So you’ve graduated high school and you’re off to college. Congratulations! There are so many opportunities ahead of you, and so many ways to fully enjoy these next few years. Your college years will, in a lot of ways, be what you make of them. Yes, there will be exams, late-night study sessions and lessons learned along the way. But it’s also an opportunity to explore friendships, challenge yourself and make some incredible memories. But where to even start? Here’s a guide of things every first-year college student should do and know to survive their first year of college.
Start Building a Social Life
Getting to know new people at college will be one of the first major investments that you make. It’s a time of new dorms, new people and new experiences. No matter what college you end up going to, you’ll find classmates who share similar interests or personalities as you. You’ll have lots of opportunities to meet new people and build relationships, whether it be through extracurriculars or through spending time in the common areas of your dorm. You can also meet people at freshman orientation, in study groups and at off-campus events. Being mindful of the friends you choose is also important. The friendships that many freshmen form have the potential to mold and influence them just as much as classes, teachers and career opportunities do. So by all means, put yourself out there and meet new people! Some of the relationships you form could change your college experience and your life.
It’s also a good idea to start getting to know your advisors and professors. These people won’t be treating you like a child; they’ll be treating you like the young adult they know you are. Also, many of these teachers can become mentor figures, and you may find that you have multiple classes with them throughout your time in college. They’re here to help you learn, grow and thrive. Meet with them during office hours, ask for their feedback and absorb the wisdom they have to share. It’s also a great idea to spend some time with upperclassmen you’ve met through your degree program, or even through extracurriculars. They’ve been where you are and remember what it was like to be a freshman. Creating bonds with older peers can be incredibly valuable throughout college and can provide another layer of support.
Be Careful With Finances
Keep Track of Your Money
Going off to college means you may have more control over your spending habits than before, whether that be over your wallet or your meal plan. Now is a great time to start learning financial responsibility. So use your credit or debit card wisely, and start keeping track of your expenses, if you haven’t already.
Get A Job
Going to college is also a great opportunity to find a job and make a little money on the side. Many campuses have student-only jobs that you can work for just a few hours a week that will put a little money in your pocket for spending, saving or gas. Some of these jobs may even allow you to do homework while you’re at work.
Save On Textbooks
Many students have to pay hundreds of dollars per semester for textbooks. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case for you. There are plenty of ways to buy textbooks used, which may be beneficial since you may not even keep the majority of them. You can also rent textbooks fairly cheaply. Many textbooks these days are also being made available for tablets and e-readers for much cheaper prices than you would find them in paper form, so take full advantage of that if you’re able.
Take Care Of Yourself
The shift from high school to college can be a big one, especially if you’re making the transition from living at home to living on campus. That freedom and opportunity to learn will be an incredible experience for you! It will also give you the opportunity to find a new health and wellness routine that works for your new lifestyle. It’s important to find a structure that works for you.
Make Healthy Choices
College is a great opportunity to learn all that you can about healthy habits and making healthy choices on your own terms. What works for other people may not work for you, so this is a great opportunity to try new things. There are many decisions you can make, and it may be difficult to know where to begin. Here are a few that you can start with:
- Eat healthy at the dining hall: It’s more important now than ever to make positive diet choices, as your diet will greatly affect how you feel and perform in school. Aim for three balanced meals a day that have a protein, carb and fat – and veggies if you can! Fueling your brain and body with essential nutrients will be important as you adapt to new academic and social environments.
- Go to the gym or join a sports or workout group: If your school gives you access to a gym, take advantage of it! Working out is a great way to relax and relieve whatever school, social or mental/emotional stress you may be feeling. You may even have access to an athletic trainer who can help you figure out a good workout routine. If the gym or classes aren’t for you, consider walking or biking instead of taking a campus shuttle.
- Visit your college’s wellness center: This is a great place to get tips on staying physically and mentally healthy. If you’re ever feeling under the weather, they can also help you determine if you’re coming down with something and what you need to do to fight it off. Many wellness centers also offer free or reduced-cost counseling sessions. It’s important to take care of your mental health, too, and your school likely has resources available to assist when needed.
