From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know For a Successful Freshman Year

From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearIt’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.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearB – 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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearF – 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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearJ – 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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearN – 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.

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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.

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P – Partying
Enjoy having a social life, but learn to do so responsibly. Remember why you came to college in the first place.

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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.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearR – 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 okayFrom every “failed” relationship, you’ll learn something – or at the very least, you’ll have a good story to tell. (My exes had better beware of my memoir! 🙂 ) Enjoy the ride.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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From A to Z: Everything You Need to Know for a Successful Freshman YearW – 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Best of luck to all of those starting college this fall! Readers, what are your tips for incoming freshmen?

Link Love Wednesday: Disney Princes and Venus Retrograde

Well hello there, Prince Charming…

Happy August, readers! I graduated from college two years ago, but I still get that same lump in my throat when August rolls around… It’s almost back-to-school time! Thankfully, I won’t be juggling work and classes this time around (although next August may be another story!), but this time of the year is still a hectic one for me. I’m happy to have a few more slightly relaxing weeks before things get crazy here!

How are you spending your last few weeks of summer? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! In the meantime, check out the latest batch of Link Love, and feel free to share your own favorites. 🙂

What are your favorite links from the last week? Share yours in the comments section below!

The Freshman 15: Advice From Readers (Year 3)

promise-not-laugh-anymore-college-ecard-someecardsFor many of my friends, this was the first week of school — and for me, it was the first August since the early 90s that I wasn’t starting school! Since I first began blogging in 2010, I started sharing the lessons I had learned from each year of college, but my wonderful friends and readers have also shared their own advice and wisdom on my blog as well (here and here). In honor of the brand new semester, I bring you 15 helpful tips from 15 college students and alumni with diverse backgrounds and degree programs. Best of luck this school year!

The Freshman 15: Advice From Readers (Year 3)

1. Study what you love.
Picking a major can seem really daunting upon entering college, especially if you’re unsure of your post-undergraduate plans. However, the most important thing is to study something you are passionate about. Don’t let overbearing relatives and nosy strangers dissuade you when they sneer, “Oh, you’re a [blank] major? What are you going to do with that?” Doing homework and studying for tests will suck a little less if you actually enjoy what you’re learning. And at the end of your four years, you will find the perfect way to apply your passion to your “real world” pursuits.
– Jill Dutmers, University of Central Florida, English Literature (@straightupjill)

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2. Be open and accepting to all kinds of people.
In life, but college especially, you will meet a wide array of personalities! Students come from all walks of life and they WILL have different opinions, perspectives and values than you. Stay true to your beliefs but also make sure to keep an open mind. Understand that many students work multiple jobs to pay their way through college, may be going through personal issues or have social disorders. It’s so important to take all these factors in to consideration before jumping to conclusions about different types of people. Learn something new from different people your age…in the long-term you will grow more accepting and appreciative of others.
– Carlie Craig, Florida State University, Theatre and Media Production (@carliecraig, Website: Carlie Craig)

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Zweinstein 23. Get familiar with your academic community.
Professors will be impressed if you stay informed about the current trends in your major field. Although some academic journals and monographs can be dry, make an effort to find a moderately accessible journal or a scholar that you like. Attend seminars and symposiums if you can, and submit papers to journals and local conferences (you’ve got nothing to lose!). Undergraduate publications and conference history will look great on a curriculum vitae.
– Brittan Wilkey, Wake Forest University, MA English (Blog: Discharmed)

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4. Pay it forward.
As soon as you figure out what you plan on doing (whether picking a major, joining a club, or finding an internship) start passing along what you’ve learned and your experiences to anyone who asks or who may need it. Be a resource to people around you — you never know what difference you’re making in their lives by helping them out. On the flip side, never forget about the people who helped you out along the way and always remember to thank them and maybe even let them know what you’re up to especially if it’s been a while.
– Kaitlin Border, University of Central Florida, Accounting

