20 Tips for Thriving in Your First Semester

College is an exciting time in your life, and with the excitement comes a lot of change! For most people, it is the first time to live away from your family and be responsible for yourself. Your freshman year is important for building relationships, setting the pace for school work, and growing good habits for the rest of your college career! Here are 20 tips to get you started and on the right path for a successful first semester

  1. Go to orientation. There is a ton of information given at orientation about the campus, classes, various organizations, and helpful resources. The more you know at the beginning, the more comfortable you’ll be!
  2. Explore the campus. Do this before your first day so you know where your classes are and where the major spots on campus are – food places, the library, the gym, student centers, and more.
  3. Get organized! Time management and organization is crucial to keeping everything balanced and orderly. A good, old-fashioned planner is worth investing in to keep you on track! There are apps to help with this, such as MyHomework Student Planner and Trello. Binders and notebooks are great for separating and organizing all of your courses. Google Drive is a lifesaver when it comes to group assignments and backing up your work!
  4. Go to class! I mean, you are paying for it! Avoid the temptation to sleep through that Monday morning 8am class. You’ll be more prepared for tests and assignments, and receive important information from the professor about upcoming stuff.
  5. Use the syllabus. Print off the syllabus or have it easily accessible. This will help you know requirements for the course and due dates for assignments and tests.
  6. Figure out your learning style. Having a good understanding of how you best learn will make you more confident in studying and help you find ways to improve your study habits. Learn more about this in our recent blog post!
  7. Take notes. Find a system for note-taking that works well for you, and stick to it.
  8. Meet your professors. They can put a name to the face, and you’ll feel more comfortable with asking questions throughout the semester. Learn their office hours so you can go if you need extra help.
  9. Have a plan for course registration. Trust me, this time of year can get cutthroat. Talk with your academic advisers often and have a game plan for registering for classes so that you know exactly what to do when it opens. Also, have backup plans for if a class is too full. You don’t want to extend your time in college by another semester or 2 because you didn’t prepare for registration!
  10. Get involved in campus. Explore the various school organizations and find a couple you want to try out. Don’t overwhelm yourself: stick to just a 1-2 that you are passionate about. There are organizations for everyone, so you can definitely find something you’re interested in. These are a great way to build friendships that last all through college!
  11. Find good college student deals. There are so many deals available for college students! Some good ones are UNiDAYS, which offers tons of discounts at local and online store; Spotify Premium has a discount for students; and there are often local apps with food and retail store deals. Also, get great discounts on your textbooks at www.textbooksolutions.com!
  12. Make friends with students in your classes. That way you always have a study buddy or someone to share notes with!
  13. Don’t procrastinate! Procrastinating until 11:00pm on your homework can spiral out and become a habit. Don’t let it get to that point! Use time in between classes to get ahead instead of watching Netflix, or set aside an hour each evening for schoolwork.
  14. Stay healthy and eat right. Don’t get caught up in the lazy Ramen and McDonalds phase of college life. There are plenty of ways to eat right on a budget, you just have to take the time to plan out your meals and snacks and find what works best for you. Take vitamins, get enough sleep, and find ways to stay active – whether it’s going on walks at your local park or using a free gym service at your campus.
  15. Talk to your parents often. Set an alarm on your phone to call your mom and dad once or twice a week – it will mean the world to all of you to stay in touch!
  16. Keep track of your money! Start a budget if needed, or just monitor your bank accounts. If you have a credit card, be smart with it – don’t spend money that you don’t have.
  17. Limit social media time. It is hard to resist the urge, but you can maximize your study time if you don’t get on Facebook or Instagram every 10 minutes. It can also take away time you could use to experience new things and form new friendships.
  18. Find a balance. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the new experiences, but you have to find a way to balance your social life and academics. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others for help if you need it.
  19. Make time for you! Find hobbies or relaxing activities that make you happy and take time to do them a couple times a week
  20. Stay positive! College may seem stressful and full of change, but it’s an exciting time of life! You can make the choice to be positive and not let situations bring you down.

Resources

https://www.livecareer.com/career/advice/jobs/first-year-success

https://www.collegexpress.com/articles-and-advice/student-life/blog/10-tips-how-survive-and-thrive-your-first-year-college/

https://collegeinfogeek.com/42-things-i-learned-freshman-year/

What Kind of Learner Are You?

