Freshman Success Strategies

College is a major life transition. While it’s nice not to have anyone reminding you when to go to bed, eat, or study, the tradeoff is that you are totally responsible for yourself. You will need to handle problems with roommates, administration, and professors. The good news is that you will gain confidence and expertise in your ability to advocate for yourself and manage your life.

Be confident in your abilities! You will meet a lot of smart, accomplished students and you may feel intimidated. Remember that admissions officers don’t admit students who can’t do the work. In fact, they have turned down thousands of well-qualified students so, if you’ve been admitted, you have what it takes. 

Give yourself a fun class in the first semester by signing up for at least one course that sounds interesting and pleasurable. If you aren’t sure about a major, take courses in a variety of subjects and try to choose classes based on the professor’s reputation (use www.ratemyprofessors.com/). A great teacher makes any subject fascinating. If a class you really want is full, talk to the professor. Faculty love enthusiastic students and you may very well convince them to let you in. 

 Give yourself time to adjust to college life. Enjoy making new friends as there will be many opportunities. In freshmen residence halls, the first few weeks are non-stop socializing. Students leave their doors open so go in and introduce yourself. Resident advisors will host parties to help for you socialize with your hallmates.

 You may not be best friends with your roommate, but chances are you’ll get along. Discuss what is important to each of you and see in you can set some ground rules. If something upsets you talk to your roommate so that issues don’t escalate. The next step is to talk to your RA and to see if they can help you work out your differences. If you can’t resolve the problems with your roommate ask the housing office to make a change.

Everyone goes through a period of frustration, so minimize the stress. Trivial things such as keeping your room clean, can impact your mood. Eat healthy food, get enough sleep, and exercise to help you stay mentally as well as physically healthy. Working out will get those endorphins going and relieve stress.

Creating a schedule that maps out time to study, have fun, and sleep is another way of taking care of yourself. You’ll probably have no more than 15 – 18 hours of class in a week. That leaves plenty of time and, if you treat college like a 9-5 job, you can get your studying done during the day and have evenings for fun activities.

It is very important to go to class. Sit up front and you’re less likely to doze off. After each class, read your notes and clarify anything you didn’t understand. Good notes are very helpful at exam time. If you’re struggling in a class, ask for help, that’s what professors and teaching assistants are there for. Professors have office hours, and most of them are delighted when students show an interest in their subject. Even if you don’t have a question about the class, stop by and introduce yourself. Knowing and being known by your professors will help you feel part of the community. Also use college resources as most schools have tutors and writing centers which are set up to help students transition to college work. When it comes to getting good grades, it’s much easier to keep up than to catch up. 

Studies show that students who participate in campus life are more successful and happier in college. Whether you love film, environmental issues, vegetarian cooking, hiking or improvisational comedy, you’ll find people who share your passion. Most colleges have activity fairs at the start of the school year at which you can learn about all the clubs on campus. Joining a club is a wonderful way to create a feeling of community, especially at a big university.

Most students get homesick at some point. With the stress of midterms and sleep deprivation it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The counseling center can be a great resource. They see many students who are having trouble adjusting to college and talking to someone can be very helpful.

College is a fresh start. Nobody knows if you were the most popular student in your high school or the class nerd. This is your chance to become the person you want to be. Sure, it can be scary, but the payoff is life changing!

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