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5. You’ll meet your best friends in time.
Chances are, the first group of friends you get knit into won’t be the last. Don’t feel pressured to find all your best friends in the first semester. It takes a while to adjust to college and you actually transform into a new person as the months go on so don’t think any kind of group of friends needs to be there for the four years ahead. Be open to meeting new people and be mindful of when friendships naturally click. Those are the ones to tuck close to you. I didn’t find mine until my sophomore year but I still have them as best friends today.
– Hannah Brencher, Assumption College, English + Mass Communications/Sociology (Website: Hannah Brencher)

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EssDormSocialTime6. Get to know your RAs… for the RIGHT reasons.
Resident Assistants aren’t just there to get on your case if you are being too loud. RA’s are students, just like you, and they have been through it. They are there to talk to you and help you out. Their training is VERY extensive and know just about every resource available to you from free counseling services to listing off names of student organizations. You pay big bucks to live on campus, and a big part of that payment is living on the same floor as a walking/talking college life guru. If you have a problem, or even if you are doing well, tell your RA, they want you to succeed and do your best.
– Karina Garcia, University of Central Florida, Advertising and Public Relations (@karinacreative)

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7. Never stop making friends.
I am very much an introvert, so once I had a small circle of friends I was more than happy to stop putting myself out there. In result, for my first semester of school I had a very small group of people I knew well, while I was surrounded by dozens more who would have loved to get to know me better. Not every friend you make will last, and you might not think you’d like hanging out with a certain kind of person, but you never know until you try.
– Gabrielle Upshur, Austin Peay State University, English (Blog: Of A Writerly Sort)

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8. Go to class.
Don’t skip class, even if it’s early in the morning or boring. The great thing about college is you control your schedule, and there’s time for naps.
– Kayley Tool, University of Central Florida, Nursing

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How_i_met_everyone_else_-_ted_and_marshall9. You don’t have to be friends with your roommate.
Many people enter college with the expectation that they’ll click instantly with their roommate and become best friends. This isn’t always the case. Unless you pre-selected a roommate, you will be moving into a tiny dorm room with a complete stranger. You may enjoy baking and crafting while your roommate is interested in video games and cosplaying. It’s okay if you have nothing in common! Don’t try to force a friendship just because you live together. The most important thing is that the two of you cultivate an environment of mutual respect. Respect your roommate’s space and belongings and he/she should do the same for you. However, some people are just too different to get along. If you and your roommate can’t make things work, don’t hesitate to talk to your RA about the process of changing rooms. Classes and work are taxing enough and you shouldn’t have to come home to a stressful living environment every day. Moving in the middle of the semester can be inconvenient, but it’s better than being miserable for an entire school year.– Tori Twine, Elon University, Cinema (@toritwine, Blog: I May Be Mildly Obsessed)

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10. Remember your passions.
I was miserable with my major for a while, until I remembered that I loved robotics. It basically reinvigorated me, and I’ve been doing a lot better since. Sometimes you lose sight of your passions, but it’s great when you remember them.
– Peter Cheng, University of Central Florida, Computer Engineering

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tumblr_mes5drMMc51rwr9v911. Be open to all types of Greek life.
During my first two years of college, a lot of my friends joined social sororities and fraternities. While this looked like a lot of fun, I just didn’t think that Greek Life was right for me. In my junior year, I heard about an honor fraternity on campus and decided to check out one of their Rush events. Two years later, I consider it to be one of the best decisions I made in my college career. I experienced many leadership, academic and social opportunities and made some of my best friends. The point is social Greek Life is not for everyone, but there are so many Greek organizations on every campus that there is bound to be a place you’ll fit in! Try looking for sororities or fraternities related to your major or other special interests and don’t be afraid to go and meet new people!
– Jessica Faith Meyer, University of Central Florida, Political Science (@jfaithmeyer)

