Congratulations, new college freshman! You made it to out of high school and into higher education, which is quite an accomplishment. You’ve probably learned a lot on your way here and feel fairly confident that you can handle the challenges that college will throw at you.
Unfortunately for you, the skills you learned in high school likely won’t feed you, manage your money, or clean up after your roommate.
However, there is good news. As a wise, old college sophomore, I’ve created a short of freshman dos and don’ts to help you navigate your newfound independence.
Follow these tips and you’ll at least be alive by the end of your first year of college, and hopefully with good grades, good friends, and no vitamin deficiencies.
1. DO go to class
Regardless of how you’re paying for your education, one thing is for certain: it isn’t cheap. When you break down the cost of tuition, you’re paying $$$ for every one of those lectures.
So every time you skip class to watch one more episode of Game of Thrones, it’s like you’re accumulating all that student loan debt for nothing. Not to mention that you won’t know anything when the exam comes around.
2. DON’T take any classes before 11 a.m. (if you can help it)
Look, I don’t care how early your high school started, or how many times you say you’re a morning person — you will not go to your 8 a.m. classes, no matter how close the lecture hall is.
3. DO understand and use your meal plan
If you’re a freshman living in a dorm, you’ll likely be eating the fine cuisine of your residence dining hall. Some universities require you to purchase a meal plan with your housing fees, so it’s important to understand how that meal plan works. You don’t want to run out of meals before the end of your year.
BONUS: if you end up with extra meal dollars at the end of the year, you can use to them barter with/sell them to hungry classmates.
4. DON’T forget nutrition
If you find yourself in a low-funds situation, it’s tempting to take it out on your food budget — from eating Top Ramen three times per day to ordering 50-pound bags of rice, to skipping meals altogether.
But while saving money is important, be careful not to go too far. One student I know managed not to eat a single fruit or vegetable and ended up getting scurvy. Don’t get scurvy.
5. DO find a study buddy
Missed your 8 a.m. lecture again? Can’t find that study guide your prof sent out? Need somebody to get your lazy butt out of your room and into the library to crack open your books? Find study partners!
Not only can they help you out if you missed something in class, but the process of working through notes as a group will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses in a course. Be wary of studying with friends, though. While it may be a lot more entertaining, you’ll probably find yourself asking…
6. DON’T leave not-so-subtle hints to your roommate that you two have a problem.
No, just no. You live with this person, so it’s in your best interest that you have a friendly relationship with them. If your roommate keeps waking you up at 3 a.m. when you have an 8 a.m. lecture the next morning (regretting it yet?), don’t barricade the door, leave a passive-aggressive note, or steal their clothes and towel while they’re in the shower. Sit down with them and talk through the problem calmly and respectfully.
If that doesn’t work, then you have my permission to antique them.
7. DO go to office hours
While the idea of having a one-on-one conversation with a person holding three more advanced degrees than you may be a little daunting, it’s also a great opportunity to get clear answers to your questions and to learn how your work will be graded. After all, they’re wayyyyyyyyy smarter than you (at least when it comes to what ends up on the exams).
8. DON’T abuse the late-work policy
I can’t tell you how many times my friends and I have said, “Well, each day my term paper is late, I lose 5 percent. So if I write a good paper and turn it in four days late, I can still get a B minus, right?”
No, you can’t. No matter what your professor’s late-work policy is, do not use it unless you absolutely must. It’s very easy to turn that due date into an overdue week.
9. DO explore extracurriculars
From Greek life to poetry club, universities these days have a club for just about everything. At the beginning of your freshman year, you’ll likely find that you have a lot of time and not enough friends to fill it with.
Extracurriculars offer you a chance to explore an interest or hobby, meet new friends, and can even lead to job opportunities. You may even discover your passion for hobby horsing!
10. DO know you’re not alone.
College is stressful, like really stressful, so it’s important that you find a healthy way to relax. There are countless ways to recharge, such as meditation, hanging out with friends, or flexing your creative side.
But no matter what helps, know you’re not alone. Get familiar with your university’s mental health services and don’t hesitate to use them if things get overwhelming.