictive behavior, handle the situation immediately. I have two great roommate guides that you should check out: 5 Things To Do Before Meeting Your Roommate For The First Time and 7 Common Roommate Problems + How To Solve Them.

5. Living in a triple requires extra compromise.

Surprise! My experience in a triple wasn’t all pillow fights and late night giggling, but it was great to always have someone to talk to. You do have to make extra compromises so that everyone is as comfortable as possible. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. Your success in a triple will depend on the ability of you and your roommates to effectively communicate. Voice all of your concerns and make sure you’re being fair in return.

6. You really don’t need to bring your full wardrobe.

I promise, you don’t. My freshman year, I brought so many clothing items (and so many shoes) that I didn’t even wear. Honestly, you’ll likely end up wearing whatever’s comfortable most days, or whatever’s on top of the clothing pile on your chair (oops). I do, however, advise that you bring professional, business casual outfit options for any campus job or internship interviews, and even a cute dress for fancier campus events.

7. Instead of rolling your eyes at your loud hall mates, befriend them!

This is actually one thing I wish I had done differently. If your hall mates are blasting music at 1a.m., it’s easy to tell them to shut the hell up please turn it down when you’re friends with them. It doesn’t hurt to randomly pop in and introduce yourself. I have wanted to bake cookies for my hall mates for the longest time, but I always forgot. It would’ve been nice to get to know them, but I guess senior year is the year. Better late than never, right?

8. Take advantage of the deals in your dining halls.

Tuesday night tacos for $2? Hell yeah! Meal points go faster than you might think, so take advantage of those deals. Always see what they’re serving up. I know campus food is notorious for being crappy, but once in a while you find a dish you just can’t get enough of.

9. Weight gain in college is a real thing, just like weight gain at any other point of your life.

There’s a lot of info dismissing the freshman 15 as just a myth, and there’s a lot of info supporting its existence. Honestly, you can gain weight at any point of your life — not just your freshman year of college. The reasons for weight gain are often different, but for me it was because I indulged in all the new, sugary drinks I found on campus. It’s easy to succumb to a midnight meal of gummy worms and soda, so avoiding unhealthy weight gain definitely takes effort.

10. Research your professors before class starts.

I always do this so I know the best way to take notes in class. Usually, people will say things like, “this professor never uses the textbook” or “lecture slides are always posted before class.” This helps me decide how I’m going to get the most out of the class. P.S., I have a post on how to take notes in class that you should read!

The Incoming Freshman's Ultimate Guide To College

11. Join group chats for the classes you’re in.

This is a great way to get to know your classmates and avoid awkwardly asking the kid you never talk to for help with the homework when you don’t know what the heck you’re supposed to do. Check Facebook for any groups or even start a group chat yourself through Facebook Messenger or GroupMe.

12. Skipping a “super easy” intro class may be tempting.

I know, I know, you learned it all when you were in high school, but attendance is sometimes a big part of your grade. And, if the class is so easy, there should be no reason for you to not get an A, right? There are very few times when it’s acceptable to skip class, and this isn’t one of them. But you should check out my post on How To Skip Class Like A Pro for more tips.

13. Raising your GPA is harder than you might think.

Sad, but true. An A in a 3-credit class doesn’t carry the same weight as an A in a 4-credit class, and the 4-credit class is usually way harder. Numbers don’t define who you are, but keep in mind that you may want to maintain good academic standing for any scholarships, grad school applications, and honor societies you may think about joining in the future.

Related: 13 Tips For Getting A’s In Your Classes

14. All-nighters are SOMETIMES worth it.

Just like skipping class, all-nighters are not something you should do all the time. I’m a huge fan of getting 8+ hours of sleep but there were definitely a few times when I stayed up later than I normally would have, but was super productive and got all my work done, which in turn made it easier for me to handle any remaining tasks the next day. Don’t pull all-nighters often because it will mess up your sleep schedule and decrease your alertness during the day. And pull all-nighters for the right reason. If you’re just staying up to finish your video game, do yourself a favor and go to sleep. 

Related: Tips For Pulling An All-Nighter In College

15. Your inbox gets SUPER full.

Your school sends you dozens of emails every week, sometimes with super important things that you need to know right away. Make sure you read all of the emails because it’s easy to miss something, especially if you’re super busy. Go through your email at the end of every semester and completely clean out your inbox. Yeah, delete everything from the semester before to make room for the hundreds of new emails you’ll have next semester. It really helps reduce clutter and you’ll be able to breathe a little easier.

16. Don’t judge a club by its cover.

Some clubs and organizations may seem boring or like it’s not your thing, but give it a chance if you’re even remotely interested. Clubs and organizations are a great way to build your resume and climb to positions of authority. You don’t have to join 10 clubs, but I suggest joining one or two clubs you might really enjoy and sticking with them throughout college so you can get a position on the e-board. Showing how you bettered an organization as part of e-board can be super impressive on your resume.

17. You may not feel like attending club meetings after long days.

Joining a club is only one part of it. Actually attending the meetings is the hard part. I’m super guilty of just sticking my nose into my textbook to finish homework instead of going to club meetings, and I definitely wished that I had been more active in any organizations I signed up for. Treat it as a serious obligation instead of just another thing on your schedule.

18. Yes, college parties are a thing.

Parties go on pretty much every week, at least on my campus they do. I haven’t gone to a party yet, but I know lots of people who have great and also not-so-great times at them. Be a smart partier if you decide to go. If you have an 8a.m. class or interview the next day, don’t stay out past 2a.m. Be mindful of how much you drink and what you drink. If you don’t know what jungle juice is yet, you will. It’s literally a mixture of whatever alcohol is left over at a party. If you’re cringing right now at the thought of it, you should be.

19. Making time to hangout with friends will make your day much better.

I’m a meticulous planner and will schedule out my entire day from start to finish, but spontaneously hanging out with my friends have made my days less mundane and way more fun. Whether you’re complaining about a class together or driving off campus for a quick dinner, friends definitely make the experience so much better.

20. Laundry actually takes up a significant amount of time on the weekends.

You’d be surprised by how much planning laundry requires when you don’t have someone to do it for you. Sometimes you might have so much dirty laundry that you need to put in two separate loads. To help you out with the whole laundry on your own thing, I have post on How To Do Laundry In College that I highly recommend checking out.

Well, that was a super long post, but I really hope it helped you out! If you know someone who’s about to start college, feel free to share this with them!

What are your freshman year survival tips?