Going into freshman year, everyone wants to chip in with words of wisdom from their own college days. No matter what anyone says, it is nearly impossible to do every single thing you are told. Here are the most important things to remember if you are about to begin your college journey.
1. DO try to get involved
Getting involved is the best way to get a sense of community at college, especially at a large school. There are so many different organizations and clubs scouting new members, and there really is something out there for everyone. Joining a club can not only introduce you to new people who have similar interests, but it can also make you passionate about something you had no idea you even had interest in.
2. DON'T feel discouraged if you don't get into a certain club or organization
It can be really devastating falling in love with the idea of being a part of something and then getting an email that your application was not selected. College is different from high school in the sense that there are so many more people applying for the same positions as you. The applicant pool is so much larger and it takes a lot to stand out. The good news is that there is so much out there and not everything requires a harsh application process! Find something you love and always remember you can try again next year if it doesn't work out.
3. DO look at professors' ratings before enrolling in a class
Every college has some sort of online rating system where you can look at what former students thought of their professors. Some will even tell you the percentage of As, Bs, Cs (and so on) the professor gave out that semester/quarter. This can be extremely helpful when deciding what classes to take or which professors to sign up with.
4. DON'T let a professor's rating completely change your mind
If you are really excited about taking a class, do not let a bad professor rating steer you away. The review could have just come from uninterested students. It is important to consider how passionate you would be about the material and not solely rely on what previous students thought. The same goes for signing up for a class that seems dreadfully boring just because the professor had great ratings. If you know you are not going to be interested in the material, do not enroll simply because that professor is known for being an easy grader. A lot of the time it's better to push yourself in learning about something you are passionate about and would be useful in your future.
5. DO allow yourself to experience the social aspects of college life
One of the first things you'll notice when you start college is how many opportunities to party there are. There is nothing wrong with going out and having a good time once in a while; in fact, it is a HUGE part of the college experience! Going out can even serve as a motivator to work hard during the week.
6. DON'T get too caught up in the social scene
In the beginning, it is almost overwhelming how much is going on nearly every night. It's so hard to say no when all your friends are going out and inviting you to come because let's be honest, FOMO is real. However, there will be times when you are really not feeling it. It's okay to stay in! You'll come to appreciate a night when you're roommates are going out and you get the room to yourself.
7. DO make sure to find friends in all your classes
In lectures of over 400 people, it can be really hard to scout familiar faces. Introduce yourself to new people and find friends that you can study with (or sign you in when you want to ditch class). Chances are, they don't know anyone in the class either and would be happy to sit with you and trade numbers. And you never know, you might end up becoming close friends!
8. DON'T let yourself sacrifice academics for social life
Although it is great to study and do work with friends, it is important to stay on track and make sure study time is limited to just that. With so much going on, it's so easy to go on tangents and turn "5 minute study breaks" into completely off-topic conversations that result in skipping studying and going to dinner. Finding a balance is one of the most crucial things to learn in college. Remember that school is what you are actually in college for, so keep that as the main priority.
9. DO take classes you are interested in
There are so many classes offered in college that picking just a few can often seem overwhelming (actually being excited about class? SHOCKER, I know, but it happens). Try to let the variety of options help you find what you are most interested in. If something sounds cool, take it. You will either end up loving it and will want to continue studying the subject or realizing it isn't for you and never stepping foot in a similar class again.
10. DON'T feel stressed about not knowing what you want to major in or what you want to do with your life
The average public university has over 40,000 students attending at a time. There is NO way that every single person has their entire life figured out. It is completely okay to not know what you want to do with your life when you start college. Part of the experience involves finding your interests, changing your mind (1,000 times), and trying new things. It is sometimes overwhelming to see everyone being so successful when you don't even know what classes you want to take next semester/quarter. Don't let this get to you! Half the people who seem like their whole life is figured out don't actually know what they're doing, anyway.
11. DO try to be independent
One of the main changes that college brings is the sense of independence. Living away from your parents really does allow you spread your wings and take care of your own self. Take advantage of this and learn to do things for yourself! Don't rely on other people to help you -- know due dates for yourself and don't be afraid to reach out to your professor on your own. With that, be independent in terms of doing things on your own. It can feel like the worst thing to walk into a dining hall alone, but it is totally NORMAL! The same goes for running errands and just hanging out in your room.
12. DON'T be afraid to ask others for help
Although it is good to be able to take care of yourself, never be afraid to ask others for help. If you are really struggling, there are so many organizations and people that are on campus specifically to help you. If you don't want to be alone, ask a neighbor to hang out. It is likely that they feel the same way as you. It is not at all weird to make plans with people you just met. Everyone is on the same boat!
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