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Survival Guide for College Freshman

By Annie Hale

Going from a senior in high school to a freshman at a college or university can be a difficult transition for many students. Here are some tips to help make that adjustment a little easier as well as several tips for all those first-time college parents. Get ready for the four (hopefully) best years of your life because they will fly by!

Dealing with roommates

1. Your roomie. It’s nice to room with a friend, but sharing close quarters can be challenging for even the best of friends.  Also, you may not take time to make new friends. If you do potluck, find your future roommate on facebook and get to know them before move in day.

2. Make a set of rules with your roommate. If you know you hate it when someone presses the snooze button multiple times before they actually wake up, or you need to study with music playing, let your roommate know. It’s always good to be clear from the beginning so you eliminate any potential problems.

3. Talk to your roommate about who will bring what. Look at a list of restricted items, as well as items that your dorm room provides. Decide who will bring a TV, refrigerator, etc.

4. Respect your roommate’s things and space. Borrowing things without asking can lead to many problems. Never assume your roommate will be okay with anything.

5. Lock the doors when you leave. You and your roommate’s pricey electronics will be eye catching to many, and an unlocked door will be sure to make one thief’s lucky day.

6. Talk to your roommate about having visitors. This is a big issue for any college student living with a roommate. Whe­ther it’s friends from high school in town for the big game, or a study group using your room, talk with your roommate and make sure it’s okay beforehand.

7. Clean up after yourself. Do your part and take the trash out and keep your area tidy. After living with someone and putting up with their dirty habits, you will realize why mom was so insistent on doing chores.

Dorm Life

1. Get to know your Resident Assistant.  This is important for those nights that you get locked out of your room or getting you out of trouble when you forget what time visitation hours end.

2. Use your meal plan. It’s nice to eat out with your friends, but saving money by eating in the cafeteria will be well worth it.

3. Eat healthy and exercise regularly.  Sure it’s hard to get into a routine, but if you start early, it will be easier to stick with.

4. Get a bicycle. It’s a great work out and will help you get to and from classes faster.

5. Don’t take everything you own with you. More than likely, your dorm room closet won’t be anything more than a tiny space. Only take necessities and leave your winter clothes at home until Thanksgiving break.

6. Don’t buy bottled water. Buy a Brita water filter pitcher and a reusable water bottle and you will never have to buy bottled water again.

7. Get plenty of sleep and take a multi-vitamin. You will be thankful for this when the illnesses start traveling around the dorms.

Before Classes Start

1. Go to all orientations available. No one wants to be that freshman walking around with a campus map on the first day of classes. Go to orientations so you meet new friends and learn your way around campus.

2. Don’t get textbooks until classes start. I often buy hundreds of dollars worth of books each semester and they rarely get used. See how the first few weeks go or ask an upper classman who took the class if you will use the book. You may spend more than $100 on one book, and you’ll be lucky if you get $20 when you sell it back.

3. Buy/Rent books online. Web sites like amazon.com or chegg.com allow for you to buy or rent textbooks at a fraction of the cost. Order ahead of time so you have them available the first day of class or wait to see if you will need them.

4. Don’t over do it your first semester. That first semester is tough. Take a light course load so you can learn to adjust.

Academia Tips

1. Attend all classes. Yes, it’s tempting to skip your 8:30 a.m. class that doesn’t take attendance, but come finals week, it will pay off. I’ve had professors who like to give pop-quizzes on days where not many students show up. The quiz consisted of writing our name on a piece of paper. Easiest A I ever made!

2. Make friends in your classes. On the first day of class, meet at least one person and exchange contact information. If you happen to miss class one day or want a study partner, use them as a resource to swap notes or study for the big exam.

3. Take good notes. Oftentimes, a professor will talk too fast to take adequate notes. Using a tape recorder is good, but I know I rarely want to hear the same lecture twice. Take down legible notes as best as you can, and meet with a classmate once a week to compare notes to get anything you may have missed.

4. Don’t be scared to raise your hand or ask questions. Professors like being probed and love when students stop them to ask questions. They never turn away a student who participates in class discussions.