- Drink plenty of water: Opportunities to drink sugary drinks, caffeine and alcohol will abound at college. However, none of these drinks are healthy for you in large quantities. The only thing that will truly satisfy your thirst, and that will keep your body healthy, is water. Get yourself a reliable, reusable water bottle and start carrying it around with you and drinking from it regularly.
- Get quality amounts of sleep: Late night study sessions and parties may be a part of your college experience, and that’s okay! But late night after late night could add up and lead to you not feeling your best. Get the rest that you need, or you will find that you aren’t able to work at top ability, and your capacity to study may be impeded.
- Take time for you: College can be a time of rushing around from place to place and getting piled up with homework. So make sure you set aside time to slow down. Practice breathing exercises, meditate, journal, stretch or do religious activities. These habits will all play a major part in creating a sense of inner well-being and will go a long way towards keeping you healthy.
- Minimize screen time: You’ll be on your phone and computer daily to keep track of homework, your social life and be entertained. So take some time regularly to put down all of those screens and give yourself a chance to disconnect. It can significantly help your personal well-being.
- Wash your hands: You’re going to a place where the number of people surrounding you is going to be high, and many of them will be similar in age to you and vulnerable to the same health problems as you. So wash your hands regularly to prevent spreading or contracting disease. It’s not uncommon for sicknesses to quickly work their way through a college campus.
- Have fun: College isn’t just about getting an education. It’s about exploring who you are as an individual. It’s good to try new things and go to events. It’s good to be spontaneous sometimes. Just make sure you keep a close eye on your limits and know when it’s time to have fun and when it’s time to be serious.
Be Mindful of Sexual Health
Young adult years are often full of growth and life-changing experiences. It’s natural to take time at college to explore your sexual identity and preferences. It’s important that if you choose to engage in sexual activity at any time that you do so in a way that is safe for you and other participants.
Consent Is Key
Before you enter into a sexual relationship with someone, it’s essential that you converse openly about consent. A comfortable, voluntary “yes!” to any sexual act is key to having a safe, pleasurable experience for you and your partner (or partners.) And remember that consent is ongoing —at any point, if you feel like stopping, you can communicate that to your partner, and vice versa.
Practice Safe Sex
Using protection is imperative to having safe sex. There are many forms of protection available, and it’s important that you keep in mind what will work to best prevent pregnancy and transmission of STDs or STIs. If you aren’t sure what form of protection may be right for you, talk with a healthcare professional. Many wellness centers on campus also have staff available to answer your questions.
Take Things at Your Own Pace
It’s entirely up to you what you’re comfortable with. If you feel ready to explore your sexuality in a healthy way, by all means do so. If you’d rather wait, or focus on other aspects of your college experience, that’s perfectly fine. No matter what, it’s okay to take things at your own pace.
Make An Informed Decision On Study Paths
Your first year of college is a great opportunity to “test the waters”, so to speak. Don’t commit to a major right away unless you’re one of the rare people who knows exactly what they want to do from the start. Many college students change their majors once they discover that they don’t like their course of study like they thought they would, or discover that they like a different one better. Your first year is a great time to get your required classes out of the way and explore your interests with electives. Then, once you’ve gotten your feet wet in multiple areas and determined what you will enjoy doing as a career most, move full steam ahead toward that goal!
All kinds of opportunities will present themselves in college to guide you to a career path that might interest you. Job fairs, networking events and junior societies within organizations are all great ways to connect with people who are looking for talent like yours. This could also be a good opportunity to find an internship or other mentorship program and get some experience with the job you’d like to pursue.
Beyond these opportunities, the college you attend will likely have a career center that can assist you with preparing to apply for jobs. They can show you how to build a resume and cover letter, how to conduct yourself in an interview and how to market your talents to a prospective employer. They can also help you find out what it takes to work in certain fields and help you understand the process of getting a job once you’ve completed college.
Final Thoughts: We’re Here For You
If you’re going to college, your first adult years will be spent in a hybrid environment. You’ll have a lot more personal freedom to do what you want, but you’ll still be in a pre-structured learning environment. You’ll want to make the most of the time you have, while also figuring out who you are as a person. As always, if you need any help, we’re here 7 days a week to offer it. All you have to do is contact us or walk into our office. Enjoy your first year of college!