9 Pieces of Advice Every Incoming College Student Needs to Know
Tips For New College Freshman to Maximize Their Experience
Photo by Darya Tryfanava on Unsplash
In a few weeks, many students will make an exciting transition from high school to college life. In recent years, a rising number of voices have questioned the value of higher education as tuition prices and student debt have ballooned. Yet college remains an important stepping stone towards career advancement and financial stability. Rising automation, the declining value of a high school diploma, and increased job market competitiveness all together mean that for the majority of America’s workforce a post secondary education still has substantial benefits even when jobs are difficult to find for college graduates. This could range from technical training, to community college, to a traditional 4 year university.
For students starting college or university, here are nine tips for incoming freshmen to make the most out of their experience.
Photo by Pang Yuhao on Unsplash
Many students struggle with the intense workload and independence they find in the college environment. Without parents or teachers looking over your shoulder it is easy to get distracted, miss assignment deadlines, and under prepare for exams. It is important to quickly determine what productivity systems work for learning style and personality. Pick a system for note taking (e.g. Evernote), scheduling, and task management.
Build Your Network
Cultivate friendships with a diverse crowd of people. You will never have a better opportunity to meet new and interesting people from different backgrounds and cultures. While it is important to make close friends, try to avoid forming an exclusionary clique so you can continue making new connections through your time at college. Unlike high school where you’re stuck with a limited number of classmates, it’s easy to avoid toxic people and energy vampires.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
– Jim Rohn
Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash
Join (or Start) a Club
College life is about more than just your classes. Join at least one extracurricular club or activity. Don’t limit yourself to topics related to your major. Majoring in biology but interested in foreign affairs? Try Model United Nations! Missing your high school crew of varsity jocks? Join an intramural team! Can’t find the club you’re looking for? Bonus points for leadership if you start it yourself! This is also a good way to expand your network.
Call Your Mother
Call your family often and keep in touch with your close high school friends. Holidays are a good opportunity to spend some quality time with family and old friends alike. These people have known you the longest and it’s worth it to selectively maintain the close connections that matter.
Get a Job
Get internships or better yet, salaried jobs in career fields that interest you. These can be part time experiences in the Fall or Spring or full time positions in the summer. Besides the financial advantage (if you get paid that is), you might decide that a job or career field is not what you expected. The sooner you realize that, the more time you’ll have to change what you’re studying with that new insight. These experiences might also be your springboard into a first job after graduation.
If something’s not working or your plans begin to evolve, don’t be afraid to change your major. This may end up extending your time in college, but adding an extra semester or two is far better than graduating with a degree in a field in which you’re no longer interested. If you’re really struggling with deciding what’s next, visit your campus guidance counselor and consider taking a semester or two off to figure things out. You can use the time away from school to get more work experience to help make your decision.
Use Those Faculty Office Hours
Whenever possible, try to get to know your professors outside of the classroom. This might mean visiting them during their office hours, working on a research project, or taking an “independent study” or small seminar course with them. Some of these faculty members may end up providing valuable mentorship, and will be more amenable to writing a letter of reference for your future job or grad school applications.
A unique opportunity offered by many colleges is the chance to study abroad for a semester or year of your course of study. There are many reasons why this is a good idea, the least of them being it might be fun! More practical benefits include language training, cultural immersion, and exposure to new career opportunities.
Stay in Shape
Between the stress of college coursework, the easy access to junk food, and that all you can eat dormitory meal plan, it’s easy to get out of shape and gain some weight your first year of college (the so-called “freshman fifteen”). Do your best to eat healthy, set a regular sleep schedule, and get some exercise. Yet another reason to join that intramural sports team!
Most people look back on their college days as some of the best moments of their lives. With the right attitude and plan, you can maximize your chances of graduating with valuable skills, a breadth of knowledge, memorable experiences, and a network of lifelong friends.
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