How do you learn best? Is it by taking notes on your professor’s lecture in class, going through flash cards of information, or maybe by getting some hands-on practice? You have probably seen that there are many different ways that people learn information, and not everyone uses the same methods. Maybe you’ve wondered how your roommate can study for their exam when they are blaring loud music, or how someone could possibly concentrate on a textbook while sitting still in the same position for 2 hours! There is no one-size-fits-all answer for learning, and there are hundreds of studying tactics to help you. Research by an educator named Neil Fleming suggests that there are 4 main categories of learners: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. These are called learning styles! Learning styles are important because they help you better understand what environment you work best in, and how to ensure that you study well to make that “A”!

Visual Learners

Do you like seeing graphs and charts in a textbook that better explain the content? Do you remember things best when you can see them, such as on a flashcard or diagram? You might be a visual learner! Visual learners would rather see information given in a visual form, such as graphs, videos, handouts, or images. You may often find yourself closing your eyes to picture a random fact, or are distracted easily when listening to a lecture where there is nothing to look at.

Tips and Tricks for Visual Learners:

  • Avoid studying or working in areas where there is a lot of movement or things to visually distract you.
  • Create flashcards to learn new things.
  • Highlight or color code important information.
  • Find or make your own diagrams, lists, charts, or drawings of what you are trying to learn.

Auditory Learners

Different from visual ones, auditory learners learn best when they can hear information. Do you remember things better when you say them out loud? Do you enjoy bouncing ideas off of professors or fellow classmates? These may be signs that you are an auditory learner! These learners would rather listen to a lecture or to a recording than read a textbook. It may be helpful for you to read words out loud to memorize them, or to ask questions and verbalize your thought process.

Tips and Tricks for Auditory Learners:

  • Sit where you can hear the lecture or class.
  • Repeat facts or vocabulary words out loud to yourself.
  • Have a friend read you practice questions and answer them out loud.
  • Record class lectures or review sessions so you can play them back later.

Reading/Writing Learners

Have you always done better in school when teachers use PowerPoints with their notes or when you write important information down? If so, you are probably a reading/writing learner! This is exactly what it sounds like: you learn better when things are displayed as words or when you write them yourself. Reading a textbook or PowerPoint slide is more effective for these learners than hearing or seeing.

Tips and Tricks for Reading/Writing Learners:

  • It may seem straightforward, but take notes during lectures or while reading a textbook!
  • Make your notes in bullet form, and only include important points: you will retain it better if notes are in condensed, “bite-size” pieces.
  • Work in a quiet area where nothing will distract you from your reading.
  • Practice for tests with multiple choice questions.

Kinesthetic Learners

“Kinesthetic” means motion or movement. Kinesthetic, or tactile, learners thrive when they get hands-on practice and can physically apply what they are learning. If you find that you need to take frequent breaks during lectures to move around, love working with manipulatives when in class, and learn best by doing something, then kinesthetic learning is for you! You tend to learn best when some sort of movement is involved, rather than by hearing or seeing information.

Tips and Tricks for Kinesthetic Learners:

  • Participate in hands-on activities like art, building things, acting out, or moving/manipulating objects.
  • Give yourself study breaks where you can stretch or walk around to clear your mind.
  • Trace words, letters, or numbers that relate to what your studying to better remember.
  • Work in study groups and review by playing various trivia games or asking questions.

Remember, not everybody falls into one box! You may find tips from multiple categories useful. Whatever your learning style(s) are, find what helps YOU learn best!

Resources

Co-habitating Harmoniously

Living on your own is an exciting first step into adulthood but chances are, you’ve probably got a roommate – and that’s okay! Having a roommate around isn’t such a bad thing when you actually make an effort to make it work. First and foremost, having a roommate helps you save on rent and with rising living costs, that’s a pretty big bonus. Having a roommate also adds an extra sense of security and mostly keep the anxieties of living all by yourself at bay. Did you forget to turn off your straightener before rushing to class? Locked yourself out? Heard a weird noise outside your window? Cultivating a healthy relationship with your roommate can help ease those worries, especially if it’ll be your first endeavor living away from home.

Whether you’re moving into a dorm or moving into your own place, moving in with your best friend, or moving in with a stranger – you’re still going to have to navigate through some pretty common roommate problems. Here are a few tips to help you resolve them and even avoid some of them in the long run!

Set clear expectations from the start. If you already know who you’re rooming or moving in with, that makes this first step a whole lot easier. Don’t be afraid to communicate with your roommate. After all, you two are basically gonna be living your lives within pretty close proximity of each other. Your best friend may already know and understand your quirks and weird habits, but you can’t expect the same from someone you just met.

