51 Great Tips to Prepare College Newcomers for Their Freshman Year

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College promises an adventure-filled journey, but no student would dare say it is easy. Adjusting in the first few months of college can be difficult for many.

The American Psychological Association (APA) found that 1 in 3 freshman students suffer from mental health issues. Of course, it can be tough. But let’s be optimistic!

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Here are 51 great tips and advice to help you breeze through your college journey.

Starting Right

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Take your time to know all the available classes. College is crucial to your future career. And while it’s early, it’s good to scout and find classes that both suit your passions and preferred career path. Taking extra classes can also help you expand your network, skills, and career options!

Never miss freshman orientation and similar school events. This is a must for newcomers. This is where you’ll learn how everything works on your campus; office hours, extracurriculars, special rules, benefits, the unique campus offers such as a part-time job, and more.

Take an active part in clubs or organizations that match your interests. Many colleges host different clubs and organizations to make the experience an enriching one for students. Consider signing up for one or more. This is a great opportunity to pursue your passions, learn new things, improve your skills, and meet people with common interests.

Consider reaching out to career services. Most universities provide career centers that assist students in exploring the most suitable career path. Turn to a school counselor for advice and answers to career-related questions, or even help you get a job while in school.

Explore your campus! Walk around, enjoy the sights, and meet people while you’re at it. If you know a place by heart, you’re less likely to get lost.

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Embracing Your Learning Curve, Discovering Your Learning Style

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Always go to class. Every class is paid for, so you might as well go to all of them! Never skip class unless it’s for something really important. This is a surefire way to never miss anything; graded quizzes, test hints, extra credit, group activities, and the like. The time you spend studying will start paying off sooner than you think!

Come to class prepared. Experiencing anxiety in the first few weeks of the school year isn’t uncommon, especially for new students. Preparedness is a great, fool-proof way to reduce this freshman anxiety; it also saves you from low grades and the wrath of some hot-headed professors.

Read ahead to get ahead. Don’t be afraid to go the extra mile! Make getting good grades a top priority; good academic performance and background matter a lot to employers and graduate schools.

Read your course syllabi. Familiarizing your course topics will tell you what to expect and help you understand your lectures better. Never disregard the academic facet of your college path.

Actively participate in class. Listen to the lecture, take notes, ask questions, and answer questions. Not only will this help you earn your professor’s favor and some extra credit, but this can also help you retain information and understand the material better.

Take notes. Find a good note-taking method or strategy that works well for you. Borrowing notes from a classmate isn’t a bad idea, and it can even seem tempting to do this often. However, you can’t just rely on others all the time. It is also better to have your own notes you can customize and understand easier, and look back on anytime.

Bring your laptop everywhere. It can be easier to take notes on a laptop than on pen and paper. And you never know when you can find an opportunity to get a head start on your schoolwork; whether it’s a few spare minutes during lunch break, or if a professor is a bit late to class.

Always back your files up. Nothing hurts like losing all your progress. You can make duplicate files in case the original gets deleted or corrupted, or make use of google drive’s backup and sync tools. Its free plan comes with 15GB of space, which is by far the most convenient option for students.

Join or form a study group. Working with fellow students can help you fill up gaps in your notes, gain more insights, increase your productivity, and help you procrastinate less.

Make use of your school’s resources. No, they’re not free! Take your time to know which resources you’re paying for and get your money’s worth by utilizing them when you can. 

Get involved on campus. Meet people that can help you get ahead! The experience you will gain and the professional relationships you will build are sure to help you secure future letters of recommendation.

Look for ways to spice up your studying. Studying can easily get draining and old. Get creative during your study sessions. Look up study tips. Try to incorporate something fun while being productive; such as playing background music or using flashcards.

Consider getting a tutor. No, getting help does not make you look dumb. College is difficult and it can and will humble you, which is normal. Consider getting help whenever you are struggling. If you can’t afford a private tutor, look into your school’s resources or work with a friend.

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Staying Money-smart

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Create a budget plan. Learn how to budget and differentiate your wants from your needs; you will thank yourself later. Identify your income, track your expenses, and keep track of your spending.

Keep looking for scholarships. Applying during off-peak times means less competition with other students; and a higher chance of getting those much-needed scholarship funds.

Consider all your options when buying books. Textbooks are expensive, especially when bought brand new. Sometimes, you don’t even need them! Take time to compare prices across shops, consider renting books, or buy them used instead.

Get a job. Preferably one that’s related to your major, and/or lets you work on assignments or study while on the job; such as library or front desk jobs.  There are a lot of jobs you could take on while in school, and you could certainly use the extra income!

Spend wisely. Don’t spend just because you can. Before you spend, consider thinking if you really need it, if there are other alternatives, and if the convenience is worth your money. Start building good money-handling habits while it’s early.

Learn how to do your own taxes. This is an excellent way to get comfortable with handling money and recognizing new, adult responsibilities.

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Keeping Essential Life Habits and Routines

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Build a flexible, healthy routine you can stick to. Studies show that establishing routines creates a sense of structure and builds discipline. It also promotes mental, physical, and emotional well-being, which will help you establish the learning style that works for you and enables you to perform better academically.

Set a time for everything. Balance is key. There should be a time for you to rest, study, and enjoy life. Work on your time management.

