Last year, I discussed a few tips on how to be successful in the college classroom to get the grades to succeed [Here: Bookworm’s Classroom Tips for College Freshmen], in terms of what professors expect from students.
Attending a university to get an education is an enormous decision. The first week on campus, for many students, means meeting roommates, setting up a new dorm home, leaving family, and embarking on a new journey. While thrilling, the first week can be emotional and hard to navigate. Here are ten tips to start off a college career on the right foot:
1. Appreciate Family: While this may not be a top priority for a college freshman, I recommend enjoying that last little bit of time that you have with your family. Let your parents take you out for dinner [the cafeteria will get old] and soak up that time as you move on to the next stage. If your family wants to give your a gift, I think one these packages is useful (and will be used!). It’s nice to have on hand the first few weeks. Also, gift cards are great for the first month!
Organize your Dorm
2. You’re Not Alone: One, remember that nearly all freshmen deal with homesickness and insecurity at some point. While many students may not discuss it, those of use teaching and advising see this the first semester, and it’s completely normal! Two, remember it is an adjustment period, and there are many people on campus who are ready to help make that transition easier.
3. Orientation Cliches: Freshmen will attend many orientation meetings and seminars the first week. It will get repetitive, but I’ll translate what the college is trying to get to know orientation vocabulary (words like: procrastination, success, excuses, responsibility, and goals). The overall emphasis here, which many students tune out, is THIS IS NOT LIKE HIGH SCHOOL. Professors and administrators wish that freshmen realized that college is all in a student’s hands to succeed or fail.
4. Get a Calendar: Buy a notebook, or an agenda, or add one of the many apps to your phone, like Google Calendar. Despite what many students believe, most courses will hit the ground running the first week of class. What does this mean? You’ll have reading assignments, quizzes, and project dates thrown at you. Starting off on the right foot means jotting these down. Furthermore, professors go over important information and even lecture the first day – don’t be caught without a pen or pencil.
5. Read the Fine Print: The syllabus, in college, is essentially a contract between the professor and student. If it is in print, the faculty and administration will uphold it. Therefore, it’s your job to keep the syllabus, read it, and understand it. For example, if the syllabus states 5 or more absences will result in a failing grade, then that professor means he or she will fail a student. Even if each line isn’t discussed in class, you will be held to the syllabus, so I highly recommend reading and ask questions if you’re unsure.
6. Several New Bosses: If the syllabus is a contract, then it’s important to think about your professors as your new bosses. While it can be frustrating managing different classrooms, teaching styles, and expectations, this is what your college degree reflects. Also, students who take the time to visit and use office hours develop professional relationships with professors, which can help with post graduation references.
*Take seriously the classroom policy on phones/laptops and texting/tweeting/snapchatting in class. You’re expected to be an adult who is paying for your own education, and the classroom is to give you that education. Professors all have their own policies; however, smart students easily fall into the failing category by tweeting each class period.*
7. Dollars & Cents: Being on one’s own means dealing with money. First, note that sometimes financial aid isn’t released until the first week of class. Also, many schools disperse financial aid from their office (you’ll have to get a check from the business office after tuition is paid). Be prepared for that, especially during move in period. Save your book money for books! It is assumed that you will have the proper materials for class, so prepare for that situation. Beyond school needs, be prepared to budget for daily items like trips to the store or t-shirts on campus.
8. Scout Out Campus -It helps immensely to take a few minutes and look over a campus map and scout out campus. Give yourself extra time all week to get around – you may have meetings in different spots and sometimes classes move. Driving to campus? Check out parking before the first day.
9. Join One Thing: The first few weeks of school are packed with fliers advertising groups, meetings, and extra curricular opportunities: Greek life, radio shows, academic clubs, debate teams, inter-mural sports, and many more. Even though you may be busy, sign up for one meeting you may be interested in joining – you may not stick with it or be committed for a whole year. However, this the quickest and fun way to meet people with the same interests as you!
10. GTL – Gym Tan Laundry: Joking about the Jersey Shore daily schedule, but part of being an organized student is getting comfortable in the dorms. Learn where the laundry room or center is and check out the hours. Also, be sure to find a laundry basket that is easy to carry and use. [Often, laundry doesn’t require quarters anymore, but they do use a college id/college currency to purchase – keep it filled up!] Have a set of shower shoes along with a kit or plastic bucket to carry toiletries back and forth to the bathroom.
Here’s a great link and resource with a panel of college professors discussing everything from syllabus to study habits:
One last tip: Enjoy this new ride at college! It’s an exciting and thrilling time to meet people, learn, and develop your own adult life – have fun!