Colin Wattonville is a business student at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, with a background in marketing, entrepreneurship, & finance.
College is an entirely new world that brings with it an infinite number of new challenges for students. Some move to a completely different city, some choose large state schools, and others attend community colleges. No matter what your situation, if you are an incoming college freshman, you are going to be intimidated. The minute you step foot on campus, you will feel overwhelmed. Here are some things that I wish I had known going into the first year of the "best years of my life" that will hopefully help you during this huge transition.
The first tip is also the biggest tip that I have for those who are incoming freshmen, and many of the following tips link back to this one.
Talk to everyone. Join clubs. Get involved. Become close with your professors. The more people that know you, the easier your first year of college will be. Networking makes your overall college experience more enjoyable for a number of different reasons, including being more comfortable at school, having more friends and acquaintances, and having better connections that lead to amazing opportunities and more fun for you. I wholeheartedly believe that networking was why I was so successful my freshman year.
The biggest regret that I had from high school was not getting involved sooner. I also regretted not going Greek my freshman year of college. Not only did I find myself making new friends once I did become involved, but I also began having more fun. I had become a part of extracurriculars that actually aligned with my interests and hobbies. Furthermore, I started to notice a change in myself. I noticed my communication skills growing, along with my self-confidence and willingness to try new things.
Because I realized that getting involved had made the second half of my high school experience so much more enjoyable, I was sure not to make the same mistake the second time around when I entered college. I eagerly attended the clubs and organizations fair, shopped around for different ones that peaked my interest, and found more than enough that I wished to join. You should always try as many that interest you as possible. You may think that I went overboard by joining four organizations my freshman year of college. Truthfully, my only regret was that I didn’t try more!
2) Get Out of the House
This goes along the line of the number one tip for college freshman. No matter how much you enjoy that new show you just started watching or playing the new video game that just came out, these types of activities should take up the smallest amount of your time; unless of course, you are doing them with other people. My point is, you need to go out and spend some time with others. Go to a game night in your friend’s dorm, play intramurals, go to a party, or go out to a movie; just do something other than sitting at home alone. Attend the welcome events and involvement fairs. Yes, they will be awkward, but you never know who you might meet, and they can actually be fun in a cheesy sort of way (plus there will be free food and campus swag items)! Besides, it is important to try new things. The relationships you make in college could last for the rest of your life.
3) Live on Campus
If you can afford it, do it. Not only is it way convenient and allows you to leave for class much later than all of those commuters, but it also brings you closer to the college community, which the previous freshman tips have discussed. Being closer to the action also improves your relationships, grades, and involvement at school. Plus, on-campus housing is typically fairly nice. You will also be close to a gym, stores, coffee shops, study areas, etc.
4) Live With Random Roommates
Some may suck. I can personally give you over a handful of “random roommate horror stories.” However, the good times definitely outweigh the bad, and for every bad memory that I have, I have at least five more good ones. From staying up later just talking, to all getting simultaneously locked out of the dorm after going to a meeting with our RA. But putting all of the passive aggressive notes aside, going back to tip no. 1, living with random roommates allows you to learn to live with different types of people and to meet people that you wouldn’t otherwise have met.
5) Pick Your Classes Early and Wisely
When I say early, I do NOT mean take a class before 9 AM...seriously, don't do it! When choosing your classes, try to sign up for them as soon as they become available; they fill up fast. Also, try to group your classes, so you're not tracking back and forth to campus all day. On top of these, be sure to consider your potential work schedule when signing up. As an added tip, try to take classes with at least one other person that you know and/or who has previously taken the class if possible.
6) Don't Sleep In Class
Many may disagree with me, but if you are insanely tired because you stayed up late last night partying, er, studying, and know that you won't be able to keep your eyes open in class, your time will be better spent just staying in your dorm and sleeping. *Exceptions can be made if the instructor gives credit for attendance/participation*
7) Start Drinking Coffee
Even if you hate it, force yourself to drink it until you like it. You need caffeine to survive college. There will be multiple all-nighters pulled in order to cram for a test or finish a paper you forgot about until the day before it was due. Remember, coffee is like beer. It’s an acquired taste.
8) Show Up and Do the Work
Every point counts. Do that extra credit assignment that your teacher generously offers. Some classes give participation and attendance points. If this is the case, show up to talk and engage with the professor in class. This also builds your relationship with him/her, which is never a bad thing. Even if you did forget that your paper was due today, turn it in late and still get credited some of the points for the assignment.
9) Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
Remember, you are not the only one who is terrified and overwhelmed; every other freshman also feels that sensation of being in over their heads. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, rather a sign of empowerment and self-awareness of your current abilities. Embrace your imperfections. Asking for help only provides you with more opportunities to learn. Whether it's learning how to solve a difficult math problem or learning how to reserve a study room in the library, you will come out of the situation a more experienced student.
10) Don’t Be Closed-Minded
Try everything. This touches back on the first tip for college freshman, networking. This is the time of your life where you start developing who you are as a person. This is the time of your life where you have easy access to try practically ANYTHING that you want to! Have you always wanted to try archery? Attend an archery club meeting. Think you may be interested in psychology? Sign up for a psych class. It’s that simple! Join clubs, take new classes, try new things, start figuring out your interests and passions.
11) Have Fun!
These are the best years of your life! Of course networking and doing well in classes are important, but ultimately, what matters is that you are happy and are enjoying these few amazing years; they go by faster than you think.