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/

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.

 

 

How to Choose Your College Classes

It’s that time of the year…. time to decide what classes to take this upcoming semester! It’s important to know how to pick your classes so you can graduate on time, and get the most out of your college experience and your money!  Here are a few tips to guide you in the process of choosing your classes.

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1. Start the process early.

Avoid the stress, and don’t wait until the last minute, or else… well, let’s just say, you may end up with one crazy schedule!

2. Check your graduation requirements.

Review your school’s course catalog. If you have already declared your major, choose some courses that fulfill general requirements in that area. If you have yet to declare a major, get your core requirements out of the way or pick some classes in subjects that spark your interest. Some classes require pre-requisites, therefore make sure you have met those requirements before enrolling.

3. Read RateMyProfessor reviews.

Head over to ratemyprofessor.com and read through the reviews.  You can’t always trust the reviews on this website, but they give you an insight of what the class/professor is like. If you have friends who have taken those professors before, ask them about the course workload and the experience they had in the class.

4. Balance the types of classes.

If you can avoid it, don’t take multiple classes that similar or with the same professor. Needless to say, it can get a little overwhelming studying for similar subjects throughout the semester. Variety will keep you sane!

5. Count your credits.

Be aware of how many credits your classes are and add them up, to ensure that you meet the full-time student requirements. You don’t want to be short a credit or two!

6. Create different schedule options.

Now that you have your list of classes you are interested in, it’s time to work them into a potential schedule. Here comes the really the tricky part, you will need to decide whether you want to take your classes in the morning, afternoon, or certain days of the week, especially if you currently have a job or are involved in any school activities. Create at least two different versions of schedules to consider. [Feel free to print out our handy Class Schedule Planner Grid to assist you build multiple schedules.]

7. Visit your advisor. 

I must admit, some advisors can be cluessless and useless, or definitely help you get your life together! If your advisor falls into the “helpful” category,  he/she will likely have advice about what they think works or doesn’t work and may even suggest classes you hadn’t even considered. If you feel like your advisor isn’t much help, try talking to a different advisor in your department.

8. Schedule as soon as possible.

Once you have your final draft, go sign up for your classes. You definitely don’t want to miss out enrolling in a class you MUST take this semester. Remember, classes have a limited seat capacity, therefore they can fill up very quick.

Best of luck this semester! 🙂