As a first-generation college student, I did not have anyone to give me advice about college. It was a constant trial and error when it came to making essential decisions. There were times I wished I had someone to break down important steps I should take while in college. Thankfully I mastered a routine by the time I was a sophomore. The following are tricks that helped me graduate.
- Get to know your counselor. Have them draw out a four-year plan for you. Every semester email your counselor to make sure you’re on track to graduate on time. Meet with him/her once per semester because school curriculums can change.
- What classes should I take? This is the year to explore your options. Try out different courses so that you can be confident with the major you are choosing. Changing your major is okay. 70% of students change their major at least once while in college. I changed mine, and it was the best decision I made. If you have extra time in the summers, try taking one or two courses to stay ahead of your workload.
- Make friends with your professors. Introduce yourself to your professor the first day of class. Ask questions. Some professors will give their phone number to the class so you may text them relevant questions about any assignment. If you become friends with your professor, they may consider writing you a recommendation letter in the future. Also, try attending their office hours it’s the perfect time to ask anything you may not understand and have them explain it to you one-on-one. It is basically a free tutoring session!
- Get morning classes. Most of my classes began at 8 am, and I was done by 12 pm. This allowed me to have the rest of the day to do homework, work, and hang out with friends. Afternoon classes are tiring and long. Granted no one wants to wake up early to go to class since you’ve been doing it every day of grade school. However, you’ve done it this long why not at least attempt it your first semester.
- Remember to get your beauty sleep. Although sometimes all nighters are necessary for a project or exam communing, scheduling sleep will help you stay sane. Plan to sleep early the following day or take an afternoon nap.
- Make friends in class. Try to meet at least three people the first day of class. Ask them for their number and email. If you ever need to miss class, you can message them, and they can explain what it is you missed. Become social media friends.
- Join clubs! As a freshman, you may feel like you have to start all over and make friends. You have to put yourself out there to meet people. It is not like high school where you are forced to see the same people every day. By joining clubs, you’ll meet people with the same interests as you. But do not overwhelm yourself, one or two clubs per semester is a good start.
- Live at the Library. With work and classes, schedule time to go to the library. It is possible to have a social life you just have to learn to manage your time. My class schedule varied each semester, but for the most part I was at the library Monday-Thursday every chance I had. This allowed me to work and hang out with my friends on the weekends. LEARN TO PRIORITIZE. The library does get boring at times so you may want to change up your studying location. I enjoy studying at coffee shops, community libraries, or outside on a campus table. DO NOT STUDY ON YOUR BED! You will get too comfortable, fall asleep, and get nothing done.
- Rent your books. Books are expensive. Two places I love renting books from are Amazon or Chegg. Let’s face it you probably won’t open that book after the semester ends. So why would you buy it? If you have a friend in the class, they might want to rent the book with you, and you can share it. This may also encourage you to study with that friend.
- Workout! Freshman 15 is real. I saw it happen to so many of my friends. I gained 5 pounds my first year, but trust me those five might as well have been 15. It is not a good feeling when you know you are starting to become unhealthy. Go for walks around campus when you stress out. Freshman usually gain weight because they do not have a stable eating schedule. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day so try not to skip it. My parents bought me a NutriBullet and I’d force myself to make a shake if I was running late to class. Remember that alcohol makes you gain weight. If you’re a girl stay away from the fruity drinks. Yes, they taste good but have so many calories!
- Go to tutoring. Every campus has a tutorial center. There are people there to help you. Go in if you have questions about an assignment. There’s no such thing as a “dumb question.” These tutors proofread your essays and help you improve your writing skills. Some professors will give you extra points if you go to the tutorial center.
- Volunteer. When you start applying to jobs, many places want work experience. Get an internship. This will help you get the experience, and you can decide if that is the industry you want to work in. Many internships do not pay you so do not be discouraged. The work experience you get will be worth it. However, do not just work for anyone. Work somewhere where you know you like the environment and will help you grow as a person. Internships are great opportunities for you to network. Start your LinkedIn page.
- Have Fun! Enjoy your time at school. Some days may seem like you have so much stress, but just remember why you are in college. In the long run everything will pay off. So have fun every day and live college to the fullest. You’re still so young. I like to think of these years as your “selfish years.” Go on adventures and get to know what is it you like and don’t like. If you find yourself “too busy”, schedule a day, afternoon, or morning for JUST YOU and do something that makes you happy (non school related).
Hope these tips and tricks helped! Let me know if there is anything you would like to know about college.