The Ultimate College Survival Guide for Freshmen
As college application season wraps up, students all over are adjusting and preparing for the first year of university life. Freshman year of college marks a new, exciting, and oftentimes challenging chapter in students’ lives.
We’ve created a College Survival Guide for Freshmen to help them navigate their first year of higher education and beyond. It’s divided into four sections: personal and social, academic, campus, and spiritual life to help students learn how to survive college.
Personal & Social Life
This section includes tips on maintaining your personal and social life, coping with homesickness, finding balance, and creating the best college experience.
1. Make Friends
There are many opportunities to meet new people around campus, whether in your dorm, classes, events, clubs, or organizations. Plus, if you meet friends in your classes, you can study with them and share notes!
Talking to people is the first step. Make friends anywhere you go. Step out of your comfort zone. Be social even if it might be uncomfortable at first. You will need to build a support network for the next four years. It might seem scary at first, but you’ll find that many people feel the same way you do, and you probably have a lot more in common with people than you might think!
2. Make Time for You
College can get busy. Balancing school work, classes, a social life, and other activities can be challenging. However, it’s super important to make time for yourself. Dedicate an hour (or whatever free time you can) to doing something you love, something that makes you happy, or something to help relieve stress - even if it’s just a walk outside.
3. Get Organized
As mentioned above, life will get hectic sometimes. Keeping an up-to-date planner or calendar with all your activities, deadlines, appointments, etc., will help you stay organized and avoid overbooking yourself.
4. Call Home
Make some time to call your parents, grandparents, friends, etc. They miss you and will always be happy to receive a call from you. A word of advice, however; calling home too often could make you more homesick. Instead of spending all your time on the phone with people back home, you should be enjoying the environment and people surrounding you at college.
5. Find Ways to Cope with Homesickness
Homesickness is completely normal, and almost every college freshman experiences it at some point. As previously mentioned, calling home might help some with their homesickness, while it can worsen it for others. You have to find what makes you feel good – maybe it’s cooking your favorite meal from home or having a weekly family FaceTime.
6. Stay Healthy
Your health is the ultimate backbone of your college life, and staying healthy will allow you to make the most of it. Eat right, take your vitamins, exercise, go outside, and get enough sleep.
Keep track of your money by creating a budget. Pace your spending so your money lasts all semester. Money can go quickly when you’re living on your own. Find part-time jobs if you need extra cash.
8. Take Responsibility for Your Actions
Heading off to college means you’re officially an adult, and being an adult requires you to take responsibility for yourself and your actions. Don’t blame your mistakes on others.
If you choose not to study for exams, or prioritize your social life over academics, that’s your responsibility! At the end of the day, you’re the one who is ultimately in charge of your actions and decisions, so own up to them. Don’t worry though, in college, there are plenty of resources to help you navigate the best way to make decisions.
9. Ask for Help if You Need it
Whether that’s professional help, advice from your parents, or a hug from your friends, talk to people and seek support if you begin to feel overwhelmed, anxious, depressed, or lost. Most colleges have counseling and health centers where you can seek professional guidance.
This section of the College Survival Guide will help you navigate academic life, find study tips and resources, and share other useful suggestions.
10. Attend Class
College is different in that no one’s there to force you to attend class. However, attending class is essential in order to get all the information you need. Professors often teach lots of material that’s only available in lectures, and for some classes, attendance may even be mandatory.
11. Get Ahead on Schoolwork
College curriculum looks a lot different than high school assignments. For example, some courses may not give homework, and instead your only responsibility is a semester-long project or exams (like midterms and finals). You don’t want to procrastinate and leave projects or studying for the last minute. Instead, start early, pace yourself, and stay on top of the material.
12. Find your Ideal Study Spot and Study
Locate a spot (or multiple spots) on campus where you can go to study. It should be a place that’s free of distractions where you can concentrate. Maybe that’s your dorm room, the library, or a café–find a place that works for you!