Maybe you’re a night owl and your roomie’s a morning person, or you prefer study music whereas your roomie needs complete silence. Try asking people who have lived with you, maybe your siblings or even your parents, about little habits you have that you may not even have noticed you had. Talking about these things beforehand eliminates accidentally setting off your roommate and vice versa.

Here are some things you may want to talk about beforehand:

  • Sleeping habits and schedules
  • Bathroom habits (Do you steam up the shower? Take frequent baths? etc.)
  • Definition of what is considered to be clean and organized/dirty and messy
  • Eating habits (Are you a late night snacker? Vegan? Allergic to anything?)
  • Pet peeves

Talk about finances. This doesn’t just apply to rent and utilities if you’re getting your own place – this means talking about groceries, toiletries, cleaning supplies, and just about anything that two people need to purchase in order to live in their own place. If you’re moving into an apartment, maybe you need to talk about buying living room furniture or appliances and how you might wanna break down the cost. Maybe you absolutely want a coffee maker but your roomie doesn’t even drink coffee – it most likely isn’t reasonable to ask them to pitch in for a Keurig. Or conversely, if your roomie thinks it’s a good idea to get a toaster and you know you’re probably gonna use it once in a while – don’t expect them to foot the bill just cause it’s their idea.

Whether you split the bill in half on every communal item or offer to purchase different items with equivalent values, always remember to be fair. Also, keep in mind your roommate’s preferences when it comes to groceries. If it’s your turn to go grocery shopping, don’t ‘forget’ the almond milk when you know they’re lactose intolerant. Or if you know a certain laundry soap irritates their skin, don’t change it up all of a sudden. Be considerate and be mindful and make sure to communicate your needs too. Living with another person and creating a harmonious relationship with them means compromise. 

Here are some things you may want to talk about beforehand:

  • Groceries: will you shop together? is it a rotating schedule? how will you get reimbursed?
  • What are things you’re willing to pay for?
  • What are things you’re not willing to pay for?
  • If you’re splitting cost on certain big ticket items like a couch or a dining table, how do you determine who keeps what at the end of the lease?

Respect their stuff. This ties in with the finances talk you should’ve already had. If you didn’t pay for it, it’s not yours. Or even if you did at least pay for half, it belongs to both of you. Don’t use or ‘borrow’ anything that isn’t yours without asking and if it’s understood that it’s a communal item, don’t hog it. That’s just common courtesy.

Here are some communal items/things you may want to be considerate of:

  • TV time
  • Netflix, Hulu, and other shareable accounts (Just cause your roomie logged into the account on your smart TV, it doesn’t automatically mean you can use it. Ask first and offer to split the cost).
  •  Desk space/study space (Some school projects take up a lot of space, or sometimes you just need your notes sprawled out for reference, be considerate of where you choose to do so, especially if it’s in a communal space like the living room or dining room table).

Be mindful of guests you bring over. Your place is your roommate’s place too; your home is their home. Things can get especially dicey when you’re living in dorms and you’re sharing the same room. As a rule of thumb, always ask your roommate if you can have people over – or at the minimum, give them a heads up. If you know your roommate is feeling under the weather or has to cram for an exam, be considerate. Also, entertain the idea that your roommate doesn’t necessarily want to be around your friends (or significant other) all the time – nor do they necessarily have to like them.

Here are some things you may want to talk about beforehand:

  • How many people at any given time are allowed over?
  • How much notice do you need to give? Day before? Day of? A quick text before right before you and friends show up?
  • Where are your guests allowed? (If you have separate bedrooms, your roomie’s bedroom is a given ‘off-limit’ space but what about if you share the same room?)
  • Are there any days you absolutely don’t want people over? (Maybe you have an 8am class the next day or you have to go to work early the next day.)

Safety first! Again, your home is their home too. Always remember to lock your doors – you’re not just protecting your stuff, you’re protecting theirs too.

Set reasonable expectations regarding household roles and duties. This category includes the dreaded task of chores. But when you look at it from the glass-half-full perspective, if you lived by yourself you’d have to do all the chores yourself. Find a system that works for both of you – and keep in mind that just because you choose to do a task at the beginning, it doesn’t mean you both are locked into it forever. And most people understand that sometimes life gets in the way – times like that is when it’s especially important to remember to communicate and compromise. Being in college sometimes means that your days aren’t all the same; some days you work late, some days you don’t have class, and some days your schedule is all kinds of messed up. That’s okay, just make sure you let your roommate know when you can’t do a certain chore on a certain day but also offer a solution. For example, if Friday is vacuuming day but you’ll be gone from early in the morning to late at night, communicate that to your roomie and maybe offer to do it on Saturday or offer to switch tasks.

