10 Tips for Your First Year of College


By Published on May 17, 2018

Starting your first year of college—whether you’re 18 or 50—can feel a little overwhelming. Between all of the new people, new classes, and new responsibilities, stress comes easily and is perfectly normal.

First, take a deep breath; you can do this. You’re about to start a journey that will help you and your family for years to come. In the meantime, here are 10 tips to make that journey a little bit easier and more manageable.

Pick an Organizational Tool That Works for You

While in college, you’ll have a lot of responsibilities to balance, especially if you have a job or a family. You’ll need to keep track of assignment due dates, upcoming tests, work deadlines, group project meetings, and more. Invest in an organizational system that works for you. Here are a few options:

  • A physical planner
  • Google Calendar
  • Apps like Wunderlist, Todoist, Any.do, etc.
  • Paper calendar

Each organizational tool has its own pros and cons. It doesn’t really matter which one you choose so long as it helps you.

Take a Campus Tour

Even if you’re pretty confident you’ll be able to find your way to class on the first day, taking a campus tour is still valuable. Tour guides often provide a lot of information about campus resources you may not have discovered on your own.

During the tour, you might think of different questions you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise, and your tour guide will probably either know the answer or know where to get the answer.

Read Through the Syllabi

Either before class starts or on the first day of class, you’ll likely receive a syllabus for each of your classes. Each professor will have their own rules and policies you’ll need to follow outlined in the syllabus—not to mention all of the due dates and reading assignments. A syllabus is like a contract between student and teacher and should provide you with the basic information you need to succeed in that course.

Take the time to carefully read through each syllabus and transfer due dates and other valuable info into your chosen organizational tool.

Meet With Your Academic Advisor

Academic advisors are an incredibly useful resource. They can help you navigate any problems that arise with your class schedule, figure out what major is best for you, and help you plan your way to graduation.

Don’t be afraid to schedule a meeting before your first day of class, and feel free to shoot them an email or set more appointments to go over questions throughout the semester. They’re there to help!

Set a Budget

College is not the time to wing your finances. At the beginning of each semester, sit down and assess your income, expenses, and needs, and make a budget you can realistically stick to throughout the semester.

Tools like Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, or dedicated financial software like Quicken make it easy to outline different spending categories so you know where all of your money goes each month.

Show up for Class

Once the semester gets going, it’s easy to skip class and just follow the assignment schedule on the syllabus. This is a bad idea for several reasons.

  • Some classes may have attendance quizzes
  • Lectures during classes often contain information that will show up on tests or even in your future career
  • Professors often give more information about papers, projects, assignments, and tests during class

If you need to miss a class once in a while for an emergency, that’s fine. Just make sure you communicate with your professor beforehand if possible.

Make a Meal Plan

Between balancing priorities like school, work, and a family, it’s easy for your diet to change drastically for the worse when you first go back to school. This can hurt your health and your wallet. Get in the habit of creating and sticking to a meal plan.

You can take several approaches to this. You can make a new plan each week or go with a rotating schedule. Pick a system that works for you.

Back up Your Files

Nothing is worse than working hard on a project or paper only to lose all of your work because of a computer glitch. Save yourself the stress and frustration by regularly backing up your work.

You can use tools like Google Drive, an external hard drive, iCloud, OneDrive, DropBox, etc.

Pick a Study Spot

Everyone has their own favorite way to study. Some people like to have music in the background, while others prefer silence. The important thing is to find an environment that is conducive to studying for you.

If you find studying at home works for you, great. If not, try finding a spot on campus that allows you to focus, or check out resources like your local library.

Take Advantage of Office Hours

Your professors are here to help. Most of them will likely have experience in the industries you want to go into. If you’re struggling with a class, or simply want some career advice, drop by during their office hours or set up an appointment with them.

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