How to Be a Successful College Freshman

Survive freshman year with these expert tips.

By Kathryn Knight Randolph

September 01, 2016

How to Be a Successful College Freshman

For most students, college life is a wake-up call. Whether you coasted academically, socially or financially through your life up until this point, college brings plenty of stark changes. And unfortunately – but also fortunately – you don’t turn into a successful college student overnight. It takes some time – and even a few mistakes here and there.

But here’s a little bit of advice on what you can expect.

You are the responsible adult.

If you sleep through your alarm, your Mom, Dad and siblings aren’t there to wake you up to make sure you get to class on time. Your Mom also isn’t there to nag about your homework – or to eat your vegetables. While the newfound liberation of college can be exciting, it can also provide a bit of a learning curve.

From the moment your parents leave, you’re now the responsible adult in your life. You have to be the one to make sure you’re in class on time, completing assignments, laundering your clothes, eating well and taking time to exercise. There is no one there to nag you. Rather, you have to “nag” yourself.

Granted, there will be times when you oversleep, forget to read for your class or skip a meal because you’re so busy. And that’s fine. Just don’t let your mistakes turn into bad habits. Learn from them, and do better.

But keep in mind that you’re never alone.

Though you’re the only one responsible for you at this point, there are still a plethora of resources and people to help you at college so that you never feel alone. Many students initially deal with homesickness and even depression. Though there are plenty of university-sponsored events to help students meet people and make friends, there are other times when it’s easy to feel lonely.

This is when you have to step up and put yourself out there. Say yes to dinner with your new roommate or people on your floor. Join extracurricular activities or clubs. Ask for help from professors, staff and health and counseling services when you need it. The entire university is at your disposal to help you navigate your academic, social and mental and emotional well-being – use it.

Change your mind, take risks and have fun.

As a college student, you have to make several big decisions – like what to major in or where to study abroad or where to apply for jobs or graduate school. While the thought of all of that seems stressful, the timeline for making your decisions is rather lenient. Most colleges don’t require students to declare a major until sophomore year, and changing majors is very common.

With that, try new things. Take some classes that interest you versus those that are just required. Open your mind to the possibility that you may stumble on a major you love instead of the field you intended to study. Try to study abroad as well. Your school will have relationships with universities around the world that provide courses that meet your major and general requirements. Plus, there are financial aid and scholarship opportunities exclusively for study abroad. You never know where your passion or interest in another country or culture will take you.

Finally, have fun. Yes, college is a time to work hard toward your future, but it’s also a place to make memories. Take some time to relax, unwind and go out with friends…just don’t forget to set your alarm for class the next morning.

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