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12. Get internships.
I know they pay less than waitressing or bartending – maybe they’re even unpaid!  But the skills you learn and the connections you make are worth so, so, SO much more than money.  If you’ve got a great resume filled with internships related to your field, it’s about a million times easier to land a job.  If you only work in restaurants during college, you’ll be a super well-educated and experienced server when you enter the workplace.
– Sarah Von Bargen, BA University of Minnesota – Morris (English), MA Victoria University of Wellington (Applied Linguistics) (Blog: Yes & Yes)

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13. The easiest way to their hearts is through their stomachs.
When it comes down to making friends in college, It’s important to cater to your strengths. In my case, I’m a third generation, nearly full blooded Italian girl. Cooking a hearty italian meal is embedded in my DNA. Thankfully, our college dorm had a well equipped kitchen at my disposal, so cooking, despite our sensitive fire alarms, was encouraged amongst us all. First night at the dorms, I gathered my utensils and went to work in the kitchen. My new roomies, now my best friends, caught a whiff, literally, of what I was up to and decided to lend a helping hand. Within an hour we had whipped up a huge bowl of pasta and meatballs and made sure to prop open our door so the sweet aroma or marinara sauce could flood through the hallways – and into the nostrils of several hungry college kids. What a success! In seconds, our floor mates were lingering in our doorway, mouths watering and stomachs growling. We invited them in, gave them a plate and conversed. As simple as that. It was history in the making. Many of our hungry floor mates from that first night became some of my lifelong friends, even now after college. If you cook it, they will come. That, I’ll assure you is a fact.
– Lauren Durando, University of Central Florida, Advertising and Public Relations (@dran34)

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Alice14. Stop and smell the roses.
Stop and smell the roses. –Yes, you could do this literally, but more figuratively, you should definitely take the chance to stop every now and then and appreciate the amazing opportunity that is attending college in the 21st century. The world is literally at your fingertips at any given moment via the internet. Opportunities abound around every corner. You are currently living and experiencing history being made on a day-to-day basis. Take the time to sit back every now and then and appreciate the epicness. Then go out and make your contribution to it in whatever form makes you happiest!
– Melissa Smith, George Mason University, PhD Human Factors (@mabsmith)

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15. Find yourself in a new place.
It may sound lame but friends, boyfriends, girlfriends and coworkers will come and go but you will always have yourself with you. This took me a while to learn but I have been able to slowly build a better relationship with myself through studying abroad. In immersing myself in other places and cultures around the world, there are things I learned that can’t be learned from in a classroom. The main lessons in life that I will look back on when I graduate will be things that I learned from being abroad. In fact what you learn from museums, old ruins, or double decker bus tours doesn’t nearly compare to what you learn about yourself. About how you work with others, how you can navigate through a strange place, and the stress of being in the big open world. So study abroad and set forth on a journey to a new place to find your new self.
– Arielle Poliner, University of Central Florida, Event Management

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A great big thank you to everyone who contributed this year! Readers, what is the biggest piece of advice you have for incoming college students?

The Freshman 15: Ways To Prepare For Orientation

I remember it like it was just yesterday. Almost exactly two years ago, I drove three hours away from home to attend Freshman Orientation at the college of my dreams. At first, I wasn’t all that excited to be there — my high school friends were having a party at home that I would have rather been attending, and I was terrified that I wouldn’t meet anyone within the two days of speakers, schedule planning and campus tours. As it turned out, I met two of my closest friends at orientation, and I hardly kept in touch with anyone at that high school party. Orientation was what ultimately got me excited about going to college, and I couldn’t wait to move into the dorms and start hanging out with my new friends.

Above all else, Freshman Orientation was what really prepared me for a successful first year of college. Although orientations may differ greatly by school, they can serve as a great tool for getting to know your campus and making new friends. As a peer ambassador for my university this year, I had the opportunity to assist students in the honors college at their orientation, and so I picked up a few tips along the way. Incoming freshmen, keep these tips in mind as you prepare for orientation this summer!  — Tweet this!

