9 Tips For Freshman Year Success

9 Tips For Freshman Year Success

Lessons to live by during your first year away from home

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As I reach the end of freshman year, I can't help but reflect on all that's happened this year: what's gone wrong, what's gone right, how I've changed, and what I want to tell others about my experiences. Although I still have a month left of school, I feel that I have learned a plethora lessons from my move-in day in August and I wish to pass them on to incoming freshmen everywhere. The biggest thing to remember is that moving to college is a big step, so give yourself time to learn the lessons below on your own and remember that, above all, this is your journey and not anyone else's.

1. Get excited, but not too excited.

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How many times have you listened to your parents ramble on about you doing your homework, or you being home for dinner? How many times have you thought to yourself, I can't wait to move out and be on my own? The summer before my freshman year it was like I had already moved out. I spent a lot of that summer out with my friends, home for dinner only two or three times a week, already high on my newfound independent spirit. I wish I would have slowed down a little and remembered that I would always be surrounded by friends but for the next year, I would be seeing my family only in short increments when I was home for breaks. I've learned that it's important to be happy where you are and who you're with and to never rush growing up. Your parents don't want you to leave any sooner than you have to, so make sure you take time to be truly present with them before you move out. This can be your way of thanking them for the 18 years of love and support they've given you up until this moment.

2. Talk--a lot.


I've always been an extremely shy person, since kindergarten all the way to 12th grade. Talking was never my specialty until it had to be. When I moved into my dorm room, my roommate and I (upon her suggestion) decided to walk around the fourth floor and introduce ourselves to the girls in neighboring rooms. Two rooms over from mine I introduced myself to the girl I now call my best friend. Although some of it is crap, one thing people tell you about moving to college that is true is that you should leave your door open the first few days of moving in. For this, invest in a doorstop. I found myself being very open to the new people I met who stopped in my room. You may go into college thinking you have always been shy and that you won't make any friends because of this, but know that that's simply not true. Everyone is new and is in the same position as you; once you realize this it will be easier for you to break down those barriers and be yourself.

3. Take your time.


Although you'll find it easier to make friends in college that you anticipated, you should remember that the first ones you meet may not necessarily be your forever friends. You should follow your gut and pay attention to how you feel around certain people. How easy is it for you to open up to them? Do you laugh when you're with them? How do you feel after hanging out with them: refreshed and light, or drained and maybe even a little annoyed? When you meet someone you get along well with, make sure to get their number and follow up on getting together with them. Don't let a blossoming friendship go unwatered. The best way to see who is right for you is to simply be yourself and pursue interests and the lifestyle you wish to lead. The rest will fall into place.

4. Get knocked down, but get back up again.

College -especially freshman year- is the time to explore interests you may not have pursued in high school. Be sure to attend club fairs (which usually occur at the start of fall and spring semesters) and sign up for organizations that both align with and contradict your past interests. You will be surprised how many different things will spark your interest—this year I participated in things ranging from writing for the newspaper to participating in Latin Dance Club. Don't get discouraged if you don't make tryouts for a certain team or group or if you have little interest in what you first start getting involved with. The best thing to do is simply follow where your heart leads you, and know that in your freshman year nothing will make or break you. It's ok to not be as involved as all those seniors who are leading these club meetings. Remember to give yourself time to find your true passions and get involved based on these.

5. Don't forget your roots.

I remember that the first day I didn't talk to my family since being at school felt particularly strange. It was the first time in my whole life, actually, that I hadn't spoken to my mother for the whole day, or joked around with my brother, or asked my father how work was. Now late into my freshman year, I have several of those days a week, but I never really get used to them. For that reason, I try to text my family members things that remind me of them, like the Starbucks tea my mother and I always drank in the summer, or my success in riding the subway which my father always tried to make me understand. It's important that you call home every so often to tell everyone what is going on and how you are doing. Remember, up until this point in y have seen you as you leave for and come back from school. They've watched your sports games, baked for your bake sales, and given you flowers after your plays or concerts. They deserve to know what is happening with you and if you are doing okay. Talking to them will make you feel at home, even at a place far from it.

6. Find a study space and schedule.

The first time you are at college, it will be difficult to find structure in your day. Freshman year is the first time in your life you are going to have so much freedom and free time. With that liberty, however, also comes responsibility. I found that in my freshman year, I was most productive when I blocked out time for specific things: going to the gym, participating in extracurriculars, seeing my friends, and doing my homework. When you give yourself a finite amount of time to finish the work you have to get done that day, day, keeping in mind all the other responsibilities you will also have to attend to that day, you will find yourself really buckling down to complete your assignments knowing that you don't have all the time in the world to complete them. It's okay to combine a few of your priorities, such as doing your homework with your friends, but make sure you pay attention to how productive you are. If you work best alone in the library, do work that way. If you do better surrounded by others in a study commons, do work that way. It's all about finding how you work best and sticking to it.

7. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Freshman year is also the first time your mother won't be hovering around you, making sure you're eating enough fruits and vegetables. Although it is sometimes hard to find healthy dining options on campus, and even harder to stick with them once you've found them, try to at least eat one fruit and one vegetable a day. Whether that be a strawberry smoothie or a Caesar salad, make sure you're getting you greens in. It isn't only bout maintaining your physical health; also be sure that your mental health is intact. Take a few moments each day to sit quietly somewhere--under a tree, or in the back of your campus's church--where you can just be by yourself for a little while. You may find it helpful to keep a journal to write your feelings or record big events. If you find you are having a hard time mentally or emotionally, be sure to seek a counseling service on campus or talk to a friend or trusted adult.

