College is a whole new experience for everyone and it differs from each individual. Starting a new school with new people in a new or familiar area is still a struggle for many people as they learn how to live away from home. College gives you the ability to find out who or what you want to be when you grow up. It allows you to find new friends and allows you to take advantage of new opportunities. It is filled with hardships, obstacles, challenges, smiles, and rewards. It may take time to fit in or find the perfect schedule for you, but it will all fall together in place.
1. Have fun
The most important thing I can tell someone starting college is to make room to have fun. If I am going, to be honest, my freshman college year FLEW by, faster than a senior year of high school, and the strangest thing is that this article will be published and it will be published during the start of summer. My first semester at UW-Madison was strictly business and trying to find a routine. I did not have any real "me time" and I regret not making time to have more fun with my friends. My second semester compared to my first semester is a huge difference since finding a good balance between school and free time. Make memories, and take pictures to remember them. That being said, make time for school too!
2. Finding a new friend group
Starting a new school means finding new friends to endure this special and long experience called college with. Finding friends in college consist of jumping around, and I mean jumping around A LOT. You have your class friends still (just like in high school), you have your dorm room friends, and then you have your major friends. After a couple of weeks, you find out who your main friend group is going to consist of and then honestly most of your free time is spent with them.
3. Still make time for your high school friends
Yes, college is a new and exciting experience but you still can't forget about the people you grew up with that were there for you through thick and thin. When you go back home during school breaks you will reconnect with your high school friends and it feels like you never left each other. With that being said, you should still communicate with each other and keep one another in the loop. They are your piece of home, away from home.
4. Signing up for classes
Signing up for your classes for college was and still is the most stressful thing I have ever had to endure in my life so far. Classes fill up SO quickly based on your sign-up date (which is often determined by your academic status/standing which is determined by your incoming credits). Picking your classes and the time slots they are at is the most amazing factor about college in my opinion and the flexibility is amazing. If you are so ever lucky, and just LOVE to sleep in as my friend does, he mentioned to "make sure not to pick any classes that start before noon." My advice is to pick the times that work best for you.
5. Finding a good balance
Something that I previously mentioned is that free time is pretty rare in college, so take advantage of it when you can; however, that includes taking care of yourself physically and mentally. Do what makes you happy, make sure you eat good and in healthy amounts, work out, and take study breaks — just do not let them turn into 3-hour study breaks down the road (trust me, Netflix will be calling your name, please do resist).
I can not stress this enough, be picky about who you choose as a roommate and get to know them. It is a big deal, you are going to live with this person for an entire year. With that being said, roommates are your best friends in college basically (especially in the beginning) so set guidelines, boundaries, and rules so there are zero to very few arguments.
7. Being away from home
One thing that threw me for a loop was that I actually missed being at home. I missed my family, my bed, home-cooked dinners, free laundry, and especially my dogs. I missed my old routine feeling that I had everything under control. If there is one thing that I can stress to you, is enjoy being home while you are there.
8. Balance your schedule
Connecting back to making your schedule and all the flexibility it provides there is a downfall a lot of incoming college students are not aware of. This is credits, so typically, an individual takes 12-16 credits a semester, which equals out to be 4-5 classes each 50 minutes long. Now, these 4-5 classes you do not have every day, they usually happen 3 times a week. A lot of my friends have made the mistake of taking 3 hard classes with only 1 elective due to it appearing not to be a lot of work compared to taking 7 classes in high school. I'm here to tell you the BEST thing you can do for yourself is balance the hard classes with easier or more interesting electives.
What frightens a lot of people is the idea of a high school relationship going long distance. It really is not the end of the world if you or your significant others go to different schools in the same state or different state, it is manageable if you two are meant to work out. It will feel weird or difficult at first, but that will only be for a bit. Having social media in society makes long distant even easier to do compared to times in the past, so just hang in there and tough it out, it will be okay.
10. You don't need to know your major
A lot of people that come into college are undecided and that is OKAY. Your first 2 years of college typically consist of doing general-ed classes and electives to take in order to graduate. These general-ed classes typically tend to the pre-recs for many different majors. There are very few individuals who end up with knowing what they want to be when they grow up, and those who do think they know end up switching majors multiple times. You think you have it all figured out and you don't until you take a couple of classes in it.
Grades at college are different. People go from being a straight-A student in high-school and "average out" in college. Most classes are curved at UW Madison due to being known as a "weed out class" which is when they make it way harder than they actually need to. One of my first semester classes I took was a weed out class (and also my least favorite class ever) but the averages on the exams tended to be around 60%. This being said, it looks really bad, but typically tends to be curved (that doesn't mean don't give it all you got, because to get the class average of a 60% on a test means studying for 2 weeks for a weed out class). Also, do not skip lecture because that is what is 95% of what the test will be based on. College is no joke.
12. Meal plans
Trust me, you are going to over-estimate how much you are going to eat. Get the smaller meal plan, you can always add more money or change it if you need more. Save money!!
P.S. if you are a coffee addict like me, using a refillable mug for your coffee every morning saves you a lot of money due to the fact that they charge you the refill price for any size instead of the full price!