The Freshman 15: Ways To Prepare For Orientation

1. Get excited.
First of all, you’re going to college, which is an accomplishment all on its own. Second of all, you are about to embark on a new chapter of your life. Look at either of those facts alone and you have all the more reason to be excited. Now is the time to stop worrying about the schools you aren’t attending, and start thinking about all the amazing opportunities you are going to have. A little bit of enthusiasm at orientation goes a long way — no one wants to talk to the awkward guy who is constantly rolling his eyes or brooding in the corner.

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2. Be open to making new friends.
While it’s true that you may never see some of the people you meet at orientation again in the next four years, you should still make your best effort to meet new people. You never know, you could wind up meeting your best friend! For tips on how to make a good impression, click here.

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3. Take your placement exams before you get there.
Chances are, you’ll need to take some exams so that the school can decide what math and chemistry courses you’re ready for. If you haven’t taken your exams before orientation, a lot of schools won’t let you sign up for certain classes. Because everyone is trying to create their perfect schedules, it is important that you have met all your requirements before attending orientation so that you aren’t fighting someone a few weeks later for the last spot in a class.

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4. Ask questions.
One great thing about orientation is that it gives you a wider set of resources throughout the school. Not only do you learn about the various academic and wellness services that your school provides, but you also usually meet older students who have been through it all and can serve as a mentor for you. This is especially helpful if you don’t have an older sibling who goes to the school and knows a lot about it. No question is really off limits — they get asked pretty much everything, and because everyone else will be in the same boat as you, you probably aren’t the only person who is wondering.

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5. Distance yourself from your parents.
This doesn’t mean to disregard them completely, of course. Your family probably plays a significant role in your life, and they will continue to do so in the future. However, orientation is not the time to latch on. Most orientations do separate the families from their students, and this gives you the chance to choose your classes on your own (without parental pressure!) and prepare yourself for the not-so-distant day when you aren’t living under your parents’ roof. Even if you are staying with your family when you attend college, you will still want your independence. Fill your parents in on what you’ve been doing at orientation, but make sure they give you your space.

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6. Be prepared for the weather.
As a student in Florida, I may be a little biased, but because most orientations take place in the summertime, you never know if you’re going to have rain or shine. Weather.com isn’t always accurate, so make sure you have an umbrella on hand just in case. From personal experience, I have found that it seems to rain specifically on orientation days. Such is the life of a college student.

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7. Connect with your roommates.
Even if you have already found your roommates on Facebook, you may not have met them in person yet. Although there are most likely several orientation dates, you should find out if your roommates will be attending yours, and try to meet up with them at some point. It isn’t the end of the world if you aren’t able to see each other then, but if you can, by all means go for it. This should help alleviate some of the awkward “breaking the ice” when you meet again at move-in.

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8. Join in the festivities.
Yes, orientation is probably going to be long and tiring, but it is important to make the most of it and take advantage of new things. If there is an ice cream social at the end of the day, go and meet people. If the orientation leaders are dancing on stage during dinner and they ask students to join them, do it (or was that just at my orientation?). Try to be upbeat and energetic.

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9. Look at your general education requirements ahead of time.
As a freshman, your first order of business when planning your schedule will be to get some of your general education requirements out of the way. If you have access to a course catalog or the academics portion of your school’s website, look over some of these requirements and think about what sparks your interest. Advisers will be on the scene to help you craft your schedule, but it is a good idea to know what general classes are required and sound appealing to you.

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10. Find out about available clubs on campus.
Want to rush a fraternity or sorority? Find someone who’s an expert on Greek life. Want to find out if there’s a Quidditch club at your school? Talk to some of the people in charge of student involvement. At many schools, the different organizations will actually attend orientation to answer questions for incoming freshmen and recruit them for future meetings. I always stress the importance of getting involved early on. Why not do this at your orientation?

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11. Stay organized.
You will receive countless handouts, fliers, booklets and school paraphernalia while attending your orientation, so bring a folder or backpack so you don’t lose any of them. I found myself constantly flipping back and forth between papers at my orientation because of the sheer number of them — half the time, I didn’t know where to find what I needed! Keep everything together as neatly as possible so you can refer back to specific items later if you need to.

