7 Ways to Prepare for Your Freshman Year of College

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College! Ivy-covered halls of learning. Large lecture halls. How many guys can fit inside a phone booth? Oh, the carefree days of Saturday football games, studying on the lawn in the Quad and dances in the gymnasium.

Times sure have changed!

The higher education environment has become much more competitive over the past few decades; gone are the days of starched white shirts and composition books. They have been replaced by social codes and virtual classes. Even though college has become more accessible (and a higher percentage of high school graduates are matriculating), the need for proper preparation is as great as ever. As you prepare for this next chapter in your academic career, let’s explore some of the best ways to prevent disaster in your first year; here are seven ways you can prepare for your freshman year of college:

1. Prepare ahead of time by reading as much as you can (obtain course materials early & get into good reading habits) and, if possible, contacting your professors. First, you will need to check your study habits and learn to read quickly with good comprehension. If you are able to get course materials before the semester starts, read the texts ahead of time. This will save you much time during the semester and allow you to gain a deeper understanding of the material covered in class. Also, by contacting your professors (either before your arrival or during orientation week), you will provide an opportunity for a more positive relationship demonstrated by your interest in them as well as the course.

2. Get tech-savvy. This should almost go without saying, and you should already be self-sufficient at the very least. Much better is being the ‘go-to’ person for your friends and roommates to assist them in their technical difficulties (not to mention the possibility of a lucrative side business).

3. Know safety guidelines. Times have changed; many campuses have printed procedures for an on-campus shooting as well as guidelines defining rape. It is imperative you know specific safety procedures and exit ways for your dormitory, public areas and transit-ways (paths can be poorly lit).

4. Take orientation seriously and ask questions. Knowing where to get help when you need it will prove invaluable as you get your feet under you. Orientation is designed to help you assimilate without too much difficulty. It may seem silly, but the truth is that you don’t know what to expect on campus. If you didn’t quite get something, don’t be afraid to ask (odds are that there are others who missed the same piece of info). The risk of potential ridicule is minimal compared to being lost later.

5. Learn to manage time effectively. This is critical and can be practiced before you get to campus. Effective time management will set you apart from your peers; many adults do not manage their time effectively, leading to missed deadlines, poor performance and lost opportunities. Work on keeping a schedule will do much good in your preparation for college.

6. Learn social skills and seek how to be involved, but budget your money (and don’t be afraid to stay in more frequently). There is a balance to be struck here; there are a multitude of clubs, associations and activities competing for your well-managed time. The prudent student will not sacrifice study time (remember that you are seeking an education) for social time, but social activities are an important part of campus life. Coupled with this idea is financial management – activities cost money and it is easy to blow your semester’s budget in the first month! Do not be afraid to stay in some nights or weekends and not spend money; you will likely find some companions in similar circumstances and have an additional peer group for your social outlet (the ‘broke / fast’ club?).

7. Be flexible. You won’t know what to expect until you get there. All the preplanning and research will not fully prepare you for your freshman year. You have much to learn “on the job” and most of it will be different than anticipated. This is not a problem, as long as you are not rigid in your thinking. Flexibility and the ability to adapt will serve you well. If you understand that you will experience unanticipated things, you will be well served to roll with the changes, adapt and move forward. This is really a primer for the rest of your life!

Forewarned is for-armed. As you get ready for this exciting new chapter, remember that a word to the wise is sufficient and there are many who have gone on before you. Seek them out and gain knowledge and insight from them. It will make a difference in your college years.

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