There’s a long list of must-have items on every college student’s checklist. Do a Google search and you will find numerous helpful options, with lists running the gamut from bedding, room décor, laundry needs (yes, you will have to do your own laundry), food, kitchen, bathroom and, surprise, school supplies. I find it interesting that school supplies are the last items on all the college lists, but that’s a topic for another time.
While planning for your campus entry is important, arguably what you do once you arrive on campus is far more important. This is especially true for college freshmen. College life is a new, exciting, and sometimes overwhelming, world.
Your freshman year is a major transition along the path to adulthood. For many new college students, it might be the first extended period away from home and family. The unfamiliar environment, new roommates, and freedom to do (or not) as you please, can be overwhelming for some freshmen.
So how can you ensure that you get off to a great start? We’ve got a checklist for that too.
Campus Grotto has an excellent blog post with 100 tips for surviving freshman year. 100? Yes 100, plus four bonus tips! They are well thought out and written by fellow students. There’s no better advice than advice from someone who has already walked in your shoes.
Below are three of my favorite tips.
#48. Get along with your roommate.
You and your roommate(s) might never be best friends, but being clear about what is important to you and your roommate(s) up front will make for a far better living situation. Take the time to establish agreement on the key issues, such as study time, food sharing, and overnight guests. The conversation might be a bit uncomfortable at first but trust me, gaining alignment early will save a lot of headaches later on.
#64. Take a variety of classes before selecting your major.
This is great advice. College is the time to expand your horizons and explore new courses. Unless you are going premed or pre-professional, your major will not determine your life path. Who knows, you may discover a passion for a topic you had never explored before. A well-rounded education is the best preparation for life.
#87. Go to class.
College is expensive. Really expensive. If you are carrying a full load (4 courses/semester), the cost of skipping one class ranges from $50/class for in-state public universities to well over $150/class at typical private college tuition. You would have to work between 7 and 20 hours at a minimum wage job to pay for an extra hour of sleep. So not worth it.
And here’s my cautionary note on Tip #31: College Loans.
Only borrow as much as your anticipated first year salary. This is a great guideline for ensuring that you do not borrow more than you can afford. You don’t want to graduate buried in so much debt that you can’t take advantage of employer 401K plans or never have a chance at owning a home. Being buried in debt is like drowning with no life preserver in sight. Not fun.
Lastly, here are two of my favorite personal recommendations that aren’t on the checklist.
Keep your GPA up.
After you start your professional career, your GPA doesn’t matter but until then, it matters. A lot. One really bad semester can set your four-year GPA back so far that you’ll never recover. For top jobs, GPA often is the first thing that employers screen to weed out “lesser” candidates. Take advantage of office hours with your professors and on campus tutors if you are struggling. It’s far better to get help early.
Visit your career office right away.
You may be inclined to ignore this one but please don’t. Your career office is your connection to the outside world of summer internships and postgraduate jobs. Attend the employer information sessions that are held in the fall. They usually are staffed by recent grads from your school. Your fellow alumni are eager to share what they know and help you out.
Knowing the recruiting calendar up front will help you avoid the killer mistake of missing the recruiting season. Ignore this and you might be scooping ice cream or mowing lawns next summer.
Lastly, remember if you are a freshman or a transfer student, it can take a good six to eight weeks to find your groove at school. There will be up’s and down’s, the occasional homesickness for some, but it will pass. It’s an exciting chapter you are embarking on where you get to write your story. Why not make it a great one?