12 Tips Every First-Year Student Should Know

12 Tips Every First-Year Student Should Know Being a first-year student on campus means dipping your toes for the first time into something entirely different—new areas, faces, routines, and expectations. Not to mention that, compared to the rigid structure of high school, college’s complete freedom can cause whiplash.

However, as you’ll soon learn in college, knowledge is power.

The following tips are tidbits of essential information that can guide you as you begin a new chapter and help you welcome your college years with a confident heart and an open mind.

1. Don’t Stop Looking for Scholarships

Scholarships are not something you should only monitor once a semester. Many scholarships, big and small, are scattered across the calendar, including off-peak seasons.

Be sure to consult with your academic advisor for further information. Sites such as Scholarships.com provide valuable resources, but be mindful and only check trusted and reliable websites.

2. Orientation is Essential—don’t Skip It

While orientation is not mandatory, it is crucial, and you shouldn’t miss it. It gives you a first glimpse of campus essentials and is your best chance to get to know new people—your future classmates and other students, an academic advisor, and more.

Most importantly, orientation provides a tour guide across the campus, a first look at regular campus activities, and a glimpse at the resources you’ll gain access to.

3. Know Your Resources

Your tuition is not just money you pay for a degree—it’s also invested in campus resources and amenities. You partially pay for them, so it is within your right to use them as needed.

The facilities available vary according to your campus, so don’t forget to explore and ask which services you can use for free. Likewise, remember that your college ID grants you many discounts—from restaurants to Spotify.

4. Digital Calendars are Your New Best Friends

On your first few days of class, you’ll receive your syllabi and schedule for the semester. Make sure to read them all carefully and write down all the essential dates in your digital calendar. Including your assignment and exam dates for the semester in your calendar takes only a few minutes but will help you visualize the time you have left for specific tasks. If you wish to take this one step further, you can use productivity apps such as Notion.

5. Avoid Buying Brand-New Textbooks

Unless a professor requires a specific, new edition textbook with a one-time-use access code, you do not need to buy a brand-new textbook. Doing so is an unnecessary expense that can quickly impact your finances.

Instead, your best bet would be to rent or buy used. You can compare book rental prices and employ used book price comparison tools like BookScouter to discover the best deal for less money.

6. Get Involved in Clubs and Activities

While academic achievements are undoubtedly important, social bonds are just as significant. College is where you may meet lifelong friends and acquaintances, but you will never do so unless you put yourself out there.

Join clubs and activities that interest you, or that pique your curiosity. If you live on-campus and far away from home, you’ll need a new social network to support you, not to mention that doing things you love will keep your mind focused amidst all that academic stress.

7. Know Your Professors

Your professors—at least most of them—are not your enemies or jailers. Instead, they are the key to your professional future, as they provide the essential skills and information you need and could help you build a network for future employment.

By knowing, talking to, and understanding your professors, you can get a glimpse of how they evaluate, which will help you navigate their class. And if you make a good impression, you can access knowledge and opportunities beyond the classroom.

8. Keeping a Journal Could Help You

Even though you will take plenty of notes during class, writing in your free time can be an incredibly soothing experience.

Keeping a journal is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness, safely express your worries and fears, and organize your thoughts. It will also help you preserve beautiful memories and feelings you may otherwise forget, saving a small time capsule for your future self.

9. Polish Your Writing Skills

Journaling can also have a secondary benefit: improving your writing.
Although college is a time to learn many skills, few will be as important as the ability to convey your thoughts clearly and concisely. You may have the world’s brightest idea, but it will only be compelling if you communicate it effectively.

Written assignments will be an everyday ordeal, so take time to research, learn, and study the art of the written word—it will make a massive difference in your grades and future.

10. Don’t Neglect Yourself

When you rush from class to class, struggle with assignments, and worry about budgeting, you may forget to take care of yourself. Try not to do that.

Spending a portion of your day eating, exercising, relaxing, or sleeping is not a waste of time—it is nurturing yourself so you can face your challenges with a brighter outlook. Mental health is essential, so don’t hesitate to ask for help if you feel stress is taking its toll on you.

11. Experiment with Different Studying Strategies

Not everyone learns the same way, so the sooner you find the strategy that best suits you, the better you’ll perform in all your classes.

The best strategy is the one that suits your preferences and helps you understand the subject with minimal stress. You may enjoy designing mind maps or graphics to visualize the information, or color-coding your notes can help your studying. Perhaps the Pomodoro technique enhances your productivity—you won’t know unless you try.

12. Think of Your Path, but Be Open to Change

While having a path you’d like to follow and some structured goals you want to achieve is essential, avoid starting college with a rigid mindset.

Studying is about exposing your mind to a plethora of knowledge and letting it change you. As such, your academic journey is the perfect time to begin experimenting with ideas and thoughts, open your mind to different points of view, and discover new passions.

Be curious. Push yourself out of your academic comfort zone. Staying close to what you planned may be tempting, but don’t close yourself to the opportunity to follow your curiosity and change career paths— that’s what college is all about.