Navigating Freshman Year: My experiences, takeaways and tips!

Although each University is different, and every student comes in with different expectations for their ideal freshman experience, there are a few takeaways that I think every new college student should know!

College is a completely new experience, from adjusting to shared spaces, higher level classes, and new social scenes! You will find yourself facing a new level of independence that you have probably never experienced before.

While these are all great things, it can take a bit of time to adjust to your new life.

My Freshman Experience

The first few months of my Freshman year were amazing! It was definitely a huge adjustment, and there were days that I was anxious, but I developed a routine that really worked for me! 

First Week

The first week, or even the first few weeks of Freshman year you will most likely feel extremely out of place. This is okay! Everyone feels the same exact way, even if they’re not vocalizing it.

You will not know your way around campus yet, what parties to go to, and it may take a bit to adjust to the fast-paced environment. There will likely be welcome week events for freshmen to familiarize themselves with the campus!

Some of these events may seem a little cringey or pointless, but I recommend going to at least a few! This is a great way to meet new people and learn a bit more about your campus. 

Be Social!

The first few days of college are so important when it comes to making friends and establishing a friend group. It may seem scary to put yourself out there, but everyone is also new to college and wants to make friends!

Leave your door open and introduce yourself to as many people as you can! I was in a 4-person suite-style dorm, and my roommates and I made friends with people on our floor the first night.

I am still best friends with these people now, we did everything together our whole Freshman year. Friend groups tend to form fast, but don’t worry if you feel as if you haven’t found your people yet. There are endless opportunities to meet people in college!

Classes

Navigating Your Classes

Before my first day of classes, my roommates and I “walked our schedules” which is something I highly suggest you do! We all got together and found the buildings and rooms each of our classes would be in for the week in an attempt to eliminate the stress that comes with finding different buildings on campus.

This was a fun way to spend time with my roommates in the first few days of college and relieve some stress. I remember being so nervous about finding my classes, my campus seemed so big to me at first!

However, after just a few weeks I could easily navigate the entire campus. This will happen to you too! If you are ever lost, there are normally maps online or sometimes even on campus. 

Friends

Making friends in my classes was another great experience in my Freshman year. You will most likely be taking general education classes, so most people in your classes will also be new to the University.

On the first day, try to introduce yourself to a few people and see who you vibe with! Having in-class friends is so helpful when it comes to group work, homework, and your overall enjoyment of the class!

Something I loved to do was meet up and walk to class with friends I made in class, and even sometimes grab coffee or lunch afterward! This quickly became a part of my routine and something that I looked forward to.

Professors 

I think that it is so important to establish a good relationship with your professors early into the semester! Most professors have hundreds of students, so setting yourself apart is important!

On the first day of class, I recommend sitting in one of the front rows and taking the time to introduce yourself after class.

Unlike in high school, professors may not know your name by heart unless you take the time to make sure they do! Let them know that you are interested and excited to be in their class. 

To ensure that you have the best experience in each class, get to know your professors and their teaching styles:

  • Read the syllabus before class! Most professors will put these out online a day or two before classes start. See if there is any pre-class work or things you need to know!
  • -Some professors are not cool with technology, while some expect you to use it! Make sure to pay attention to each professor’s policies on electronic devices.
  • -Are there any textbooks you need to buy, or do they provide online readings? This is something you should figure out prior to your first class. Things like this can normally be found on a syllabus. 
  • Attendance policies: Each professor has a different policy for attendance. For some classes, it is required and will affect your grade, while some are a bit more flexible. 

Skipping Class

I wish I could say I never skipped a class, but it is bound to happen. College life is extremely busy and stressful at times, and on top of that you will most likely get sick in your first few weeks. (I will talk more about that later!)

Go to all of your classes the first week!! You do not want to be that person who is already behind before real lessons even begin. Like I mentioned earlier, each class has a different policy for attendance.

Last year, I had professors who counted attendance towards the cumulative grade, and I had some who explained that attendance is optional. College is very different from high school in the sense that your academic success is completely up to you. If you want to skip a class, you can- no one is stopping you.

However, you are there for an education, and you definitely want to get the most out of it. I recommend you try your best to not develop a habit of skipping classes, once you start it is very hard to get out of that mentality. (speaking from experience)

Some professors offer “free skips” that will not affect your grade, try to keep these for days you actually cannot attend class.

Self-care

Since the adjustment to college life is completely new to you, you will also need to adjust to being completely in control of your own health and wellness. Self-care is so important, being mentally and physically healthy is the first step to success in college!

Here are a few tips that helped me stay healthy during my freshman year!

  • -Take vitamin C!! I literally cannot stress this enough. Living in a shared space with hundreds of other people, you are bound to get sick. I got so sick during my second week of school, and ever since then, I started taking different supplements and immune boosters. 
  • -Have medicine on hand. I recommend bringing any type of medicine you may need just in case, do not wait until you get sick. The last thing you want to do when you aren’t feeling well is walk to the nearest store to buy medicine. 
  • -Find food places that work for you! As a freshman, you will most likely have a meal plan, meaning you have access to the dining hall or other on-campus restaurants. It may take a bit to adjust to the food and find what you like. For example, I am a vegetarian, so it was important for me to find places on campus that accommodate my diet! I also recommend having some frozen and/or microwaveable meals that you can quickly make in your dorm.
  • -Take the time for yourself! College life is very busy, but it is important to take the time to do things you enjoy and make you feel good! I made sure to take the time to go to the gym nearly every day, as this was something that cleared my mind and helped me feel productive. There is a lot of free time, so make sure to use that time to do whatever it is that you enjoy whether that is reading, watching a show, working out, or spending time with friends!
  • -Don’t overwork yourself! Depending on your course load and level, you may or may not have time for extra responsibilities. (Jobs, clubs, etc.) Give yourself some time to figure out what will work into your schedule. If you find yourself overwhelmed or burnt out, try to eliminate one of your stressors. Classes definitely come first! I found that my course load wasn’t too bad during my second semester of freshman year, so I started working twice a week as well and joined a sorority. This worked for me, but everyone is different!
  • -You do not have to go out every night! FOMO is real, but in college, there will ALWAYS be another party. You may feel pressured to go out as much as you can, but it is easy to quickly fall behind in other important areas if you are putting all of your time into partying. If I know I am going out, especially if it is on a weeknight, I make sure to get all of my schoolwork done first!

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