Be open to change. A harmonious home requires a lot of commitment from both sides. Most times this means creating a plan and sticking to it and reassessing the plan once in a while to see if it still works. Having a roommate is like being in a platonic relationship with someone – in a perfect world, partnerships are 50/50. But in reality, some days it’s 60/40 or even 80/20.

Own up to your mistakes. It’s one thing to do something you didn’t realize would bother your roommate; it’s another thing to do something you know would bother your roommate and not tell them. If you break something, let them know, offer to fix it, or even offer to replace it.

Fix the small problems before they snowball into big problems. It’s typically the little things that go unchecked that create the perfect conditions for harbored resentment. Roomie doesn’t finish their water bottles before starting a new one? Yeah, it’s mildly annoying, but one day you’ll wake up to a sea of half-finished water bottles in your living room and you won’t know how to cope. Do you choose to get upset over something as frivolous as water-bottles, or do you dump them all in a trash bag seething with resentment? Neither option is ideal, so nip it in the bud before they jump on your last nerve.

Often times, people don’t even realize their habits are slowly picking at you. Let your roomie know, but also be kind about it. How you say things is equally as important as what you say. If you come at your roommate with guns blazing over something that seems so insignificant, you can’t possibly expect them to take you seriously.

Be open to constructive dialogue. Communication is a two-way street. Yeah, you’re detailing all of your expectations and are quick to nip your roommate’s bad habits in the bud, but also give them the space to speak their opinions. If you’re bringing up your roomie’s water bottle habit, allow them to bring up any pet peeves they may have about you – like, say, leaving q-tips on the bathroom counter or wearing dirty shoes on the carpet.

Always remember the Golden Rule: Treat your roommate how you want to be treated. It may seem obvious to you what your needs are, but your roommate isn’t a mind reader. A healthy roommate relationship includes lots of communication, compromise, and commitment to making it work.

Cautions For Using Professor Review Sites

When I go to create my class schedule for the coming semester, I tend to look for a few things. The required classes for my major and minor, the time of the class, and the professor that is teaching the class are the top three factor I take into account when choosing my classes. The one thing I have found the most problem determining is which professor I should take the class with. Enter professor rating sites.

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Sites such as ratemyprofessors.com are a staple to students choosing classes in today’s college environment. However, are these sites really accurate?

Extreme Posts: These posts on this site are very much in the fashion of sites like yelp and other review sites. Many of the posts I have found on my professors have been subjective and seem to be mainly written from the extreme ends of student opinions. This lends itself to extreme reviews either highly praising or critiquing the teacher.

Outdated Reviews: While using these sites, the date that the review was created is also important to take into account when deciding the validity of the review. The professor’s curriculum can change very frequently in the college world as well as professors changing their teaching styles to try and reach their students in a more effective way. This means that a review created in 2008 will likely not be as reliable as one created in 2018.

Relying solely based on reviews of professor rating sites is not recommended, as this information can be a hit or miss in accuracy. Here are some suggested actions in addition to using review sites:

Email the Professor: It’s possible to email the professor and as them questions personally or even get a copy of the syllabus if they have taught the class before. Although these sources are convenient, it does not always provide the best information on the professor.

Ask Others: Check around with students you know to see if they have taken the professor you are checking. Because it is a student you know, you can better understand and trust their advice.

Checklist for making the most of your college experience

Whether graduation seems forever away or approaching too soon, you want to make the most of your time in college! Here are some tips we put together for you on how to make the most of your college experience:

