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7 Tips for College Freshmen

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For many college freshmen, this is an exciting time of year. With the first semester behind you, your first round of exams accomplished, and your first big break wrapping up, it's time to head back to school, a place that's hopefully feeling more and more like a second home every day. Whether you’re a brand-new student just starting out this semester, or a returning freshman, these tips should help you succeed, and enjoy, as you set off on the first phase of your college career.

For many college freshmen, this is an exciting time of year. With the first semester behind you, your first round of exams accomplished, and your first big break wrapping up, it’s time to head back to school, a place that’s hopefully feeling more and more like a second home every day. Whether you’re a brand-new student just starting out this semester, or a returning freshman, these tips should help you succeed, and enjoy, as you set off on the first phase of your college career.

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(Photo Credit: CollegeDegrees360/Flickr)

1. Be in the moment.

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College is funny. It’s all about preparing for the future, but it’s also very important that you enjoy the present. You’ve heard people say that this is going to be a fun, rewarding, and very exciting period of your life, and that’s true. So, try to be present and enjoy it. Just by nature of being there, you are doing a great deal to prepare for your future. Try not to get too hung up on worrying about what comes next — enjoy this time for this time’s sake. Of course you’ll want to choose a major thoughtfully, and work toward a career that excites you with consistent diligence. Focusing on preparing for the future is what this is all about, and rising to that obligation is your job as a student. But, don’t forget to be in the present as well. It’s a pretty dynamic place.

2. Talk to lots of different people.

For many new college students, this is your first time away from home, and maybe even your first time living somewhere other than your hometown. There is so much to learn from meeting and interacting with people with different backgrounds and experiences. Talk to everyone. Ask questions. Share your own experiences and perspectives as you go, as this will help others to open up with you. Getting to know a more diverse group of people than you did in high school might just be one of the coolest things about college. You’ll have a totally different world view, and a much broader perspective and even a richer understanding of yourself, by the time you graduate.

3. Be more independent.

There isn’t as much hand-holding in college. If you don’t go to class, no one is going to call your mother and ask about your whereabouts. It’s time to be a self-starter. You need to manage your time independently, being sure to attend to all of your obligations without anyone’s help. It’s very satisfying to manage your own life, but it’s challenging too. Be organized and consistent. Make a plan for the day, the week, the semester, that works for you and follow it. It’ll feel great to manage your schedule in a way that works best for you. If you do fall behind, take it upon yourself to catch up as quickly as you can. It’s unlikely that anyone is going to push you to do so, so don’t wait to “get caught” before you grapple with problems. Autonomy isn’t just about independence, it’s about responsibility, too.

4. Advocate for yourself.

Although it’s important that you function more independently these days that does not mean that you shouldn’t ask for support and guidance as needed. Just the opposite is true. Part of growing up is learning to self-advocate. Ask your professor for some extra help if you’re struggling with content. Speak to your advisor if you have questions about your courses or program. Talk to your family if you’re looking for advice along the way. So many people are excited to help guide you during this time. All you need to do is let them know how.

5. Focus on improving your writing skills.

No matter which career you end up choosing, knowing how to write well will be a huge asset for you. Overall, the quality of students’ writing has been on the decline for some time, so this is something that could really set you apart from the pack. Being able to express thoughts and ideas clearly and articulately, in writing, is a skill that college graduates really ought to posses. Give your full effort and attention to your writing – really do your best. Be vigilant about grammar, typos, and always proofread absolutely everything you write. Try to do this a few hours after finishing your final draft; it will help you identify your own mistakes more easily.

6. Work for three hours each day.

One of the most common challenges when beginning college is learning to balance your schedule. It’s difficult because, on one hand, you have kind of a ton of free time. Classes only take up so much time, often leaving you many hours to work with every day to accomplish the things you need to do. On the other hand, you have a lot of assignments, unlike anything you’re used to. The reading can be overwhelming, and a great deal of writing and exam/assessment prep is also required. But, don’t let your worried mind run wild about how much you have to do. Realistically, one can accomplish quite a lot in just a few focused hours. Commit to working on your courses for just three hours each day, and see what happens. Spend this time in an environment where you can focus, and be consistent with a routine. You won’t believe how much you’ll get done and how on top of things you’ll feel. And, it really didn’t take that much time after all.

7. Fully appreciate the opportunity.

Don’t ever forget how fortunate you are to be doing exactly what you’re doing right now. Staying true to this mindset will point you in the right direction, (probably several, wild, exciting directions on most days), and also help you enjoy yourself along the way.

Tell Us What You Think

What advice do you have for new college students? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.


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As a former college registrar and Dean of Students, I have witnessed first hand the differences when a student has an educational plan and when they do not.
A significant step in achieving your goals is to have them written down in an informed and meaningful Education Plan.
Do even better – Make it a 10-Year Plan!

What Am I Worth?

What your skills are worth in the job market is constantly changing.