Freshman year of college: pretty exciting, right? It’s also a huge first dose of freedom for many. While it’s a great time in your life, a few mistakes can easily ruin the whole experience. Look for these speed bumps, and avoid them.
1. You’ll be lost in a sea of freshman and your professor will never know who you are. Every fall, a new wave of freshman wash ashore on the steps of big colleges and universities everywhere, and every fall these freshman become just a name and number to their professors. The one-on-one instruction of high school gets thrown out the window.
Solution: Visit your professors during their office hours. Suddenly you’ve gone from one of hundreds of faceless students in a huge lecture hall to the new kid that’s showing a little extra effort, and jaded professors put names and eager faces together. Also, office hours are where you can discuss borderline grades and ask for extra credit assignments. Just don’t suck up—professors and their TAs can spot apple-polishers a mile away.
2. You’ll be tempted to skip classes.
In high school, it wasn’t very easy to skip class. Unless you were Ferris Bueller, you had to go to school and be in your seat for every class. In college, the world is your oyster and you don’t have to go to that 8 a.m. Intro to American Literature. The problem is, once you skip one class, skipping additional classes gets easier.
Solution: Get out of bed and go to class, frosh. It’s easier than trying to fill in the gaps and borrowing unreliable notes from your classmates. That said, if your professor takes an attendance grade, you have no say in the matter.
3. You’ll regret jumping into that exclusive relationship. I know, I know—the heart wants what the heart wants, but your freshman year of college is going to be one of the busiest years of your life: overwhelming workloads, new schedules, new friends, intimidating profs, new social life, and that list goes on. The last thing you need is the drama of a relationship closing you off from loads of new social opportunities.
Solution: Play it by ear—keep your schedule open. Your school will have dozens of free-for-student events every week—go to those. But what if you enter college and you left a significant other back home? Good luck. Most 17-year-olds have a hard time adapting to going off to college as they leave their S.O. back home. Ever heard of the “Turkey Dump?” It’s what happens when a student returns home from college during Thanksgiving and breaks up with their high school significant other. There are exceptions to the rule, but these are very few and far between.
4. You’ll blow your wad during the first semester.
Freshmen tend to get overly excited their first semester and it’s understandable—it’s their first real taste of freedom and one of the first things to go is their restraint, then the measly savings they saved up from their horrible summer jobs and grandma’s high school graduation checks.
Solution: Pace yourself. Put yourself on a budget. I scraped by on $20 a week. You can too.
5. You’re going to overspend on textbooks—textbooks you might not need.
I know, you’re eager and excited, but don’t buy all of your books the first week of class. You will not need a $100-plus textbook on your first day of class. And you may end up switching or dropping courses.
Solution #1: Find out what books your instructors will be using and compare those to older editions. Then look up the ISBNs online. There’s a good chance you can use older (but still relevant) used books online. A cool professor will tell you what the editions’ differences are. On the other hand, if your professor happened to write your required textbook, you might be forced to buy new.
Soultion #2: Check the textbook out of the library or through an interlibrary loan. A student might nab it before you, but it’s worth a shot.
Solution #3: Amazon has a textbook program now where you can borrow the book for a nominal fee and return it when the class is over.
6. You’re going to gain weight.
The Freshmen 15—it’s real. With late night snacking in the dorm, parties galore, and pretty much unlimited food in the dining hall, it’s no wonder freshman put on the pounds.
Solution: Monitor what you eat! If the cafeteria is too tempting, go for only one meal instead of all three, and eat sensibly elsewhere. Limit your snacking to healthier choices that won’t cost too many calories (rent a mini-fridge for you dorm—it’ll help.) And look into your school’s gym: it’s almost always free (well not free—that’s where part of your tuition is going).
7. You’re going to be tempted to drink that weird drink.
The red Solo cup that stranger put in your hand as you walked into the party full of strangers? Don’t drink it. The jungle juice filled with chunks of fruit? Skip it (especially the fruit). Tempting Jell-O shots? Politely decline.
Solution: Don’t drink anything that you didn’t pour from a tap or that you didn’t open yourself. It’s a sad truth, but people still slip drugs in drinks. Almost forgot—don’t leave your drink unattended.
8. High school overachievers will have their egos crushed. You might’ve been the valedictorian in your graduating high school class, but you’re in college now and you’re going to be competing with a lot of other valedictorians. You’re probably not going to be the top dog on campus anymore—don’t panic.
Solution: Stick with the game plan that got you to the top in high school. If you nailed a 4.0 GPA in high school, don’t change your study habits. This isn’t a race and those who think it is burn out fast.
Photo credit: velkr0 via Flickr