10 (Useful) Things I Wish I Knew as A Freshman in College

college tips for incoming freshman
“I wish I knew then what I know now.”

The transition from high school to college can be a tough and scary ride. A part of you is so ready to be independent, and the other part is scared to move on from your high school days. It’s a new chapter in your life, and you can choose to embrace it or to let it hold you back.

Here are 10 things I wish someone would’ve told me entering into college:

1. Don’t sit in the back of the classroom

It’s very easy to do when you first walk into a classroom to just sit in the back row— being the furthest away from your teacher and peers seems extremely enticing at the beginning of the semester when you don’t know anyone. Sitting in the back means more time on my phone and computer, because no one will see me doing it, right? Wrong. Especially when you’re in a smaller class, many professors tend to notice those who don’t participate in the class, and that includes the placement of your sitting. Allow yourself to get out of your comfort zone and sit in the first few rows. This will force you to not only engage yourself in the class, but will force you not to use your phone or computer. As much fun as that doesn’t sound, you (and your GPA) will thank you later for it.  

2. Befriend at least one person in your class and get their phone number

It’s almost guaranteed you’re going to miss one of your classes sometimes for uncontrolled circumstances, so it’s vital to have a connection with someone in that class you missed to get the notes or information that you missed. Most of the time, your professors don’t like when you e-mail them things like “Did I miss anything important?” or “Can you e-mail me what I missed?” because their response will almost always be something like “Yes, of course you missed something important; you think I would teach something unimportant?” or “Ask a classmate.”  It’s also a great networking tool to have if you’re not understanding a concept in the class instead of going directly to the professor first.  

 3. ATTENDANCE MATTERS: Don’t skip class unless you absolutely HAVE to

Whether the syllabus says it or not, attendance matters. Whether it matters for grade purposes or for your personal success, you should always try to attend every class that you can. There will obviously be uncontrolled circumstances where you might have to miss a class or two— most of your professors will understand depending on the reason. But if you’re out partying every night and can’t make it to class because you are hungover, it will be hard trying to convince your teacher every week that you’re “under the weather” and your grade will suffer, I can guarantee you.

4. Research online any clubs/organizations that correlate to your major

Most colleges or universities have a link or website that have a list of their school-related organizations and groups correlating to a specific major or topic. This is so important because you are networking yourself with people with the same interests as you. It’s great when you start looking for internships or jobs because our world is so small and there’s always a connection somewhere.  

 5. Start interning as soon as possible

Boy, do I wish someone had told me this sooner. Like freshman year, sooner. A lot of internships do require prior experience, however, some are entry-level and are to get you acclimated with the field you are pursuing. It’s designed to “dip your toes in the water” and allow you to really see if that field is right for you. Intern as SOON as you possibly can.  

6. Don’t hate yourself for a bad grade in college

The heading says it all. It’s important to realize that there’s nothing you can do once you get a bad grade but reassure yourself that you will work harder next time to get a better grade. There are PLENTY of other assignments that can boost your grade, not just this one. You can’t allow yourself to stress yourself over a bad grade because it will only eat you up and stress you out even more.

7. Go to office hours/meet with someone if you don’t understand something.

A lot of people make this mistake especially towards the end of a semester/near midterms/finals. The problem with this is that you’re cramming to understand a concept that’s maybe in the middle of the lessons, which then makes you second guess everything you’ve learned after that, and just gets you completely confused. Not to mention, you will most likely find that it’s extremely difficult to get in contact with your professors during these busy weeks or find someone willing to give you their time of day, honestly. If you start to think to yourself “that doesn’t make sense” or have to re-read a certain part/do something of that nature, seek help immediately. Go to your professor’s office hours as soon as possible or meet with a peer to get yourself up to date on what you don’t understand. You (and your finals-week self) will thank yourself.  

8. Give yourself to breathe and relax. Spend time with your “muse/escape.”

Especially as a freshman, students are constantly busy trying to get into this organization, rush for this fraternity/sorority, get involved with this club, etc. and they start to spread themselves thin. It’s important for your health and stress to give yourself time to just chill. Giving yourself time to recuperate after a long week or brace yourself for a busy week ahead is extremely crucial to your success as a student, and as an enjoyable human to be around.

9. Use a planner.

I don’t care what anyone says, a planner is essential to your well-being as a student as well as an individual. As an incoming freshman in college, there will be so many events going on, classes, fraternity/sorority rush events, or just events with your friends in general, so it’s important to keep yourself organized so you know exactly when you have time to do things. Another thing I recommend doing is copying all of your assignments from your classes syllabi into your planner so you can get an idea of what each week/month will look like. For example, next week you might not have a lot of assignments due, so you have the ability to go out with your friends. On other weeks, you might have so much work and this event at your school going on, you might not have time to hangout with your friends. Time management is everything in college, and having a planner (and using it) is imperative to achieve that.

10. Being a student is your full-time job.

Unless you are going to school on a full-ride athletic scholarship, you are a student, and being a student is a full-time job. You are preparing yourself for the real world, so give every class your very best, even if it is a basic general-education humanities class. Your parents might even make you work a part-time job in college, which is fine (all the more power to you for juggling that, too), but at the end of the day, you are still a student, and being a good student is the most important part of preparing yourself for a rewarding future. Get yourself into the habit of “working hard and studying hard,” because the “partying hard” will feel that much better when you know you’ve succeeded.