The other part of this tip is to master how to study. College isn’t like high school, where you can sometimes get by with minimal to no studying. The course content is much denser and requires a higher level of thinking, so dedicate sufficient time to master each topic. This looks different for everyone; maybe you like to take notes, review class slides, visit a tutor, or even ask your professor for permission to record lectures.
13. Get to Know Your Professors
Meet with your professors before and after class or during their office hours. You should participate in class and ask questions, and your professors will get to know you. Getting to know your professors early on in the semester may come in handy later whether for academic or professional resources.
14. Exchange Numbers with Someone in Your Class
Not only is exchanging phone numbers with someone in your class a great way to make friends, but it can pay off in the future! This might be your new study buddy, or even someone to ask questions to or bounce around assignment ideas. Also, if you miss class, you could have a friend send you notes and material you missed.
15. Strive for Good Grades
Study, put in the work, and strive to get good grades. Set academic goals for yourself at the beginning of the semester and try your hardest to achieve them. Refer back to our tips on studying, asking for help, and meeting with your professor if you need assistance with academics – the next one comes in handy too.
16. Take Advantage of Academic and Study Resources
Most universities have tutoring, mentoring, and learning centers where you can seek academic help. Some even have writing centers that will proofread your assignments and help you improve them. They’re free, so take advantage of them and many professors include this information in the class syllabus.
17. Read your Syllabus
You might have heard this word in reference to university life, but have no idea what it means. The syllabus is a key resource and magic guide for understanding each of your classes. Professors post the syllabus online or hand it out during the first week of classes.
Make sure to read and save this document in a safe place, and refer back to it when you have course questions. Professors include the names of required textbooks, how to contact them, their office hours, assignment schedules, class meeting times, and the room.
18. Register for Classes Early
This tip is for all years of college. The people who register early get a better pick of classes, but some colleges randomize the order for who chooses first. Courses can fill up quickly, so meet with your academic adviser beforehand to determine which classes you need and be prepared when registration opens.
Campus life is full of fun opportunities for college students to learn more about themselves and those around them. This section will teach you how to take advantage of life on campus!
19. Get Involved
Getting involved on campus is not only a great way to meet new people, but it’s also a huge resume booster! Community service, clubs, organizations, intramural sports, and academic honors societies, are just a few opportunities to participate in campus life. You’ll learn new skills, make friends, and find your passions.
20. Try Something New
Think of college as an opportunity to try different things. You’re in a new place, surrounded by new people, and starting a new chapter. Step out of your bubble of familiarity and take on a new hobby, sport, or activity.
21. Visit the Career Services Office
The career services center is a great campus resource for many students. Advisers can help you polish your resume, practice interviewing, and navigate the job search process. Freshman year is a great time to explore some of your passions and possible career options for your major.
Hang around on campus often, especially during your first year of college. You’ll quickly see how things work and meet others. You might enjoy visiting home if it’s closeby, but if you go too often, you might find yourself feeling isolated or uncomfortable on campus.
The last section of this guide is for students seeking ways to engage with their faith at university.
23. Identify Your Campus Chapel/Church
Christian colleges and universities have chapels and churches on campus. You can attend various chapel services throughout the year and reach out to your campus’s spiritual life office if you have ideas on topics, speakers, etc.
24. Visit the Spiritual Life Office
You can stop by your campus’s spiritual life office to find out ways to get involved with your faith on and around campus.
25. Join a Bible Study/Christian Organization or Start Your Own
There are most likely various Bible studies or Christian organizations on campus. Check your school's website to find out when and where these take place.
Also, most college campuses will let students start their own Bible studies, clubs, or organizations. If there's a particular Bible study or club you want to be involved in, take the initiative and start it yourself!
26. Prioritize Time with God
College is all about prioritizing. Set aside time for praying, listening to worship music, reading the Bible, or doing other things that help you grow spiritually. You can do this by yourself, with friends, or if you find a few moments between classes or activities.
That’s the end of the Ultimate College Survival Guide for Freshmen! Life is all about balance, and college is a great way to learn this and develop as a young adult.
Check out the rest of our blog for more resources about navigating college life.