Tips for Starting College
Starting College soon?
Going to college is a defining time in anyone's life. It's where you become you. It's where you finally have the freedom to experience life to the fullest and make decisions yourself. There's no more teachers babysitting you to hand in your homework or come to class. You choose the program and classes that you want, and you choose the friends and lifestyle you want to live. College is all about you.
So you're starting college soon, it's probably a scary but exciting time. You've always seen college kids in movies and you probably imagined that this day would never come. College always seemed too old and mature for you. Does this mean you're not a kid anymore? Is there where life ends? Quite frankly it's the exact opposite, this is where life begins.
I'm going to start my 4th year at University come September, and it's really hard to believe that it's already been 3 years. At the same time, it's hard to believe it's only been 3 years. There's been some good times, and some less good times, but overall nothing I would call bad. College is what you make of it. Here are some tips I'd like to share based on my experiances:
Live in dorms your first year - This isn't absolutely necessary, but it's a big part of the college experience. You get to live with a bunch of people who are in the same boat as you, living away from home for the first time. Things get out of hand sometimes with so much freedom and control, but that's when the fun happens. Contrary to popular belief you don't always make your life long friends in dorms. You feel really close when you live together, but it's what happens afterwards that really matters. I really only talk to 4 or 5 people that I lived with in my first year, and neither of them are really a part of my core group of friends. The point is, living in dorms makes the transition a lot easier. And it makes it easier to meet people as well.
Participate - First year students, Frosh, Freshman, whatever you want to call them, always have a lot going on. During the first week of school, also called "Frosh Week," there are a bunch of orientation activities to break your way into college life. It's highly recommended that you go to all of these. Sure you'll be homesick around this time, but honestly the best way to open up to this change is to welcome it. During orientation week you get to meet students in your program, possibly the students you'll be studying with for the next 4 years. You meet a lot of people and share a lot of good times. In the end though, you'll soon forget most people you met once you settle down. It's too early in the game to be making friends anyway though, just enjoy yourself. It helps if you know some people from high school and such during these activities, but it's not necessary.
Go to your classes! - I don't even know why I'm putting this here. It's so obvious, and yet at some point during the year many people decide that class isn't important. In fact, I was one of them. The freedom can be overwhelming sometimes, and you feel like there's so much else that you can be doing instead of going to class. Reality is though, that you're in school to study. If you stop going to classes, you will regret it. Honestly, first year is the worst year to mess up. The classes are so much easier than down the road you will realize that you took them for granted. That B that you slacked off for could've been an A, when in 3rd year you're struggling to maintain a C average. First year is about shooting your GPA high so that in later years you can let it slip a little. Stay on top of your readings as well, it's easy to fall behind but cramming is only going to stress you out at the end.
Party responsibly - College is the time to experiment so by all means do what you want. It's not like anything can stop you anyway, but try to be smart with your decisions. If you're going to drink or experiment with drugs, do it with people you trust. Make sure that when you get wasted there is someone to look after you. Make sure there is someone to prevent you from running onto the street (speaking from personal experience) or going home with a stranger. At the same time, don't feel like you HAVE to party. A lot of people prefer not to, and that's perfectly fine. There is nothing wrong with you. You have different interests, and its perfectly normal. The only thing is, try it in the very least. Do it while you can, because school is going to end up being a buzzkill down the road and you won't be able to party even if you want to. Don't do anything you don't want to. Peer pressure can still sometimes be an issue in college, even indirectly, but be smart.
Network - The easiest way to get through college is networking. Know people, who know people, etc... Sometimes you can get help from upperclassman who have been through the same classes. They can give you advice on professors, notes, and previous exams. Also, be open and talk to people. Maintaining friendships can come in handy when you least expect it. Not to be selfish or anything, but having people to rely on can help a lot. Try and form study groups in your classes. Remember, everyone is in the same boat as you. You are not weird for starting a conversation with someone in class. They probably need the help just as much as you do. It can be comforting to have people who can help you with homework and assignments, and vice-versa. Even if you aren't a talkative person, college is the time to come out of your shell. Developing your social skills can take you a long way. Down the road you'll be better of performing at job interviews; finding job interviews even.
Get a Meal Plan - It's a scam, we all know it (in Canada anyway). I paid around $1500 per semester for food. It wasn't healthy, tasted mediocre at best, and cost twice as much as a gourmet meal. But you know what, it's worth it in the end. Food is the last thing you need to worry about in first year. Some colleges require you to purchase a meal plan, which I think is a good idea in the long run. It's a different story if you're commuting to school and still living at home, but then again you'll still end up purchasing your meal at school during the day. Starting college is hard enough as it is, don't make it harder, purchase a meal plan.
Join Clubs - Get involved with your school! It's another great way to meet people and have fun. College's offer a variety of clubs and surely at least one of them is relevant to your interests. Join a sports club to keep fit, a religious club to stay in touch with your spirituality, and any other general interest or cultural club to do things you enjoy.
Stay on top of financial aid - It's easy to miss deadlines for loan documents and such, and it can really screw you over if you miss a date. Remember the importance of this and add it to your calenders/planners!
Get a Laptop - Most people do anyway, but in case you were ever debating this. Get one. You can get a fairly decent one pretty cheap HP or something for around $300, or get one used if you have to. But get one, they are so handy. You can take one to class and study pretty much anywhere.
Be yourself - Lastly, you don't need to pretend anymore. In high school a lot of people try to be cool and follow trends they know nothing about. Colleges have thousands of people, there ARE people like you out there. There's no popular clique or anyone people you need to impress. Just be yourself and find people you relate to, it's really not hard. The worst thing you can do is pretend to be something you're not, you'll just hate yourself and not really enjoy the experience.
Tips can only help you so much. Everyone has their own college experience, but hopefully by reading these you can help make yours a good one.