5 Things Every Incoming College Freshman Should Know
I won’t lie: college is great! Those first few weeks on in the dorms are some of the most liberating that you’ll ever have. For the first time in your life (most likely), you’ll be totally responsible for yourself. It’s awesoem...and terrifying…but mostly awesome!
But there are a few things you should know about college living before you show up on move-in day:
1. For the love of all that is holy, bathe once in while!
You really wouldn’t think that many people would have to be told this. You really, really wouldn’t. But as an incoming freshman, you’ll likely be living in a dorm with at least one roommate. Even if you’ve made arrangements to live off-campus, you’ll still likely be sharing your living space with at least one other person. When you’re not alone, smells matter. A lot.
Don’t be the guy who thinks it’s “hardcore” to go four days without a shower. Nobody within breathing distance of you will thank you for sharing your milk-curdling B.O. A good plan is to shower once a day (either in the mornings or at night—depending on your class schedule).
Especially since living spaces are considerably more cramped in campus dorms and apartments than what you’re likely used to, smelling nice is a great way to keep peace between you and your roommates.
And just so we’re clear (guys, mostly), changing your clothes is not the same as bathing. Strategic placement of air-fresheners is not the same as bathing. Bathing is bathing. Soap should be involved. And shampoo. And deodorant to follow.
2. Start developing some good study habits.
For some people, this isn’t a problem at all. For others, it can be a nightmare. For me, it was the latter. If you more or less breezed through high school without doing much studying for…well…anything, you’d better get your rear in gear and teach yourself how to study.
In my four years of high school, there were only two tests that I actually studied for: the ACT and the AP physics exam. I really didn’t have to put in much effort to get good grades. But I seriously screwed up when I assumed I could get away with the same sort of thing in college
It worked…for about a semester. Then my coursework started wrecking me. College is hard, and it doesn’t get easier. If you don’t learn how to study efficiently and effectively, you will at some point score lower than a 50% on an exam. And trust me, that’s not cool. Especially when retaking the course can set you back $500 or more!
What I’ve found works best is to find a group of people in each class that you can study with. Otherwise, find someplace quiet and relaxing where you can stay focused. Don’t try to get work done with a TV on in the background. Effective studying just doesn’t happen when multiple things are competing for your attention!
3. Learn to cook some basic meals.
Most college dorms have a kitchen that residents can use. It’s much to your benefit if you can learn how to use it. Cooking for yourself is almost always cheaper than paying for your meals in your campus dining hall.
Just to put things in perspective for you, the typical dinner at my campus dining hall is a little over $9. The other day I went to WalMart and bought all the ingredients I needed to make a delicious chicken stir-fry with lime, red chillies, and fresh ginger, served over sweet coconut rice. I spent about $30 on enough food to make over 8 large meals. That averages to less than $4 per meal.
I know other college gourmet-types (like myself) who frequently eat steak and still save money from not eating at the campus dining hall.
Don’t know how to cook? If you’re really in a pinch, packaged ramen noodles are an easy way to make $1 meals. However, I’d strongly caution against eating ramen too often. Ramen is really, really high in salt, will make you bloat, and will cause you to gain weight rather quickly. Hot dogs, cold-cut sandwiches, and hamburgers are all cheap and easy options that you can make for yourself!
If you’re ever stuck or don’t know how to make something, you can almost always find super simple instructions online! You don’t have to be a pro to use a stove!
4. Make a budget and stick to it.
It’s really easy to let your finances get out of control in college. Most of us never really had to worry about balancing checkbooks or tracking our spending in high school because we never really spent much money on anything serious. Most of the time our purchases were rather small and whimsy-based.
But now you’ll be spending lots of money on living and schooling expenses. College tuition isn’t cheap. Neither are books, which run me something like $400-500 per semester (and that’s nothing—you should see how much some chemistry and medical textbooks cost!). Throw in your other living expenses, any on-hand spending money, and any other random expenses (car repair, dorm furniture, school supplies, etc.) and you have yourself a hefty amount of expenses to be responsible for! You'll need a good budget to keep this expenses in check!
Plan ahead, and be realistic about how much you can really afford to spend! Don’t wait until the check is due to decide how you’re going to get the money to pay it!
5. Ask for help!
One thing that makes college radically different from high school is that nobody is going to hold your hand through your college courses. If you don’t understand something, ask a question right away. Chances are someone else in the class was wondering the very same thing!
In high school, your teachers probably wouldn’t move on to the new material until they felt the class knew what they were doing. This isn’t the case anymore. If you don’t ask questions, your professor will assume you don’t have any and will keep moving right along. Don’t get left behind!
In addition, many professors have office hours for student help. During this time, you can stop by to get help and ask more questions (this is especially great for homework help!). If you’re ever struggling, talk to your professor and set up a time the two of you can meet during his office hours.
In addition, your college will also have counselors and advisors—don’t ever be afraid to ask them for help! It’s their job!
These aren’t the only five ways you can help yourself become a successful college student, but I’ve found them to be an excellent way to hit the ground running!
Good luck in your future endeavors!