Your freshman year of college is one of the most exciting and nerve-wracking times of your life. Whether you’re going away to college or you’re attending a local school, the first year of college is typically a daunting experience.
Unfortunately, it’s even more overwhelming now; with 2020 changing the way the world (and college) works, we know you might be feeling a little crestfallen or confused on how to navigate your freshman year of college amidst online classes and social distancing.
Your freshman year should be about fun, learning, and opportunities—not about stress and pressure. At Campus Colors, we believe in the beauty of rooting for our school and our students. So, we’re going to give you some tips on how to make your first year of college incredible, whether you’re going in-person or online.
Here are 15 tips to make your freshman year of college memorable and successful:
- Go to class (even online classes).
- Join a club.
- Focus on health.
- Try new things.
- Check out your university’s resources.
- Get to know your professors.
- Expand your network.
- Follow a budget.
- Wash your sheets.
- Protect your computer.
- Don’t feel pressured to choose a career.
- Show pride in your school.
- Ask lots of questions.
- Get organized.
- Be present.
1. Go to class (even online classes).
This is a widely-debated topic among college students, and some even find it a point of pride to not attend all their classes. But not going to class is one of the biggest mistakes you can make, especially during your freshman year of college. First, your professors might count attendance and participation when giving you a grade. Second, they might drop hints about what’s going to be on the exam, or they might teach topics that aren’t in the book (but will be on the exam). Third, learning is why you’re in college! Attending class is the best way to learn the material, hear from brilliant professors, enter into open conversations with classmates, and increase your intelligence.
2. Join a club.
Schoolwork is important, but college involves more than just learning; it’s also about experiences. One of the best ways to learn new skills, get involved, and meet people is by joining a club or two. The club might be about something you already love doing (like being a student-athlete), or it might be to try something totally new (like joining the Quidditch team). Don’t be afraid to try new things; you never know what might become your next great passion!
3. Focus on health.
You only get one body and one mind—that’s it. If your health fails, everything else will too: your academics, social life, athletics, and mental health. Unfortunately, being in a new environment, especially if you’re living in a dormitory, means you’re more likely to get sick. Especially now, with the concerns of COVID-19 paired with the cold-and-flu season, taking your health seriously is more important than ever. That means sleeping plenty, staying hydrated, eating healthy, minimizing caffeine and alcohol intake, and minimizing stress (that’s a big one).
4. Try new things.
Try out as many clubs as you can. Sample different classes during add-drop period. Get involved in campus traditions, like attending a college festival or dressing up in a costume for a big game. Explore the campus to find gorgeous settings and your favorite cozy corner. Adventure out into the surrounding city for cultural and fun experiences.
If you’re staying inside for social distance, you can still do cool things—like attending a virtual yoga class or getting involved in a livestream virtual speaker event. Some colleges and clubs are even adjusting their events to keep students involved virtually, like hosting virtual Netflix parties or doing virtual field trips and trivia contests.
Just go do stuff! Your college experience will be so much more exciting, fun, and enriching if you’re not afraid to step out of your comfort zone.
5. Check out your university’s resources.
One of the biggest mistakes that college students make is not realizing what resources their university has available until it’s too late. Your college probably has a lot of free or low-cost resources that you can utilize: tech support centers, health clinics, mental health resources, talks and seminars, programs, tutoring, academic advisors, career counseling, library resources, fitness facilities, and more. These resources can be a gamechanger in terms of taking control of your health, academics, athletics, and your future.
6. Get to know your professors.
Your professors aren’t just there to teach you for a few hours every week. They can be invaluable resources both for class as well as for your career and other questions (even questions about your social life). They may even become professional networks or close friends. Go to office hours, ask questions, and use their knowledge and expertise. Starting to build a strong networking foundation your freshman year in college will pay off dividends by the time you’re in post-grad.
7. Expand your network.
Meet new people; the friends you make in college will likely be your friends for life. They’ll also become your first point-of-contact for a professional network out in “the real world.” Did you know that J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings) and C.S. Lewis (Narnia) were friends in college and helped encourage each other’s writing?
