Starting freshman year is one of the most exciting experiences you’ll have. It’s also one of the most stressful! Those first weeks and months are nerve wracking, especially as you navigate a new campus, meet more people than you can imagine, learn what’s expected of you academically, dive into dorm life and more.
Lucky for you, we’ve created a survival guide with our top ten tips for helping get through your first year with more confidence and ease. We’re thankful to contributors Christopher Trinh, who wrote 3 Essential Essay Tips, and Jessica Chen, who wrote Networking: Quality not Quantity.
1. Join something
Clubs will recruit you like crazy with flyers and offers of free pizza, but you can escape the fray by being proactive: Research organizations you’re interested in and then simply show up. If you don’t find a group you click with right away, keep looking. Joining a club not only helps you make new friends and network but spiffs up your resume as well.
2. Know your academic advisor
You may need to check out several advisors, but find one who is a good fit for your personality and tap into his or her knowledge. It’s never too early to draft a college and career plan, explore requirements for studying aboard or get pros and cons on different majors.
3. Expect ups and downs
Along with new friends and freedoms come struggles with classes, being homesick, relationships and routines. College isn’t perfect, and knowing that tough times are par for the course will help you get through them. Remember, too, you’re not alone – others are facing ups and downs, too.
4.Network with older students
Your first year is easier when you develop authentic relationships with upperclassmen. They’ve walked in your shoes and some have even taken the same classes; many are happy to guide you on everything from dorm life to academics to cool off-campus hangouts.
5. Use an online calendar
College life can be packed 24/7 if you’re not careful, so using an online calendar with email and text alerts will help you plan out all of your priorities and ensure that you don’t overextend yourself or ever miss a deadline.
6. Keep bad habits at bay
Too many all nighters, energy drinks and fast foods during crunch times hurt you in the long run. Rather than letting bad habits run amok, make good health a priority. Not only will you avoid getting sick, you won’t be stressed about trying to make up those missed classes.
7. Be smart with money
Chances are good you’ll graduate with some debt, so learn to budget now. That means avoiding credit cards, buying used books, budgeting for transportation and watching food expenses.
8. Consider a job
Part-time work can ease stress by bringing in money and giving you a break from school. Getting work experience, adding to your resume, and building your network are all great reasons to consider a job. On the flipside, it can also add pressure if you already have a heavy class load. Consider all areas of your life – financial, academic and social – before taking a job.
9. Ask for help
If isolation, overwhelm or even depression are getting you down, check out the heath and counseling centers. Asking for the support you need is essential not only to your academic career but to your heath and overall wellbeing.
10. Go easy on yourself
Freshman year has high expectations; after all, isn’t college what you’ve worked so hard for your entire high school years? Keep in mind, though, that it’s a new experience, you’ll have a learning curve (in more than academics) and that doing your best is, well, good enough – better, actually.