College is a time unlike any other in your life. You have gained independence, you are in a new place, and your adult life is gradually staring you in the face. You have choices to make, and you know it.
College academics in the first term will be challenging because it is material that you have never seen before. Plus, you face much higher expectations, especially that you are responsible for your motivation and success. Unlike high school, the college expects you to build your education from the bottom up, rather than regurgitating whatever facts a teacher feeds you. This means much more work than you are used to.
Get passionate about something.
Take a moment to reflect on what you enjoy doing and studying and what you’re genuinely interested in. What are your goals? What are your plans? College is another step on the ladder to the rest of your life. What do you want to do after college, and how will college prepare you for that next step?
Work on your general education
Most colleges require a broad range of classes in the beginning, often referred to as “general education” or “distribution” requirements. Even if you’ve already declared your major and know what you want to study, the distribution requirements build critical skills such as written and oral communication, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Learn to separate gossip from genuine information
Learn to use observations and evidence to form your own opinions. Attend special events and seminars on campus. Join clubs for students in your major or program. Read a reliable news site every day. You are your own person, and you owe it to yourself to form your own opinions about things.
Talk to your professors.
A big mistake college students make never forming a relationship with their professors. Forming a relationship with professors can help make your education richer and your network bigger.
Go to office hours with the intent of improving your mastery of the course material, and not just to “show your face” in an attempt to suck up, change a grade, or appear more dedicated. Office hours are your opportunity for extra help with ideas and methodologies with which you are having trouble.
Arrive prepared with specific questions. Bring your class notes and your textbook. Ask specific questions about the concepts where you need help. Professors will not repeat an entire lecture that you missed. Professors want to help you, but always remember that you are responsible for your motivation and success.
Form good study habits. Everyone studies in a different way
Having a television or music in the background is a bad idea. Some people like to study alone. Some people like studying in groups. Find out what habits work best for you. Ask yourself and answer these questions:
How much time does it take for an idea to stick for you? Do you need weeks before the light bulb goes off or days?
Set an academic goal for yourself
If you don’t set any academic goal, you might leave college wondering whether you tried enough. Your academic goal doesn’t have to be the same as someone else’s goal.
Try to be realistic about it when you set it; balance it out with other personal goals you may have. Getting through college isn’t always about getting a 4.0 or graduating summa cum laude. It’s about doing the best you’re capable of, given your resources.
Establish as many friendships as possible
If you’re at a bigger school, you may find the sheer number of new people a bit intimidating. That’s okay. Everyone feels that way at first. Get past the numbers’ intimidation, and you’ll find dozens, if not hundreds, of people you get with and learn from. Many people look back on their college years with good memories, often because of their friendships.
Get involved in clubs, traditions, and events.
College events are a lot different from the compulsory events you might have done in high school. Because no one is forced to participate, the people who are there enjoy being there independently. It’s no secret the real draw of clubs and events is the social aspect.
You’ll probably meet a lot of people with similar interests, a few people you don’t get along with, and a few people with absolutely amazing backgrounds. C’est la vie: it’s a cross-section of life. Take the time to do clubs and events outside your immediate social circle. It’s fine to invite your best friends to participate in your club’s activities.
Go to parties
Be yourself and get in the mood for meeting new people. However, be smart and be cautious. Go with friends and use the buddy system. Be your friend’s keeper. Keep an eye on your friend and see if s/he’s drinking too much, and ask your friend to keep an eye on you also. Never leave your friend alone, impaired, or in an unsafe or unfamiliar environment.
Be a gracious party-goer. Don’t litter bottles around someone’s room, make a mess in someone’s kitchen, or use someone’s bed without their permission. Bring cups or soda, or if you’re old enough, beer or wine. It’s never bad being the person that the host takes a liking to because they’re generous and well-mannered.
Engage in safe sex, if you choose to be active
Many college-bound first-year students are still alarmingly ignorant about sex. In college, people like to brag about sex. The truth is that college students have sex at a much lower rate than their braggadocio might suggest. One study found that most participants had 1 or fewer sexual partners over the course of a year.
Another survey found that 59% of students reported having no sexual partners in the last 30 days.
Always use protection.
Whether you’re a guy or a girl, always keep a condom on you if you’re sexually active. If used correctly, a condom is 98% effective in preventing pregnancy. Disagree on sex unless you or your partner use protection. Contracting HIV, herpes or another STI is as easy as having unprotected sex one time. And unlike your excitement, which will fade with time, an STI like herpes won’t go away.
Never eat alone
Actually, if you feel like it, eating alone doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Taken from the name of a book by Keith Ferrazzi, the idea is that networking, or making connections that might jumpstart your career at a later date, can be made easy and doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Make the most of your opportunities while you’re in college. Turn time in the mess hall into a rewarding lesson in personal development.
3. Maintaining Your Health, Safety, and Finances
Eat healthy, exercise, and get enough rest.
All three seem to be on the shortlist for things college students do least. However, if you want to succeed in college and learn how to balance work, play, and a thousand different things in between, you’ll need to start getting serious about your health.
Visit the university health center.
The university health center will have all sorts of information about staying healthy on campus, in addition to housing the university’s best doctors. Take advantage of the free amenities your health center offers: free vaccines, condoms, and counselling are among the most common.
Use the safety department, if your college has one
Many colleges and universities will have a public safety department that looks after the university population’s safety. Public safety officers will routinely: Escort you to your home or dorm if you feel unsafe.
Give you valuable safety tips about living in your area.
Budget out your expenses
College is a time when kids start behaving like grown-ups. Part of being a grown-up has a budget. To make a budget, take an inventory of the money you’ll have during any given month. Look at your past expenses, and budget out how much you’ll allow yourself to spend during that month. The expenses should not exceed the amount of money you have.
Apply for financial aid
Apply for federal student aid, or FAFSA before going to college, and check back routinely for new financial aid opportunities. Check with your college’s student aid department to determine if you apply for any financial aid or merit-based scholarships. There’s a lot of financial aid floating around out there if you know how to find it.
Look for work-study opportunities.
Your college or university needs employees to function, and it probably knows that giving its students a chance to work is a winning bet. Check with your school about work-study opportunities. Much of the time, you’ll get paid to do a mindless, nominal task like a man at the library entrance. This should also give you opportunities to study while you earn a paycheck.
Save money, wherever possible.
If you’re getting a scholarship or financial aid, or your parents are helping you out with expenses, try as much as possible to save money while you’re still in college. After you leave college and become the arbiter of your own life, you’ll have to start paying bills. Those bills will be a lot easier to pay if you stored away a little nest egg while still in college. Other reasons to save money in college