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  • Take advantage of tutoring opportunities
    If you’re struggling with math homework or an essay for an English class, most of the time there are free tutoring services that are provided by the school that can help you. There’s no use in passing up the service that your tuition already pays for. Looking at the other side of the coin, if you’re really good at a subject you can either volunteer or maybe even get paid to be a tutor. Either way, this will look good on your resume and it helps to reiterate the information back to you and you become more of an expert on the subject.
  • Find your study space
    Doing homework in your dorm or apartment is not the ideal place to stay focused. Your body and mind associate it with somewhere that you relax and hang out with friends. Search around the campus and you’re sure to find plenty of places to study and do homework. Sometimes departments will offer a space for students in their program to study and if you get lucky enough, they can give you free stuff that they don’t want like books or notebooks. If studying on campus isn’t something that you like, there are plenty of coffee shops that have wifi. Sometimes going out of your comfort zone can open doors to new places to study.
  • Save your course materials
    Saving all course materials can sound a bit intimidating considering the amount of work a student can accumulate over the years. The way to do this efficiently is to keep the most important documents. You can use this information for the harder classes that are relevant to the course you take at the beginning of your college career. Not only that, you can keep these items in case you need to create a portfolio when you’re a senior. Don’t have enough space on your computer? You can always store the files on a hard-drive. There are also applications that you can store information on the web.
  • Read over your credit requirements
    It’s very important to constantly be looking at the requirements for the major that you plan to pursue. Degree plans change all the time and it is important that you don’t take classes more than once or that you take unnecessary classes. This will save you time and money. Who knows, you could even graduate faster than anticipated.
  • Attend extracurricular lectures and seminars
    All colleges and universities invite guest speakers for students to learn more. This would be a key factor for students that want to learn more about a specific subject. Not only that, if professors see that you are taking initiative to learn more about a subject they can be more willing to help you out.
  • Talk to other students, professors, and alumni
    Talking to other people can seem scary (especially for us introverts) but it is a great way to network. If you talk to fellow classmates, you can help each other out in the class by comparing notes and studying together. This can help you in many different ways. Talking to professors more can also help your grade. If they see that you are trying they could give tips on how to better your work to get a higher score. Getting to know professors is also a very helpful technique to do because these are the people that can give you recommendation letters for graduate schools and future jobs. The alumni can also be very useful because they have already passed through the path that you are going through. They can help guide you and give insight on life once graduation is over.
  • Keep an open mind about new things
    Not letting yourself get tied down to just one thing will help you in the long run. Opening your mind can lead to taking classes that can open a new passion and maybe even become a hobby that can help relieve stress. It can also lead to meeting new people that can help network.
  • Get a college job in your desired career field
    Looking for a job is stressful enough as it is, but if you can find something that is related to your desired career, this can open doors for when you do graduate. Employers will be able to see that you have experience in the field and will want to choose you over people that don’t have the same experience.
  • Don’t just take an easy class, take interesting ones
    Students can get carried away by selecting easy classes because they want to boost their GPA but sometimes it isn’t the best choice. Instead of taking a boring class just because the assumption that it will be easier, taking an interesting class about something that is a bit out of your comfort zone can open your mind to something new and exciting that you can enjoy more than you think You can also find new friends in these classes and again open yourself up to more networking.
  • Have a “Plan B”
    Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. You should always have second and third options just in case your first choices are taken. No one knows what is in the path of life, so having a backup plan will help with anxiety that comes with not being able to choose a class of your liking or being a first choice.
  • Join extracurricular activities
    Although we all stress out about what classes to take and how good our grades need to be, we also need to make time for other things so you don’t stress yourself out. Joining a club or intramural sport can help in a lot of different ways. It can manage your stress, give you more confidence and make new friends. It can also teach you new things about yourself that you would have never known if you hadn’t joined a club.
  • Stay on budget
    Creating a budget can be very useful when living alone in a dorm or even with parents. Making sure that you have enough money to buy the basic necessities can be very helpful. This can help ease the stress when thinking about the financial part of school and allows you to focus on other things.
  • Know college benefits
    The tuition that you pay isn’t just the classes that you register for. There are many other benefits that the college or university have to offer their students. Ask your advisor to see what kind of benefits you’re missing out on. There can be very useful services out there that you never thought you would need.
  • Learn to combat stress
    Combating stress can be hard at times, but there are a few things that you can do to help you out. Taking time to self-care if very important, this means things like sleeping a sufficient amount of time, eating healthy foods. These can all help your body and mind run more smooth. Doing assignments one step at a time can also help with combating stress. Even talking with an advisor can help relieve some of the pressure that we put on ourselves. Take a moment to take a deep breath.
  • Use office hours
    As stated previously, it is important to get to know your professors. Using office hours shows the professors that you are interested in learning about the subject and that you are dedicated to getting a good grade. This can open doors so that they can write recommendation letters in the future when applying for jobs or graduate school.
  • Have fun!
    One of the most important things is to have fun in school. Having fun can be easily forgotten when you’re worried about grades but school can also be fun if you let it be.