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12. Take advantage of social media.
Hopefully, you will meet a lot of new people at your freshman orientation. Although Facebook isn’t always the best means of communication, it is definitely a good way to group new people together and write quick messages back and forth. Exchange numbers with the people you meet, if you’re comfortable with that, but adding them on Facebook could be slightly less intimidating for the shy student, and allows you an instantaneous means of keeping in touch. When you return to school in the fall, it may be easier to reconnect with those people you met at orientation.

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13. Take notes if you need to.
After receiving countless tidbits of knowledge about your school for an entire two days, things can get pretty confusing. Instead of letting the information get completely lost in translation, write down the important things so you can remember them later.

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14. Be as flexible as possible.
When planning out your class schedule, things might not come out 100% as you may have hoped. This is okay — you have four years of college ahead of you, so you don’t need to rush your way through. Orientation may bring shocking changes to others. For example, the actuarial science majors at my orientation (including two of my friends) were informed on the first day that their program had just been cut and that they would have to pursue new degree programs. Although they were not happy about this at the time, they have thrived in their new majors and since cultivated new interests. Your mind may change, as well, and you may decide to change your major on the spot. Change can be wonderful because it allows us to grow as people and learn something new about ourselves. Keep an open mind.

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15. Have a sense of humor.
There’s usually at least one corny aspect of Freshman Orientation — a speaker who makes too many bad puns, an outdated video of campus life, a few dance routines sprinkled here and there — so it’s important to try and have a good time. Be engaged in what you are doing, but don’t let yourself become too pretentious as you go through the various presentations at orientation. Have fun!

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Questions for readers:
– What was your freshman orientation like?
– What did you learn from orientation or wish you had done differently?
– What topics would you like to read about in future Freshman 15 articles? 

The Perks of Being a Participant

“Sometimes people use thought not to participate in life.” – Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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All too often, we let our thoughts get the best of us. Instead of engaging in a lively discussion in our classes, we fade into the background, focusing mostly on some fixed point across the room and the words we would be contributing if we decided to speak up. Instead of adding our own expertise to the conversations surrounding us, we sometimes bottle it up, leaving ourselves feeling unfulfilled and the conversations somehow incomplete. We worry about our inadequacy, even though others often see us as experts in our fields, and what does this accomplish?

When you want to learn about other people and gain insights, it’s often important to shut your mouth and really listen to what they have to say… it’s also a great way to make new friends (see #5). And when you’re in class and everyone is discussing a particular topic, sometimes it’s healthy to just sit back and soak it all in. But there comes the time when you can’t just rely on quietly observing, a time when you need to just dive in.

For the more outgoing readers, this might not sound like such a big deal, but for some of us it can be difficult to step out of our shells and share our thoughts and opinions. After all, what will others think? What if the things we say aren’t important or interesting enough? The words are at the tip of our tongues but we keep quiet for fear of failure or imperfection, or simply because we’re afraid of revealing a more vulnerable aspect of ourselves.

As someone who has bounced back and forth between being extroverted and painfully shy at different points in my life, I have definitely struggled to find the balance between speaking up and stepping back. The Perks of Being a Wallflower has always resonated with me (even though I was barely a toddler at the time the events of the book took place), but Chbosky’s words that I quoted at the beginning ring especially true. I’ve found that the more I speak up in certain classes, the better my grades usually are and the easier it is for me to stay focused and interested in the subject matter. The more involved I am at club meetings, the more I feel like a part of something bigger. Obviously it’s not a good idea to let your ideas dominate — you want to be open to others, and you don’t want to be known as the one who won’t let anyone get a word in — but a lot of times when I don’t say something important that’s on my mind, I only regret it later.

Anyway, it’s important to be engaged in what you do because it allows you to accomplish more than you would otherwise. It fosters new relationships and connections, allows for self-expression, and helps you to grow as a person.

