As I’m heading into my senior year of college, I’ve started to think back on my first three years of college. As a college freshman, I was eager to get out of the house, meet new people, and discover my passions. Everyone has different and unique college experiences, but there are a few things I wish I had known and taken advantage of in the beginning. Here are my top 10 tips I wish I knew as a college freshman:
1. Room with Strangers
This is one thing I was told over and over before starting college but didn’t initially heed. I was lucky enough to attend the same college as my very best friend from high school. We fulfilled all our college fantasies by rooming together—despite council from countless people who told us “don’t room with your friends, it’ll ruin your friendship.”
We decided we would beat the odds and be one of the select few who didn’t want to rip the other’s hair out by the end of the semester. And guess what? It’s our senior year and we’re still best friends. However, it wasn’t until we started rooming with complete strangers that we were able to make new friends. Rooming with your BFF means that you already have a go-to for hangouts and activities. If you decide to room with your friends, then make a pact to get to know the rest of your roommates as well, and include them in roommate bonding activities.
2. Find a Quiet Study Spot
It wasn’t until the end of my second year in college that I finally went to the library to study rather than doing it on my bed. Not only did this bad habit make me overly-comfortable and sleepy, but doing homework at my apartment was a major distraction. Roommates would interrupt my study and I would get too tempted to ditch my homework for more exciting things going on around me.
Find a quiet place on campus where you can give your homework 100% of your attention. For me, this meant finding a cubicle at the library where I couldn’t see or hear any distractions around me.
3. Take Power-Naps
Let me tell you… taking naps will save your life. It’s a miracle what a 10-minute power-nap can do as an energy booster between class, work, and studies. If falling asleep quickly isn’t a skill you possess, then try meditating for 10 minutes. Rather than checking your Instagram feed between classes, take a moment to relax, breathe, and mentally prepare for the next hectic part of your day.
4. Use Office Hours
Most professors will have office hours available for you to visit with them about assignments. Take advantage of this! By visiting your professors during their office hours, you will be able to ask for clarification on assignments, get feedback to improve the quality of your work, and get to know your professor a little better. This is important because half of finding a job after college has to do with the network of connections you’ve made. By showing your professors you are proactive by taking advantage of office hours, they will remember you and potentially provide recommendation letters for your future job applications.
5. Get to Know Your Neighbors
One of the best things about college is the people you meet and the friendships you make. Set a goal for yourself to step out of your comfort zone and introduce yourself to others. Even if that “step” is literally taking three steps next door to your neighbors’ door. Invite them over for game nights or waffle parties with your roommates. Some of my favorite college memories come from cramming as many people as we could into our little apartment for Sunday brunch and game nights.
6. Don’t Let Dating Take Over
Don’t get me wrong, dating is great. College is the prime time to get to know others, build relationships, and even fall in love. However, don’t let dates take priority over your grades. I went from skipping an assignment here and there to go out, to seeing my grades tank completely in order to spend more time with my boyfriend. Guess what that got me? A broken heart and a bad GPA.
If they are really worth your time, then they will be understanding of sharing your time with your studies. Pro-tip: if you really want to get homework done on a “study date,” then go somewhere together like the library where you won’t get distracted.
7. Take Advantage of Campus Exercise Facilities
College may be the only time in your life that you have free access to exercise facilities. Take full advantage of this—especially if you want to avoid the “freshman 15.” See if one of your roommates will be your gym buddy so you can have someone to keep you motivated. Some campuses will even have different exercise classes available in the evenings, such as cycling and yoga.
8. Student Discounts
When I first started college, I was aware that college students could get discounts a lot, but I didn’t know exactly where and what kind of discounts I could get. Some of the most commonly used ones are Netflix, Amazon Prime Student, Apple Music, Spotify + Hulu, Office Max, and Adobe. I suggest doing some research on websites for textbook discounts and find out which local businesses have discount codes and deals for students.
9. Start Internships Early on
My initial assumption for internships was that they were reserved for college seniors. I figured that it was a sort of “end cap” to your schooling, and it segued into a career if they liked you enough. While this may be true for many cases, it’s not the only truth. If you have the opportunity to complete multiple internships, do it!
The sooner you can get some first-hand experience in your field of study, the sooner you can decide if that’s really what you want to do your whole life. If you don’t get experience until the end of your studies, then you will risk studying four years of something just to discover it’s not what you want to do.
10. DON’T RUSH
I have met way too many people who rush through their college experience and try to move onto the next stage of their lives as quickly as possible. If you’ve found your passion and you’re anxious to get going on your career, then that’s great! But there’s so much to enjoy about this stage of life and opportunities to really make connections and discover yourself.
Take it easy, live it to the fullest, and enjoy your time in college. Join a club, cheer on your school’s team, go on a few road trips, or even do a semester abroad. You’ll have plenty of time to work in your future full-time job, but your time at college is limited, so enjoy it while you can!