Your Definitive Guide to the First Year of College

I am currently going into my senior year of college, and I feel like I have to help prepare incoming first-year students for their college experience. 

Set Realistic Expectations for Yourself

Movies and TV have set an unrealistic expectation for college students. Watching this media as a kid, you develop a particular college view that is not necessarily accurate.

Everyone has an expectation when they go into college. Whether that is partying every weekend, or to only get As. Whatever it may be, there is a difference between your real goals and unrealistic expectations. 

There are a lot of “should”s you feel in college. “I should be getting a 4.0,”

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“I should be doing four extracurricular activities,” “I should be going to more parties,” etc. 

But these thoughts can be so damaging to your college experience. 

If you live life by your “shoulds,”  then you could end up being disappointed. Realize that your college life won’t be like the movies. Keep it reasonable. Make tangible and attainable goals for yourself. 

Do what you want, not what you feel you have to. If you don’t like to drink, don’t drink. If you don’t want to join the soccer club with your friends, don’t join. This is your college experience, and you have to make it just that: yours.

Time management is your friend.

With everything going on, new friends, clubs, new classes — it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with everything and fall behind. Time management is one of the biggest skills to learn in college and, of course, in life. 

You have to juggle a lot of new things in college. Make sure you prioritize. Your mental health always comes first. But after that, use exam dates and assignment deadlines to figure out your schedule. 

Don’t procrastinate and create a schedule that allows you time to study, see friends, and do extracurriculars. Getting a planner will help you stay organized and on top of your responsibilities.

Be Wary of Social Media

A very damaging aspect of your adjustment period that you don’t always think about is social media. On Instagram, you’ll see friends you went to high school with doing things you think you should be doing. 

Don’t forget that people put their best foot forward on social media. But truthfully, they’re struggling to adjust just like you are. 

This was a massive issue for me during my first year. I saw my close friends from high school post pictures of their new “best friends” partying every weekend, and I thought, “should I be doing that?” I realized that everyone has their way of adjusting, and comparing myself to what I think others are doing will only hurt me.

Don’t let social media make you feel like you should be doing things differently. Stay on track and keep going in your unique direction.

Make Connections with Your Professors 

One of the most significant aspects of college is your professors. They are usually a lot more casual and understanding than high school teachers. They’re great resources during college and even beyond. They provide opportunities and can eventually be excellent references in the future.

Try developing a relationship with them early on. A great way to do that is by going to office hours and asking questions or reviewing your current work. 

“But how do I maintain that relationship when they are no longer my teacher?” Great question. Advice! Advice! Advice! 

If you’re choosing between classes or internships, struggling to write a paper, or having trouble in class, reach out to that professor. Ask them for help and guidance. This shows how much you value their opinion. They will be able to see how you grow as a student, and better help you along the way. 

College isn’t easy, but it is worth it. You will forge your own path and make the most out of every moment. Befriend professors, and don’t overwork yourself! You’re going to be great!