8. Keep your head up.

You will most likely encounter plenty of troubles and tribulations throughout your first year at college. Remember that these are normal, and that they may seem magnified because you are not at home and it is the first time your family and friends aren't there to comfort you. Finding new friends, adjusting to a harder workload, dealing with illness, managing relationship struggles, and participating in extracurriculars is extremely difficult the first time you are on your own. It's important to be patient with yourself and push forward despite the number of setbacks you may have encountered. There have been times this year where I have felt that I was at my ultimate low, but it was my friends who helped pick me up and set me straight. Above all, know that even though you are on your own, there are still people surrounding you that will help you up and dust you off.

9. You'll learn so much more.

These reflections are just a few things I've learned this year, but you'll learn so much more and you'll learn it in your own way. Overall, it's best to have an open mind, push yourself to meet new people and try new things, and never forget where you came from. You may not feel as if you have "found" yourself by the end of freshman year-I definitely don't-but that, too takes time. Simply remember to have fun, take care of yourself, and live each day in the present.

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12 Dorm Room 'Essentials' That Are Actually A Waste Of Money

If three years of college has taught me anything, it's that I wasted a lot of money and space on things for my dorm room that I never used.

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Now approaching my senior year of college, there are so many things that I have experienced in my three years away that I either look back at and smile just at the thought of or immediately regret. With a younger sister going into her freshman year of college, I hope to teach her as much of those lessons I learned in advance so she doesn't make the same mistakes as me. One of the most important things I learned after moving in and out of dorm rooms and apartments for three years is what should and shouldn't come with you to school. Because, let's be real, as much as we want to pack away our entire lives and fit them in our minuscule dorm room, not everything is necessary.

However, knowledge is power, and I don't want to just save my sister from making those mistakes. That's why I'm here to share the 12 things that aren't necessary for you to bring to school:

1. A Keurig/coffee maker

While living in an apartment and having all the space in a kitchen for a coffee maker and the time to make my own hot drinks, having a Keurig was a godsend. But I'm going to be completely honest, as someone who wanted a Keurig so badly before freshman year...I rarely used it when I lived in the dorms. Between having meal points to buy my own coffee and just never having the time or energy to make it in the morning and then clean the dishes afterward, it just wasn't worth the waste of money and space.

2. A giant television

You may see pictures of dorm rooms and see students with giant televisions along their window or squished onto their desks. But unless you're living in a larger apartment, having a huge flat screen TV has no purpose for a small dorm room. There are TV's usually all over campus, especially in the common rooms that are free for you to use. If you really do feel like you need a TV in your dorm, a smaller one will suffice, because anything larger is going to take up some much-needed room.

3. Any type of hot plate/mini grill, etc.

Besides the fact that these are banned in most dormitories anyways, it's not smart to sneak one of these into your rooms. I can't tell you how many people I know that have accidentally started a fire in the dorm room from using a toaster they snuck in or a special "grilled cheese grill." The dining halls will have everything you could possibly want and need, and most dorm rooms come with a mini fridge and microwave to supplement anything further.

4. Candles

I'll admit, I am guilty of using these my sophomore year of college. Do I regret the millions of times I freaked out because I almost lit my dorm room on fire? Absolutely.

It's not worth it. Your RA will probably catch you, it's not worth the risk of accidentally setting your shoebox-sized dorm on fire, and the smoke detectors in those rooms are so sensitive that you're bound to set them off.

5. A printer

Unless you're living off campus in an apartment, there really is no reason to have a printer in your dorm room. There are tons of printers throughout the different buildings of every university, and most allot a certain amount of sheets for you to do your printing. Printers are big and clunky, hard to store, and the ink is very expensive. Don't consider buying one unless you plan on moving off campus.

6. An iron and ironing board

Take it from someone who absolutely hates wearing wrinkly clothes, the whole iron and ironing board duo was not a smart move my freshman year. It took up way too much room and when I did actually want to iron, it was so annoying to find a spot to do it in my small room.

If you're really obsessive about having non-wrinkled clothes like I am, you can invest in a mini steamer, which is super cheap, stored extremely easily because they're so small, and work just as well as an iron. I ended up swapping out for one of these my sophomore year and loving it so much more.

7. Bean bag chairs/Folding chairs

Any extra seating for a dorm room is honestly unnecessary besides the standard desk chairs that come with the dorm. The floor space is so limited that taking it up with any other large items is going to make it extremely difficult to navigate around your room. Also, when your friends come to hang out, they usually will end up just sitting on your bed or your desk chair anyways.

8. A body pillow

I don't really know what the use of these things are. I had one freshman year, and it laid against my bed the entire year and I never used it. I just found laying on it extremely awkward and uncomfortable and it was just so big that it took up too much room on my already tiny Twin XL bed.

9. A laundry hamper

A stand-up laundry hamper is just going to take up way too much space that you don't have. Instead, invest in some nicely made laundry bags that you can put your dirty laundry in and just easily carry over to the laundry room. A lot of stores even make special bags that differentiate between lights, darks, and delicates so the sorting is already done for you before you do your laundry.

10. A vacuum

While the idea of having a vacuum is nice, and I myself have had one all three years, it just took up way too much room in my dorm and I later found out you could just rent one from the commons whenever you wanted to clean your floor. Most universities do have cleaning supplies for rent, such as brooms, swifters, vacuums, etc., so there's no need trying to fit all of those in your closet.

11. A million throw pillows

While they'll make your bed look cute, making your bed every single morning and remembering where to put the millions of decorative pillows can become very annoying, not to mention finding a place to put them whenever you turn down your bed.

12. Picture frames

While having tons of pictures in your dorm room is nice, and I say the more the merrier, bringing physical picture frames is just a waste because there's not much shelf or desk place to place them. Instead, find a cute wall decoration that holds photos or clips to hang them from your wall. It'll save a ton of space and also cover up those bare, ugly dorm room walls.

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