BY ALEX HASLAM
Starting college is one of life’s biggest milestones, and even the most prepared incoming freshmen can feel nervous and overwhelmed. While everyone’s college experience is unique, there are a few tips everyone can follow to prepare for the transition and conquer freshman year.
- Pack Only the Essentials
Moving into a dorm is likely the first time you’ll live on your own. While you may want to bring every single item from home, don’t pack more than you need, especially if you’re moving across state lines. Instead, focus on the school supplies and clothes you’ll use for everyday tasks and classes, along with a few sentimental items to remind you of home.
- Keep a Budget
Tuition and room and board are just a few of the college fees you can expect each year. What you may not expect are book costs and extra money for weekends. Setting up a budget allows you to take control of your finances before the rush of college distracts you. You can start small by setting a monthly budget and using a spreadsheet to keep track of all expenses, helping you avoid spending more than your income allows.
- Create a Routine
Too often, freshmen fall into the trap of sleeping in, skipping class, and delaying laundry day for as long as possible. While you may not have your parents watching your every step, avoid the temptation of laziness. Establish a daily routine, from sleep and wake times to study hours and gym schedules. It may sound boring at first, but sticking to a schedule will help you keep on top of your assignments, stay awake in class, and feel energized and healthy.
- Sign Up for an Extracurricular
One of the best ways to make new friends is to find people with similar interests. For freshman year, commit to joining at least one extracurricular activity. If you’re athletic, this activity may be an intramural sports team, and if you like social outings, it may be a sorority or fraternity. Many colleges also offer a listing of on-campus clubs and organizations, from student government and the school newspaper to chess club and volunteer programs.
- Eat Right
It’s important to be conscious of the choices you make with your food, because we all know it’s hard to resist the often all-you-can-eat options at college cafeterias. As tempting as it is to load up your plate with any option, aim to eat a healthy balance. Focusing on foods that help you have energy and feel good can make a huge difference in college. Eating nutritious and quality food can help you deal with stress and avoid depression while working through your classes.
- Find a Study Zone
In college, weekends start earlier and earlier every year. It’s common for parties to start on a Thursday night, which can make for a loud environment if you still have classes the next day. Instead of studying in your dorm room, find a dedicated study zone. For many, this place is the library, but some colleges offer lounges with comfy chairs, computer rooms, coffee shops, and other quiet spaces for students to study. Find a space where you can get comfortable and stay focused on your school work.
- Explore Your Options
Even if you’ve already established your major and have a five-year plan in place, try as many different classes as possible. You never know what new interests you may discover, and you may even pick up a hobby or two. Just because you’re a finance major doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try an art class, and English majors should dabble in science classes. College is your opportunity to explore every possible career or learning option and find out exactly what interests you.
Ultimately, college is about balance—having fun but making time to study, eating a salad for dinner but a donut for breakfast, and focusing on your major but remaining curious about others. Following these tips can help you feel more prepared to get a good start on your college career and enjoy a memorable and successful freshman year.
Alex Haslam graduated from the David Eccles School of Business at the University of Utah in 2017. Today she is a freelance writer who focuses on consumer technology, entertainment, and higher education.