It’s hard to believe that just six years ago, I was packing up my childhood bedroom and moving to Orlando for college. At times, I still picture myself as that awkward 18-year-old girl who was so excited to take those first few steps toward adulthood. In many ways, mine was the traditional college experience: four years of changing majors, making friends, hosting theme parties, interning around town, cramming for finals, dating the wrong guys and joining more clubs than a sane person should. My undergraduate years still hold some of my favorite memories, and taught me more about myself than I ever cared to know.
For many of you, those first few days of freshman year are just around the corner, and you’re probably having a lot of mixed feelings. Whether you’re nervous, enthusiastic or somewhere in between, this blog will guide you through some of the most important aspects of your college experience, from A to Z.
A – Appearance
As superficial as it may sound, it’s important to put an effort into your appearance! Your university’s dress code may technically allow you to roll into your lecture hall in pajamas… but that doesn’t mean you should. The way you dress plays a big role in the first impression you give off in class, among new friends and in front of professors and potential employers.
B – Books
Unless your professor requires some special edition that isn’t offered elsewhere, don’t buy your books at the school bookstore. Rent them through third-party vendors, visit local used bookstores or buy your books online. It will save you a ton of money in the long run!
C – Choosing a Major
Don’t worry if you don’t have it figured out right now. Take some time to enjoy your general education classes and to take an introductory course that interests you. For more tips on how to choose the right major for you, click here.
D – Dorm Life
This may be your first time sharing a bedroom or bathroom with someone, so make sure you talk to your new roommate(s) about your expectations and responsibilities. A new dorm room is also the perfect excuse to decorate, so have fun personalizing your new home!
E – Extra Credit
If your professor offers extra credit, always do it. You might not think you need it, but when your grade is dangling at an 89 at the end of the semester and you need that extra point, you’ll thank yourself.
F – Friends
Open yourself up to the possibility, and you might meet your best friend in college. Get involved, talk to people in your classes and in the dorms, say yes to social outings and don’t be afraid to step out of your bubble.
G – Greek Life
Rushing a fraternity or a sorority can be a great way to make an overwhelmingly big university a whole lot smaller. If the idea of Greek sounds interesting, talk to older friends who have gone through the process and decide if it’s right for you!
H – Health
Above all, you must prioritize your health. Avoid the typical Freshman 15 weight gain with these helpful pointers, and remember to take care of yourself when illness strikes. Utilize the gym, health center, counseling facilities and other campus resources to maintain your physical and mental health. Because college can be a stressful time for many, staying healthy and happy is often at the bottom of our lists.
I – Independence
If you are living in a dorm room or away from home, college is a great opportunity to test out your newfound independence. It will be fun to make more of your own decisions and to not have a curfew, but it will also teach you the importance of finding a balance.
J – Joining Clubs
Joining clubs on campus will allow you to meet likeminded people, have a good time and possibly even develop yourself professionally. It’s a great way to connect with your university and find leadership opportunities early on. Find organizations that interest you and attend the info sessions – you have nothing to lose!
K – Kindness
This should go without saying, but remember to treat others with kindness. You’ll meet people whose lifestyles, beliefs and upbringings are radically different from yours, so it is important to be openminded and still respect others regardless of your differences.
L – Learning For Learning’s Sake
You’ll get so wrapped up in prerequisites and major classes that you might forget that college is, among other things, a place to learn. Take a few elective classes in areas that interest you regardless of what requirements they fulfill. Enjoy the act of learning.
M – Mentors
Find an older student, a community member or a professor who inspires you, and turn to that person as a mentor. This is a great way to start building your network, and you’ll also have someone to ask for advice on classes, internships and more. If you don’t know where to start, see if your school offers any organized mentorship programs to pair you with someone!
N – Networking
I cannot stress the importance of networking enough! It may sound terrifying, but it doesn’t have to be. Get to know people every chance you get. You never know who will be able to help you out in the future — or whom you’ll be able to help. Networking helped me land a job right out of college! Read more about my experience here.
O – Office Hours
Your professors are required to hold office hours, so attend them. They can be a great resource when the class material just isn’t clicking, and it’s always an added bonus for the professor to put a face to your name.
P – Partying
Enjoy having a social life, but learn to do so responsibly. Remember why you came to college in the first place.
Q – Quiet Space
Find your quiet space on campus for when you need to study or simply get away. Whether it’s the top floor of the library or a secluded corner of a campus garden, find that quiet space and use it when you need it.
R – Romance
Unless you’re one of the lucky ones who meets your soulmate on the quad that first week of school, you’ll probably have your share of good and bad relationships in college, and that’s okay. From every “failed” relationship, you’ll learn something – or at the very least, you’ll have a good story to tell.
S – School Spirit
Soak it up! Wear your university colors, attend sporting events and be proud of the institution you attend. Don’t pretend you’re “too cool” for it. The time will eventually pass and you’ll wish you’d enjoyed yourself more.
T – Time Management
Find an organizational style that fits you, and use it. Having strong time management skills will allow you to balance classwork, extracurriculars, work and a social life. The more you hone these skills now, the better prepared you will be for the future!
U – Unique Opportunities
In college, the world is your oyster. If an opportunity sounds too good to pass up, take it! Study abroad for a semester. Volunteer in another city for an alternative spring break. Run for student government. Take advantage of these opportunities while you’re still in school, as they might never come back around once you graduate.
V – Values
Be true to yourself. Know what is important to you, and keep that close to your heart as you make decisions in college. Don’t let others push you into something that makes you uncomfortable or puts you in danger.
W – Wallet
Learn how to budget and take care of your finances. Learn to live within your means. Your money habits now will shape the way you spend and save long after you graduate.
X – eXams
The dreaded exams will pop up every semester at least once, so it’s important to prepare for them. For more on how to survive your final exams, check out my article on Career Camel.
Y – You Time
Take time for yourself. College can be a very social environment, and I encourage you to take advantage of that, but it’s always good to spend some time alone without worrying about others. “Treat yo self” to a night in every now and then, or focus on putting together that DIY Pinterest project you’ve had your eye on. Making time for yourself will help you maintain your sanity when life gets stressful.
Z – Zero Tolerance
Love yourself enough not to tolerate negative treatment. Have zero tolerance for the people or situations that make you feel lesser than. If a friendship or relationship is making you miserable, leave. If you dread being part of a certain organization, quit. Life is too short to waste on people who treat you like crap.
Best of luck to all of those starting college this fall! Readers, what are your tips for incoming freshmen?