7 Pro Tips for Surviving Freshman Year of College

Student, Elmhurst College

You can’t help being an untested newbie during freshman year. But it doesn’t mean you need to take being a rookie lying down. Follow these tips from an upperclassman who’s been there, done that. (And, yes, literally has the T-shirt.)

1. Do not wear what you slept in the night before to class (or work)

Believe it or not, actually getting ready in the morning will help you be prepared for the day. You’ll feel more focused and put together, plus it’s way more respectful to the professor if you look like you actually got ready for class instead of rolling out of bed at the last minute, cursing your 8:00 a.m. the whole way. Speaking of being respectful . . .

2. Treat all faculty and staff with respect

You may get frustrated and hate the plus/minus grading system for lowering your GPA that one tenth of a point. You might do all the work in a group project and get no recognition. There might be a rule that says you can’t check a certain book out of the library. But that does not give you the right to confront a professor or staff member. They get that you’re probably frustrated because something didn’t work out for you, but being rude is never acceptable. Same with the cafeteria and janitorial staff. Chances are whatever is bothering you isn’t their fault. “Treat the janitor how you’d treat the CEO”—I heard this saying a long time ago but it has never been more true than in college. Whether it’s the president of the college or the facilities manager fixing your toilet, you should treat everyone with equal respect. Plus, no one thinks it’s cool to be mean to adults anymore. Be nice. Learn people’s names. Smile. And say thank you.

3. Get some sleep

“No one remembers the nights they got enough sleep.” Okay, that might be true, but everyone remembers when they fall asleep during the most important lecture of the year and missed the pertinent parts for the final (read: only) exam in the class. Everyone’s sleep schedule changes at college, it’s bound to happen, but your body needs rest. Take a 45-minute nap. Go to bed a half hour early. Say no to your fifth night of going out in a row and go to bed instead. Your body and your mind will thank you when you can actually pay attention instead of yawning the day away.

4. The freshman 15 is not a big deal

Everyone has heard of the dreaded Freshmen 15. I’m here to debunk this myth. You might gain weight. You might lose weight. You might stay the same. In any kind of transitional period, humans tend to fluctuate in their weight. It happens after you get married, have kids, start college, start a sport, retire from a sport for that matter—any big change, really. So go to the gym or don’t. Eat that extra pie or don’t. Your body is going to do what is healthy for it to do, so just make sure that you feel healthy. If that means going to the gym, then go! If that means getting more sleep a night, do it! Just accept the skin you’re in and realize that there are many more important things to focus on than what a scale says.

Related: 15 Health Hacks for College Students

5. Go with your gut

This tip is essential, and it applies to all kinds of situations. It is so, so important to trust what feels right and avoid what feels wrong. If you’re at a party and something feels weird, grab your friends and leave! There will be other gatherings. If you’re a part of an organization or even a sports team, and you start to dread going to it, maybe it’s time to say goodbye. It might sound cliché, but life is way too short to do things that you really don’t want to do. College is great because it gives you a chance to explore all kinds of different interests and environments, and it’s definitely important to test your comfort zones, but chances are you won’t enjoy every single new thing. And that’s okay. Sometimes, you gotta bail. Trust your instincts!

6. Drink water

There is a literally a book subtitled You’re Not Sick, You’re Thirsty! Get a water bottle. Better yet, get three. Fill them up, keep them cold, and every time you finish one, grab another and do this all day long. Your skin, hair, nails, and brain will thank you. Plus, you can challenge yourself to see how many you can drink in a day!

7. Invest in good weather gear

Rain boots, duck boots, snow boots—whatever boots you need, get them, because wet feet are the worst, and you’ll probably be walking more than ever. (And no one wants to be the girl in moccasins when there’s two feet of snow on the ground.) Get an umbrella and use it; coming to class sopping wet is about as fun as it sounds. Invest in the really nice winter coat, so you don’t hate every second of every walk across campus. And football games get chilly towards the end of the season, depending on where your school is, and you don’t be the person who has to leave before halftime because you don’t have gloves! There’s a lot of durable (and cute!) weather gear out there, from raincoats to hats to scarves to boots, so take advantage and rock it! 

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