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How To Thrive In College (For Incoming Freshmen)

Updated on November 19, 2016

For many of you new high school graduates, the next step is college. As you prepare for this new chapter in your life, take heed. I would like to share some useful tips to help you thrive your first year of college.

Go to class.

I cannot stress this enough. You have to go to class. Attendance plays a major part in your success in college. You have to make the time to attend lectures and labs. Professors don't allow lecture and lab time to go to waste. They use it to discuss and point out key information that will appear on future exams.

In class, professors assign required reading, give pop quizzes and reports to write. Wouldn't you want to be there to help yourself, and not hinder yourself?

In my opinion, not even the most intelligent person could get away with skipping class and expect to do well. That's how important going to class is. Make adjustments if you have to. If you find it difficult to wake up in the morning, schedule your classes for the afternoon or evening time. If you are an early bird, schedule your classes in the morning and get them out of the way. You have to do what you have to do. This is a part of being responsible.

Take notes.

While you're in class, it is helpful to take notes of what the professor is talking about. Why? What the professor bothers to discuss during lecture is going to make an appearance on the exam. Taking nice, detailed notes make for excellent study material as well.

Another reason to take notes is that it forces you to pay attention to what the instructor is saying. This also helps with memory, as it's like active listening.

When you don't take notes in class, you run the risk of forgetting everything you've learned. When you sit and listen only, you are more likely to space out or fall asleep when the professor is droning on and on. So, please take notes.

Read the required text.

Yes, I know reading textbooks is tedious. And if the subject matter is not interesting to you it may seem like time stands still while reading. But, studying dry text is a necessary evil if you want to do the best you can in college.

The key to consuming long, boring text is to try not to consume the entire required reading in one sitting. It is helpful to break the text down into small, doable sections. For example, try reading 1-3 pages each day until the next reading assignment. When you do this, the task becomes more bearable and less time consuming.

Another thing, it is a good idea to take detailed notes after each paragraph of text you read. You will help yourself for future exams by taking notes. You will also learn to think critically about what you're reading before you write your notes.

Take advantage of tutoring sessions and professor's office hours .

Sometimes there is just subject matters that you can't quite grasp no matter how hard you try. Don't fret, though. Professors and their assistants are there to help give extra guidance. They do this by offering tutor services and being available during their office hours.

Worried that you might be annoying your professors by asking too many questions? Please don't worry about that. Professors actually like it when students take initiative and responsibility for their own education. So, ask away until you understand.

Join at least one club.

Campus activities and clubs are an excellent chance to pursue what interests you. It's also a great way to make new friends. A win-win. Getting involved could also be a way for you to get an idea of what path to take career-wise. So, get out there and join something.

Bond with your RA (Resident Assistant) and people in your dorm.

Resident Assistants, known as R.A.s, organize dorm floor activities. They do this to get the residents to get to know each other and help you in any way that he or she can.

In college, my R.A. gathered available residents together for dinner every Thursday night. This was an excellent way for me to make new friends and come out of my shell.

It worked for me and I'm sure it can work for you.

Another benefit to connecting with your R.A and dorm mates is that it is excellent for networking. You learn about campus activities and opportunities that you may not have known about on your own. For example, I landed my first campus job in the career center because of a dorm mate. She told me about the open position and encouraged me to apply.

Do not cheat or do anything dishonest.

If you get caught cheating or trying to cheat, you will get suspended, or possibly, expelled.

Don't attempt to give your friend any answers to exam questions (the exams are usually different anyway). And don't think that you can get away with hiding notes under you desk or in your belongings during exams. If a professor requires attendance and uses a sign-in sheet, do not sign in for a friend when they are not present. This is dishonest and you run the risk getting caught. Why risk your future?

Imagine the embarrassment you would feel explaining to loved ones your suspension or expulsion because you chose to share answers, write other people's papers, have other people write your papers, or forge a friend's signature for a class. The thought is cringe worthy, isn't it? So just don't do it.

If a friend is failing, don't help them cheat. Help them in the right way: you can study with them, tutor them, refer to them the professor's office hours. Just don't cheat.

Now, I would like to take the time to address the other side of getting caught cheating. Lest anyone feel discouraged, there is life after academic dishonesty. It's not the best thing to experience, but your life will not end just because you made an unwise choice.

If you get caught cheating, there can be redemption. Many people are able to learn from their mistakes and make something of themselves in life. But as a general rule, do yourself a favor and don't go there.

Keep up with your required courses.

Once you declare a major, you receive a syllabus of all the courses you must complete to graduate. Don't get all the way to the end only to discover that you're missing a natural science credit or an elective. If you don't want any surprises come graduation time, please read your syllabus.

Study and keep up with your syllabus like a most prized possession. If you lose it, print another. Do whatever you can to always stay on top of what classes you need to take. If you need extra accountability, visit your academic advisor to stay on track.

Use the campus career center.

If you have not declared a major and you don't know what to do, take a career assessment at the career center.

Career assessments are tools to help you discover your strengths, interests, and your likes. In the career center, you could also get help in matching majors to career paths of your interest.

The career center is a valuable resource to help you decide which career path to take. It's also completely free. Why not take advantage of these things available to you on campus?

Have a great time, but be safe.

Finally, have a great time. College is definitely not all work and no play. There is much fun to be had during your college years, but you must be responsible and be safe.

Don't throw caution to the wind. Now is not the time to be too trusting and carefree to the point of carelessness. If you can help it,

  • Don't walk alone at night by yourself.
  • Do close and lock your door if you are not in your dorm room. Would you leave your house door open and unlocked?
  • Don't get into cars or go home with strangers. This is dangerous, especially if they're not identifiable students, professors, or campus police officers.
  • Do attend all activities, parties and other outings in a group. Someone should always know where you are and where to find you.
  • Don't get drunk. But, if you do anyway, do not go overboard and do not drive. Alcohol poisoning and a DUI are real consequences.


There you have it. I hope that you will find these tips useful. They might come in handy as you settle on campus and embark on your educational journey.

Let me know if these tips were helpful and if you plan on using them when you get to college.


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