You don’t have to go out and join every club on campus or speak up in class every time a somewhat relevant thought pops into your head, but I do encourage and challenge each of my more introverted readers to get out of your comfort zones today. Keep observing everything you can around you, but raise your hand at least once in class, or tell a club officer what’s on your mind. Baby steps each day will help us all to grow and change for the better. 🙂

The Freshman 15: Tips for Meeting New People

Before I started college, one of my biggest concerns was that I would have trouble making new friends. After all, most of the people I socialized with in high school had chosen other universities, and ever since middle school, I was a little shy around new people. How was I going to acquire a whole new clique in such a short period of time, when it had already taken me thirteen years of school to really figure out who my friends were back home?

Ironically enough, within a few months of college I had already made more friends than I knew what to do with! Meeting so many people that early on and watching the way they interacted with others was what really helped me to create such strong friendships in that first semester, and in turn it made my freshman year of college much more memorable. 🙂

This month, let’s talk about ways to meet new people, make a good first impression and forming lasting friendships.Tweet this!

The Freshman 15: Tips for Meeting New People

1. Smile — it makes you more approachable.
It’s scary to just walk up to someone you don’t know and strike up a conversation, but it’s even worse when that person is off brooding in the corner somewhere. A simple smile makes you much more accessible, simple as that. Positivity attracts positivity (maybe not in science, but hey – I’m a communications major!), and when you look like you’re happy and having a good time, people start wanting to have a good time with you. Things to avoid: painfully phony pageant smile, creepy clown smile 🙂

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2. Get out of your dorm room.
The more you get out, the more chances you’ll have to meet new people! Instead of eating alone in your room, go to the dining hall where you’re much more likely to find someone to chat with. Talk to that random person in the laundry room whose shirt you like. It may sound crazy, but sometimes the most mundane tasks can become the easiest ice-breakers and friendship starters. Go to events — even the cheesy ones that your RA has put together — because chances are, there will be others in the same boat as you. The ugly truth: if you never leave your room, the only friend you’ll have is yourself.

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3. Branch out from your old high school group.
If you go to a state school, then you’re bound to run into people you went to high school with. And if you were friends before, then that’s great, because you already have some familiar faces to turn to and to make things more comfortable as you start your college experience. But some friendships from high school are based more on convenience than compatibility, and if you’re afraid to step away from that, you may miss out on stronger, potentially longer-lasting friendships with people you haven’t known your entire life. Don’t throw out anyone who is important to you, but don’t be afraid to branch out and meet people from other zip codes.

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4. Become involved!
Your college experience is only as good as you make it. That being said, if all you do for fun is party, then you won’t get much out of your four years other than a few good stories and some pictures on Facebook. In no way am I trying to bash partying — if it’s something you enjoy, then by all means do it in moderation. In the meantime, find clubs, intramural sports teams, and other groups to join. Not only will it make you feel more connected to your school, but it will allow you to meet people with similar interests, opinions, or beliefs. It’s much easier to connect with someone if you already know something that you both have in common!

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5. Ask others about themselves.
According to Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People and various other great books, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” And how true is that? To a point, everyone likes talking about themselves, and if you take a genuine interest in their lives, they’ll be more likely to take a genuine interest in yours.

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6. Open up your worldview.
Up until now, you’ve probably lived in a very small world. Before college, I was extremely sheltered and therefore was never exposed to certain kinds of lifestyles and beliefs. At school, however, I got to see a little bit of everything, and am definitely happy to have learned from the experience. When you get to college, just know that you’re going to meet people completely different from anyone you have ever known, and that you may or may not agree with those people. Part of what I love about having such a vast array of friends is that no one is a carbon copy of anyone else, and I can learn something from everyone. Even if you don’t decide to become friends with those people (and that’s fine!), you should at least treat others with respect, and recognize the beauty in our differences. You don’t want to be known as the close-minded one… such a label brings with it extremely negative images that you want to avoid!

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7. Speak up.
Even if you have found people to hang out with, you still want to form your own identity among the group. Don’t try to dominate all the conversations, because no one likes that, but do chime in with your own opinions and ideas. By showing your personality early on, you show people exactly what you have to offer as a friend!

