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College Back to School Tips - How to Survive Your First Year of College

Updated on December 22, 2014
Lost and confused--which way to go?
Lost and confused--which way to go? | Source

Tips for the first week of college

Going to college, particularly as a freshman, can be a nerve-wracking experience. A big campus, a crowd of strangers, and major expenses can all take their toll, especially the first week.

Just finding where your classes are is a big deal that first day or two. Beyond dealing with that first day issue, this article gives some tips on how to spend one’s time and money in order to make that first year as smooth as possible.

Find your classes early!

One of the scariest things in going to a big college campus is finding where your classes are. Believe me, I know. As an instructor, too, that fact was brought home, as I spent the first day of classes this fall in the halls with forlorn freshmen asking me where room 305 was or where the Plant Science building is located.

Being unable to find one’s classes is a common fear. I generally ask students at the end of their first week to write their perceptions of their first week of college. One of the number one fear they wrote about was getting lost and not being able to find their classes. While this isn’t surprising, it is a problem that can be avoided. Even if it’s just the day before, take a friend or roommate, or venture off by yourself to look up every single classroom on your course schedule. Take a map of the campus if you need to in order to find all the buildings.

Finding your classes before they start is imperative in helping relieve the anxiety of starting college. For freshmen or new transfers to the campus, just doing this one task will alleviate the majority of first week jitters. Know where you are going!

Don't get lost on the way to college!

Attend campus events--especially the free ones!

Go to the special events held on campus. Often there are back-to-school cookouts and other food-related welcome back gatherings. Besides getting free food, you will benefit from socializing and getting more used to the campus. You might even make a friend.

Check out the college’s student union to see what events are scheduled. You’ll be able to get free pens and other supplies from time to time at such places. Stock up when you can!

Attend pep rallies and other college events. The more you get involved, the more you will feel a part of the campus, and the less homesick you will be. I’ve been there. It does help to get involved in things that interest you.

Shop around for your books!

Books will be one of the greater expenses college students face each semester. Don’t take that course schedule and go straight to the university’s overpriced bookstore to spend the better part of a thousand dollars. Depending on the classes you’re taking, sometimes you can get books (such as in literature) at used bookstores off campus. Also, online sites offer coupons that will give you much deeper discounts than any bookstore. Check out the deals on AnyCodes for Chegg and other online textbook stores at a fraction of the original cost. When you’re finished with the books, try selling them back to these sites, too, to recuperate some of your expenses.

Keep track of your expenses

If you are on a budget (and most college students have to be), you will do much better if you keep a record of where your money is going. In my young college days, I kept a log of everything I spent: this much for the dorm, that much for tuition, then books and all the other miscellaneous expenses.

I was so anal that I even wrote down the 50 cents for the coke from the vending machine downstairs. I did well, though, and was able to get through those years with what help I had, plus the job at McDonald’s on summers and weekends to supplement.

If you don’t track your expenses, you will find yourself spending more than you should. Ordering pizza every weekend, shopping at the mall with your friends . . . . Having some kind of control over your finances will keep you on track and from running out of money--hopefully. If Mom and Dad are footing the bill, it will make them happy, too, and more likely to help you out in the future, if they feel you're being responsible with the money you have.

Should you work in college?

Work, but not too much. If your schedule allows it, get a part-time job, whether just for the summer or during the school year. I worked summers home from school, plus frequent weekends, at my old McDonald’s job, when I was home from college. I worked part-time during my junior year at the McDonald’s near campus. When my senior year’s internships limited my time to work, I was able to fall back on some of the money I had saved while working.

Again, even if Mom and Dad are paying for your tuition and room and board, a part-time job will give you at least some spending money, more freedom, and perhaps a thumbs up from the folks. Working at a part-time job is also a great way to make new friends.Still, don’t let a job take up all your time, if you can help it. There's plenty of time for that once you graduate!

Enjoy your college years!

The college years really can be one of the best times of your life. A cliché, but it’s true. If you can make it through with scholarships, parental help, and minimal working, that’s great, as you do need time to study, develop relationships, and enjoy the whole college experience. I wouldn't trade those years for anything.

My old stomping grounds: University of Arkansas


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    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      9 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, klanguedoc! I loved college! Thanks for the vote.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      9 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      ignugent--Thanks for sharing these tips!!!!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      College is a great in our lives. Very interesting Hub Victoria Lynn. I voted it up.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I am sharing this to all those who are going back to school. Useful tips!

      Voted up and more!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      9 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      True, Natashalh. When I was in grad school, though, we had some great get-togethers. Potlucks, beer pong, dancing. Lots of fun! :-) Yeah, but the classes and papers were tough!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      9 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      CC--ME, TOO! I've been 3 different times. I thought I was through, but now I am teaching classes there. I can't seem to get away! Actually, I AM working too much right now. I'm hoping after this semester, it won't be so crazy. Those extra classes I got were unexpected and probably won't be there next semester. We'll see!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      9 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      I miss college, too, Bill. It's kind of neat teaching some courses at the college I attended. It's nostalgic and gets my memories flowing. Interacting with those young students is a neat experience.To think we were there at one time!

    • Natashalh profile image


      9 years ago from Hawaii

      I wish I could trade grad school for college. Classes were less stressful and there were more chances to get free food!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      9 years ago from Western NC

      I miss college, too. :) I missed it so much I've returned a few times for various degrees. Hehe.

      Great tips here, and I hope you're taking your own advice: work, but not too much. ;)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      9 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I miss college....I know that has nothing to do with the discussion, but I loved my years in college. Sigh! Anyway, wonderful suggestions for a college-bound student. Great job Vicki!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      9 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, Audrey! Much appreciated!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      9 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Thanks, Ruchira, for the comments and for sharing!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      9 years ago from California

      Great tips! Sharing!

    • Ruchira profile image


      9 years ago from United States

      A useful hub, Vicki for the first year college goers.

      Sharing it across.


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