Mark your calendar. You can start with simply planning your next meal or planning which tasks to take on later in the day. Knowing your next steps will increase your likelihood of taking them.

Turn in your work on time. Always strive to finish your work within the given timeframe, for both your benefit and your professor’s. This way, you can spare your professor a headache and yourself from having a lot of work piled up.

Never plagiarize. Apart from this being illegal and disrespectful to your professors, this will hinder you from developing your writing skills; which is very essential all throughout college and your future career life beyond it. Instead, do your research and actively work on your ability to create original content.

Stay organized. Make use of productivity apps. Having to-do lists, calendars, and planners, helps you not underestimate or overestimate how much work you need to do; and helps you get more work done efficiently.

Always do your research. Diving in a little deeper and getting a good understanding of topics will improve your writing and your vocabulary, which will come in handy all throughout your college years.

Maximize your time. College will teach you just how precious time is. Look for strategies that can help boost your productivity, and get as much work done as possible within the time you set aside for studying.

Work on your communication skills. Communication skills are one of the most useful skills and relevant things that recruiters will look for in a student, so start to work on yours as early as now. Take a speech class, read books, or practice talking to as many different people as possible.

Cultivate discipline. Learning to discipline yourself will help you fight those unproductive urges and help you maintain balance in your studies, social life, and personal life. This will help you feel more put together and in control.

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Making Friends and Reaching Out

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Socialize and connect. It’s normal that newcomer students feel awkward. As a new student, understand that college is an opportunity to learn from other people, so strike a friendly conversation with a classmate. Make new friends. Make small talk with your professors. Surround yourself with good acquaintances; you never know when you need a hand with anything!

Talk to your professors. Get to know your instructors. Ask them questions to help you navigate your coursework. They’re there to help you learn! Teachers typically appreciate students that engage them in conversations.

Be professional. Remember that you are an adult now. Be respectful to everyone you interact with all the time, especially to the faculty. Practice good email etiquette when talking to your professors. Know the offices’ working hours. This is a great way to build a good habit of professionalism which can help you progress in your future career. 

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Prioritizing Self-care

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Look out for your health and overall well-being. You can’t expect yourself to perform well if you’re unhealthy and overwhelmed with stress. Eat well, improve your quality of sleep, always aim to get a good dose of physical activity, and recognize your body’s warning signs.

Nourish yourself properly. You can’t steer clear of sicknesses and function properly if you don’t get proper nourishment from your meals. You also most likely won’t have family around you to remind you to eat, or to watch what you eat; taking care of yourself is now your sole responsibility. Work on building healthy eating habits.

Never make all-nighters a habit. Pulling an all-nighter every once in a while for very important assignments won’t do that much harm especially if you make sure you rest and cope well after doing so. However, getting enough rest will be a tougher challenge in college than in high school; and constant sleep deprivation will impair your focus, cognitive function, memory, and mood which is likely to negatively affect your studies.

Put comfort and convenience over style. We get that first impressions matter. And as long as it’s not taking a toll on your finances and time, there’s nothing wrong with being stylish in college; in fact, it can be a good thing for your confidence. Just make sure not to overspend on fancy clothing, and opt for clothes that can last you long enough in between washes.

Choose the task to work on first. This way, you can weigh what matters more to you and know which challenging task to work on first. This should include your studies, your social life, and your health.

Set clear boundaries with your roommate. Let’s face it; roommates can be terrible, especially if they’re not responsible and considerate enough. Make sure to communicate with each other what you will and will not tolerate in your shared living space.

Do not bend to pressure. Don’t join groups you don’t like or do something you’re uncomfortable with just because everyone is doing it. While it’s good to explore and try new things, it’s always ideal to save your time and energy by not letting yourself get pressured into doing them, especially if they go against your values.

Find good coping behaviors and distance yourself from bad behavior. Reduce drinking, smoking, and the like; or stay away from them completely. Instead, find some other outlet, hobby, or activity you can enjoy, such as journaling, biking, yoga, and meditating.

Call home. They miss you. No one cares for you more and knows you better than your own family. And often, it’s our families that have the best advice to offer when we need someone to turn to. Set aside a little of your time and call home every once in a while.

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Planning Ahead

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Set actionable goals. Walking feels easier when you know where you’re headed. Having short-term and long-term goals that resonate with you will motivate you to work hard and achieve them.

Get out of your comfort zone! This tip often comes off as cliché, but it really is important. Why limit yourself from living life and discovering new things? Put yourself out there.

Build your resume. Now is a great time to gather relevant experience, internships, achievements, and skills you can put on your resume. The more, the better. Also, consider making a digital printable copy of your resume that you can touch up every time you have something new to add.

Go to career fairs. Make yourself known to recruiters and build good professional relationships with them. They will remember you every time you show up and will gladly help you out.

Manage your expectations. When things aren’t as expected, it can be very disappointing and demotivating! Know what to expect while being open to the fact that it will take some time to get used to college life.

Also see: 50 Life Hacks for Online Graduate Students

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Key Points to Ponder

And there you have it, 51 super helpful tips to help you get through college!

  • Keep in mind, however, that every college experience is unique… What can encourage students to become the best version of themselves isn’t always the same for all.
  • How you navigate through college, and life in general, is all up to you!

Additional Resource:

Malcolm Peralty
Chief Editor