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8. Leave your high school baggage behind.
There might never be a more perfect opportunity for a clean slate than the beginning of college. If you did things you weren’t proud of in high school, now is the time to learn from those mistakes and change up your act. That being said, you don’t need to share every last dramatic moment of your high school years when you’re trying to meet new people. Save the heavier memories for a later date; you don’t want people to meet you and already think you’re too dramatic for their tastes. After all, who really wants someone else’s drama added to their own life?

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9. Talk to your classmates.
Think about it: you already have something in common… you’re taking the same class! While at first this might sound like a friendship of convenience, you’ll find that it can actually become much more. There’s a reason you both took that class with that particular professor at that particular time, and your reasons may be surprisingly similar. Through a quick ice breaker in one of my smaller classes in the fall semester of my freshman year, I became friends with two very cool people I still hang out with today! Don’t be afraid to turn to the person next to you and ask them what they thought of the test, or shoot them an empathetic smile when the professor announces a tedious assignment.

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10. Put your best face forward.
No, you don’t need to wear a prom dress or tuxedo to class, but in general you should make sure you put some time into your appearance each day — it shows that you care about yourself. No Hollywood makeovers are required, but in general you should make sure you’re well-groomed and put-together. I won’t go into how much effort you should put in, because that’s entirely based on personal preference and some people are higher maintenance than others, but don’t let yourself go just because you don’t have a dress code. Looks aren’t everything, and anyone who chooses friends specifically based on outfits is probably too superficial to deal with, but it never hurts to take some pride in your appearance.
After all, if you don’t look like you care about yourself, then how do you expect others to?

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11. Don’t come on too strong.
There is a fine line between showing genuine interest in someone and acting completely desperate, and I’ve certainly seen people cross it. In fact, I’ve been on the receiving end of it, and it’s a little overwhelming and borderline creepy when someone you’ve just met won’t leave you alone. Even if you feel like you’ve really clicked with someone, you should give the friendship time to develop before you consider yourselves inseparable. The same thing goes for relationships — boys, don’t put the moves on a girl when classes have only been in session for two days and you’re not even sure she’s interested. Too much too soon can lead to disappointment and regret.

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12. Be kind and respectful to everyone, no matter what.
You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar (although I’m not so sure why you’d want flies in the first place), and even if you don’t see yourself ever becoming friends with someone, you should still follow the golden rule and treat them with respect. It doesn’t matter if you have friends already or not — being rude or unfriendly to others is generally not a trait you want to find in a friend. In general, a lot of people are trying to get away from their high school experiences, so why would they want to come across the next Regina George?

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13. Recognize the fine line between Confidence and Cockiness.
If you want to make friends, then first and foremost you must see yourself in a positive light. Remind yourself of all those things about you that make you wonderful — your sense of humor, your listening skills, whatever abilities you have — and accept your flaws and the things you cannot change. This will certainly help you to gain confidence, which everyone wants to see in a friend. However, many people confuse confidence and cockiness, which is generally an undesirable trait! Know that you can love yourself without bragging about every accomplishment you’ve ever had, but that at the same time, you can still learn to accept a compliment gracefully without downplaying yourself.

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14. Be yourself.
Okay, so this may be the most cliche trick in the book, but that’s because it works. If you aren’t “doing you,” then chances are you won’t be attracting the people you’d work best with. Act like something you’re not, and people will be befriending someone you’re not. Don’t lose sight of who you are just to make a few friends. Eventually you will find someone who appreciates you for you.

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15. Don’t fret if you don’t connect with people right away.
Be persistent and proactive, because chances are, the first person you meet won’t automatically become your best friend. These things take time, and while college can really speed up the bonding process, you still have time to get to know people. The most important thing is to get out there and try your best. There is a friend out there for everyone, so don’t give up!

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For those of you who had no trouble at all making friends, what are your suggestions to new freshmen? 🙂