So, join clubs, talk to people in your classes, go to orientations, say hi to someone sitting at the same library table as you. Remember that everyone else is in the same position as you. Other freshmen are also looking for friends, and students in other grade levels will be willing to help or expand their networks, too.
If you’re taking online classes, this part can feel a little trickier. Don’t be afraid to reach out to classmates for online study sessions or just for a virtual coffee chat. Nice people (who will be a benefit to your network and life) will be more than happy to hang out and see if you two could be a good friendship fit!
8. Follow a budget.
College is the best time to learn financial literacy. You don’t want to leave college feeling unprepared for the real world, especially when it comes to money. We recommend creating a budget and sticking to it. Live within your means and create an emergency fund “just in case.” Keep track of financial aid schedules and loan payoff deadlines. Consider getting a part-time job (bonus points if it is related to your major!). Get a credit card to start building a line of credit, but don’t overuse it.
Most schools offer some sort of financial literacy program or seminars, so attend these to learn how to get your finances in order now so you can set your future up for success.
9. Wash your sheets.
You should be washing your sheets every two weeks. If you didn’t know that (or if you didn’t know that you need to separate your reds from your whites), that’s okay. Laundry is one of those life skills that a lot of people learn their first year in college. The best habits to start with are to wash your sheets and to separate your clothes by color and type. Be sure to also take out your clean clothes as soon as they are done so that you don’t hog a machine or so they don’t end up on the top of an unclean laundry machine.
We like this guide for how to do laundry in college to get you started with ease.
If you’re taking classes from home, now is still a good time to learn how to do laundry!
10. Protect your computer.
One of the worst mishaps you’ll face in college is the dreaded computer malfunction. Maybe you spilled coffee on your laptop and the hard drive is fried. Maybe your files won’t open due to a virus. Whatever the cause, suddenly losing access to all your work can be detrimental—especially during midterms and finals.
Always, always back up your files. Google Drive and Dropbox make this so easy that you don’t even have to think about it; the files back up automatically. Google offers 15GG of storage for free, so this is a great option for students.
You should also install software that protects against malware and hacks. Using your school’s open network puts your computer at risk, so you’ll want to look into reputable virus defenders and private VPNs to keep your computer safe from the unknown. Your school’s tech desk may have some great advice on available, low-cost software that works.
11. Don’t feel pressured to choose a career.
You’re going to have to pick a major, and every school’s requirements are different. Choose a major that you love and enjoy. Don’t select something based on a career you may or may not want after school. College is about learning and experiencing. You don’t want to make a decision now that will pigeonhole you into a career path that you haven’t fallen in love with yet. If you’re going premed, make sure you love helping patients. If you choose political science, you better get amped up for the debates. Our best advice? Pay attention to the classes that you like attending the most and the homework you’re most excited to do; that will tell you what you enjoy and what you should major in!
12. Show pride in your school.
There’s something really special about everyone dressing up for a big game or wearing their college sweatshirt to class. Everyone on campus—even with remote classes—can unite about one thing: we all love our school. So show off your pride with a school sweatshirt or with a hat in your campus colors. Representing your school colors will make your experience more uniting, fun, and memorable.
13. Ask lots of questions.
There’s a Chinese proverb that goes “He who asks a question remains a fool for a minute. He who does not ask remains a fool forever.” College is a new experience for you—just like it is for all freshmen. You’re here to learn, not to know everything. Ask your friends about themselves. Ask your professors for advice. Ask, ask, ask. The more you soak up, the richer your college experience will be.
14. Get organized.
There are endless things to remember when you’re a college student. So, focus on organization in order to get ahead. Schedule out your classes, clubs, and exams. Figure out what kind of time management strategies and study tools work best for you. You’ll even want to set up your dorm room so it helps you stay focused. One of the best accessories you can get is a college-themed clock, so you’re never late to class or events.
Check out these helpful tips for staying organized in college.
15. Be present.
College is an incredibly rewarding experience. Your freshman year of college is one you will never forget. You’ll have the memories, the people, and the learning with you for the rest of your life. So stay aware, be present, and get involved. The more you do, see, and grow, the happier you’ll be for your first year of college and beyond.
Find your school here to check out all the awesome gear that will get you ready for your freshman year of college.