Top 7 tips to help students succeed in their first year of college:
1. Go to class and read all assignments. Plan for academic success by covering the basics. Professors may or may not take attendance, but in order to pass, you need to be in class. If you want to be a high achiever, take decent notes, read assignments before you go to class, and review your notes weekly. Apply the strategies that made you academically successful in high school and avoid the temptations of sleeping through class and procrastinating on assignments.
2. Meet as many people as you can in the first month of school. The first month of the school year everyone is getting to know one another before settling into more established patterns. It is an ideal time to develop a broad social base. Make friends with at least two people in each of your classes. These are the people you can contact if you have questions or need notes. Plus, it is more fun to form study groups with friends.
Some freshmen find themselves homesick and turn to familiar faces from high school (in person or on the phone) and miss out on this initial meet & greet phase. When they are finally ready to make new friends, they feel even more left out because everyone else has started new friendships.
3. Attend events on campus, not just parties. Take advantage of campus programs and get to know the variety of clubs, organizations, and activities available at your school. Most colleges plan a lot of back to school activities to help new students feel welcome on campus. Get over the fact that some of the events may not be your style and embrace the opportunity to meet new people and do something new. Attend orientation mixers, guest lectures, coffee with professors, open house for campus organizations, and dorm socials.
4. Eat a balanced diet and get adequate sleep. Yes, this may be the same common sense advice your mother would give you, but it works. The “freshman fifteen” (typical 15 pounds gained by college freshman) is no joke. Too much pizza, junk from the vending machines, and late night snacking doesn’t just affect your waistline, it saps your energy and overall health. When you eat well and get regular sleep, your body and brain work better. I can’t count the number of times I stayed up late writing a paper, only to read my work the next morning and wonder, “What was I thinking?” What seemed so good to my sleep-deprived brain, was actually terrible writing. You will be more productive and effective when you take care of yourself.
5. Set a work schedule and stick with it. Treat college like you would a job. Schedule time for classes and studying. Coming from high school where seven or more hours a day were accounted for to college where you might only have a few hours of class a day can lead to a lot of wasted time. Some freshman make the mistake of thinking studying will just happen in all their unscheduled time. I can tell you from experience, there is always something else to do and studying can too easily get pushed aside if you don’t schedule time for it. Block out a few hours each day; go to the library if you have to and you will be surprised at how easily you are able to keep up with assignments, projects, and reading.
6. Don’t overindulge in drink or drugs. I’m not so naïve that I believe there isn’t underage drinking or drug use on every college campus. Even dry campuses, Christian schools, and conservative universities have some degree of alcohol and drug use. I don’t need to go through all the logical arguments for this. Use good judgment. Know your own limits. Be safe.
7. Go in with realistic expectations and an open mind. I’ve known some students who expect their dream college will be perfect; it never is. I’ve also known students who entered college with a plan of transferring and were so intent on getting out that they missed opportunities. Every school will have strengths and weaknesses, people you like and people you’d rather avoid, good classes and not so good classes. Be open to the possibilities your new school offers and look for ways to make the best out of the negatives.
It can take a semester, or a full year, to adjust to college life, so don’t expect everything to go smoothly the first semester. College success is more about consistency and perseverance than anything else.