College Survival Guide

Enjoy all your hard work on laying the groundwork for a successful college career, and be determined to make it through your freshman year and beyond. Take advantage of your network of new friends and professors and have fun while learning as much as you can. Get the most out of your college experience!

The decisions you make and the actions you take during this first year of college will have a major impact on the rest of your college experience as well as on the rest of your life. The following 25 tips are things you need to do to not only survive your first year of college, but also to thrive. Practice the following steps to develop the tools, skills, and habits needed to help you succeed in college and in your future career.

  1. Go to all orientations. Do you really need to go on yet another campus tour? Yes! The faster you learn your way around campus, the more at ease you'll feel and the better prepared you'll be when issues arise.
  2. Get to know your roommate and others in your residence hall. The people you live with are going through similar experiences and emotions. Let them be your safety net.
  3. Get Organized. In high school, the teachers tended to lead you through all the homework and due dates. In college, the professors post the assignments for the entire semester and expect you to be prepared. Buy an organizer, a PDA, a large wall calendar or whatever it takes for you to know when assignments are due.
  4. Find the ideal place to study. It may be your dorm room or a corner of the library, but find a place that works best for you to get your work done and avoid distractions.
  5. Go to class. Besides learning the material by attending classes, you'll also receive vital information from the professors about what to expect on tests, changes in due dates, etc.
  6. Become an expert on course requirements and due dates. Professors spend hours preparing course syllabi and calendars so that you will know exactly what is expected of you and when. It is not acceptable for a college student to give a professor the excuse: "I didn't know it was due today."
  7. Meet with your professors. There are benefits to getting to know your professors, especially if later in the semester you run into problems. Professors schedule office hours for the special purpose of meeting with students. Take advantage of that time!
  8. Get to know your academic adviser. This person is a key resource for you and should be the person you turn to with any academic issues or conflicts, such as; adding or dropping courses, scheduling classes for future semesters, or deciding on majors and minors. Don’t be afraid of requesting another adviser if you don't click with the one first assigned to you.
  9. Seek a balance. College life is a mixture of social and academic happenings. Don't tip the balance too far in either direction.
  10. Get involved on campus. A big problem for many new students is a combination of homesickness and a feeling of not quite belonging. Consider joining student organizations, clubs, sororities/fraternities, or sports teams. You'll make new friends, learn new skills, and feel more connected to your school.
  11. Strive for good grades. Set goals for yourself and then make sure you work as hard as you can to achieve them.
  12. Take advantage of the study resources on campus. Just about all colleges have learning centers and tutors available.
  13. Make time for you. Be sure you set aside some time for activities that help you relax and take the stress out of your day or week.
  14. Don't feel pressured to make a hasty decision about a career or a major. It doesn't matter if it seems as though everyone else seems to know what they're doing with their lives.  College is the time for you to really discover who you are, what you enjoy doing, what you're good at, and what you want to be. It's not a race; take your time and enjoy exploring your options.
  15. Take responsibility for yourself and your actions. Don't look to place the blame on others for your mistakes; own up to them and move on. Being an adult means taking responsibility for everything that happens to you.
  16. Make connections with students in your classes. In the first week of classes, meet at least one new person in each of your classes. This will expand your network of friends and can be a crucial resource at times when you may have to miss a class.
  17. Find the Career Services Office. Regardless of whether you are entering college as undeclared or have your entire future mapped out, seek out the professionals in your college's career services office and get started on planning, preparing, and acting on your future.
  18. Don't procrastinate; prioritize your life. It may have been easy in high school to wait until the last minute to complete an assignment and still get a good grade, but that will not work for you in college. Give yourself deadlines and stick to them.
  19. Stay healthy/Eat Right. A lot of problems first-year students face can be traced back to an illness that kept them away from classes for an extended period of time that led to a downward spiraling effect. Get enough sleep, exercise, take your vitamins, and eat right.
  20. Learn to cope with homesickness. It's only natural that there will be times when you miss your family. Find a way to deal with those feelings, such as making a phone call or sending an email home.
  21. Stay on campus as much as possible. The more time you spend getting to know the campus and your new friends, the more you'll feel at home at school. Take advantage of all the cultural and social events that happen on campus.
  22. Seek professional help when you need it. Most colleges have health and counseling centers. If you're sick or feeling isolated or depressed, take advantage of the many services these offices provide students. You don't have to face these issues by yourself.
  23. Keep track of your money. If you've never had to create a budget, now is the time to do so. Find ways to stretch your money and avoid all the credit card offers you'll soon be receiving. For money management tips and to begin building a budget, visit www.getmoneysmarts.org
  24. Don't cut corners. College is all about learning. If you procrastinate and cram, you may still do well on tests, but you'll learn very little.
  25. Be prepared to feel overwhelmed. There's a lot going in your life right now. Expect to have moments where it seems a bit too much, the trick is knowing that you're not the only one feeling that way.

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