5. If you don’t like early mornings, steer clear from early classes. You make your schedule now, so avoid early classes so you can sleep in.

6. It’s never too early to think about graduation. Make a graduation plan with your advisor so you can stay on track and graduate on time.

Staying Focused

1. Don’t procrastinate. Although I’ve found that I often do better under a strict time constraint of starting a major project or essay the night before, it’s not worth the stress and sleep loss that comes with it. Start early so you can double check for mistakes or changes.

2. Get to know your professors. It’s a good idea to utilize your professors’ office hours or visit them after class. Introduce yourself so they know who your are and always remember, your professors want to help. If you end the semester with an 89.3 and want that A, e-mail them to bump you up.

3. Be organized. Buy a planner and use it. Professors don’t baby you like teachers in high school. Your class syllabus will normally have all due dates you need to know, and your professor won’t mention them again. Go through your planner and write down all due dates ahead of time and post reminders every week.

4. You may have many exams and papers due in the same week or two exams on the same day during finals week. Don’t stress. Plan ahead of time and balance your class work and study time so you don’t get behind in one particular class. Staying organized is key.

5. Find a relaxing place to study. If you study in your dorm, you may be easily distracted by everything going on around you. Find a comfortable study area or a bench on campus that makes it easy for you to concentrate and get your work done.

6. Find a balance. It’s tough to keep up academics while establishing a social life your freshman year. Have fun, but don’t lose sight of what you went to college for.

7. Some professors may allow for a note card to be used on an exam. Notes typed up in size five font can easily be read with a good pair of glasses.

8. Take advantage of academic resour­ces. Writing centers are available to assist you with editing or formatting papers. Career Services often has job fairs, resume writing classes, or interviewing tips. Take advantage of what your campus may offer.

9. If you are falling behind or failing a class, get a tutor. Don’t wait until it’s too late to find help. I’m sure mom and dad would be happy to pay for a tutor over retaking a class.


1. Never turn down a quick nap. Twenty-minute power naps keep me going throughout each week. Nothing motivates me more to wake up for my early class than knowing I get to come back after and take a quick nap before work.

2. Call home. Don’t screen your parents’ calls or let the first month go by before you call home. Sure, it’s nice to be on your own, but let your parents in on how classes are going and all the friends you’re making.

3. Get involved in at least one organization, club or intramural team. It’s great to take part in something of special interest to you and meet new friends while doing it.

4. Read the school paper. Keep updated on school news so you won’t be left out on the latest buzz around campus.

5. Support your athletic department. Go to football games and other athletic events. Buying student tickets for football and basketball are well worth it. Most other sporting events are free for students, so take advantage. Most universities hand out free T-shirts or other incentives for attending games.

6. Don’t lose touch with your high school friends. Coming back home from freshman year is a blast when you reconnect with all your friends. Keep in touch throughout the year and keep them updated.

7. If you want a job to make some extra cash, look into an on-campus job. These jobs are very flexible and will work around your class schedule. Also, try not to work too many hours each week so you leave time to enjoy the college life.

8. Take advantage of free concerts or movie showings. Most campuses offer activities like these to keep students busy. Anything of no cost is always a good thing.

Tips for Moms and Dads

1. Move-in Day. It will most likely be an all-day event, so have lots of help, plenty of water, and a great deal of patience.

2. They will call. It may take a week or more, but don’t worry. Your college student has a new found freedom and they may take advantage of that at first, but wait it out. They will miss home, eventually.

3. Visit them on Parents Weekend. They may not act like it, but they secretly love visits from you.

4. Spoil them when they visit home. Home cooked meals beat cafeteria food any day. So treat your college student with the foods they love.

5. Within reason, try to respect their new life. Incorporate their newfound independence with your house rules when it comes to setting curfews during their trips home.

6. Care packages are the best. Loading a gift basket for your college student with money, toiletries, and non-perishable foods is always a good idea. Getting these before finals week is a great way to let your son or daughter know you’re thinking of them.

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