Originally Posted: Feb 2, 2012
Last Updated: May 5, 2020
It’s no secret: College isn’t easy. It never has been for anyone. So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by it all, don’t stress. Anyone who has been through college has felt the same feelings you are right now. Who better to get advice from than those people who have been through it? From getting involved to balancing snacking habits to finding your study zone and prioritizing fun, these college students share their essential advice for incoming freshmen with us so we can make sure you go in to your first year of college as prepared as possible.
Advice for freshman year
Designate a workspace
"There are certain places where I have to go to study. I get the most work done in the library or in a computer lab. You need to have an area where you can get the most work or your best work done. You also have to know when to separate time to have fun and time to get your work done. You have to be able to, first of all, know yourself, and then separate yourself from the distractions."
— Anthony Brown, senior, Defiance College
You'll learn to adapt in time
"Don’t stress out about how much extra studying and reading a student has to do in college compared to high school because, yes, in college there is a lot more work that needs to be done, but there is also much more free time in college to do the work. So, the first week of entering college, enjoy becoming a college student and get the feel for what is required for each class by listening to the professor. Let the study habits and techniques come to you."
— Jake Sanchez, junior, Texas Christian University
Take advantage of open doors...and leave yours open too
"I literally looked for ‘open doors’ in my residence hall and found that those who left their doors open were among the most friendly and approachable students. I started leaving my own door open, whenever I could, which encouraged people to stop by and say hello... Just like keeping an open mind is important, I would suggest that a new freshman consider keeping an open door."
— Domenique Ciavattone, junior, Stonehill College
Combat laziness whenever possible
"Laziness is the deadliest enemy to a college student. This can be applied both towards one’s academics and social life. Energy and motivation are crucial to being successful in most aspects of college life. Whether it is having the energy to go downtown or to a party, or wake up early to meet with a teacher, always do it."
— Kyle Glavin, sophomore, Colgate University
Invest in a bicycle
"Instead of bringing a car or relying on others for transportation or depending entirely on your feet to get around, having a bicycle for transportation, exercise, and fun, right from the start, is a really smart move... Frankly, there’s no better way to wake up in the morning and to arrive feeling great and prepared for class. It’s even better than a cup of coffee."
— Ashton Cortright, senior, Baldwin Wallace University
Cut out sweets
"Cutting sugars and sweets out of your midnight snack options when studying for tests is a major way to keep the pounds off. Choosing to eat healthy will help you concentrate better on exams and have an active college lifestyle."
— Michele Drago, senior, Misericordia University
Get involved on campus
"Definitely get involved on campus! Looking back on my college experience, the major aspect that helped me with the transition to college from high school was getting involved in campus activities. By getting engaged in various clubs, activities, and volunteer opportunities within the campus community, many doors opened for me as a student."
— Jessica Szumski, senior, Misericordia University
Keep an open mind
"College is one of those opportunities in life where you can completely start over. I encourage everyone to go into college open minded, whether it comes in the form of meeting different types of people or taking a class that sounds interesting but you know nothing about."
— Jake Dodd, senior, Ohio Wesleyan University
Stay in touch with people back home
"When I started college, I never thought I would lose touch with my best high school friends. The truth is, however, it’s very easy to lose those relationships when you are miles, even states, away from each other... Stay in touch with the people you love, whether you call or Skype them once a week, or make plans to spend time together when you are all home on break. Don’t let important relationships fade."
— Nina Pierino, junior, Hilbert College
Take care of your mental health
"Taking advantage of health and counseling services can be extremely beneficial, especially for time management, stress relief, or organization concerns. I realized about halfway through my freshman year that I was on top of my homework every night, but I missed out on relaxing with friends, calling my parents, or going on a run to clear my head. Grades are important, but your well-being is much more important in the long run."
— Kate Branstetter, senior, Creighton University
Just dive in
"Don’t be afraid to just dive right into college life. You only have four years and they go very fast."
— Danielle Alio, senior, Cabrini University
Just be you
"Don’t be afraid to be yourself! When I first started college I was worried about finding the right group of friends that shared similar interests as me. I made a lot of new friends during my orientation days and the very first days of school. Don’t worry about making new friends; there will be a lot of people that share similar interests."
— Victor Barcenas, junior, Lewis University
Consider accelerated programs
"I used CLEP tests to get a year of college credit prior to graduating high school. Now I’ll graduate college in three years instead of four. Three years at a private college is a lot more affordable than four, especially since tuition tends to climb every year, so graduating early can be a solution to help curb expense."
— Rebecca Stewart, senior, George Fox University
Academics should always come first
"Academics come first. Sometimes it’s hard to remember why you are really at college—everything seems so fun—but try to manage your time in an efficient way that allows for some work and play."
— Shane Miller, junior, Lebanon Valley College
Time and place are key
"My key to a balanced life and academic success isn’t so much ‘time management’ as it is ‘place management.’ I can get more done in a library in 15 minutes than I can in my residence hall in two hours. When you’re distracted, you lose what you learn recently and have to start all over again. So, find that special place where you can study and you’ll be more effective, more successful, and much, much less stressed!"
— Ryan Price, sophomore, Drake University
Work smarter in your scholarship search
"Here’s a scholarship hint: keep a copy of every application that you fill out. Lots of scholarships ask the same types of questions, so you can re-use your answers. All it takes is a little change here and there, and you’ve got a solid, thought-out answer, but with half the work!"
— Chelsey Meluch, senior, Purdue University
Take advantage of summertime opportunities
"If your college is organizing any program or event during the summer and you live close by, definitely go. For instance, during the summer, an international affairs program I’m part of sponsored a day trip to a nature conservatory. I went and, because of it, I already had a few friends when the semester officially began."
— Michelle Consorte, senior, Adelphi University
Build relationships with your professors
"I email the professor in the beginning of the semester to introduce myself a little. Or if I know their office hours, I go pay them a visit so that I become a person in their eyes. This also helps to start a relationship with the professor. Professors want you to talk to them. They are there to help you succeed."
— Amber Thichangthong, junior, Old Dominion University
Maintain a positive attitude
"You need to have a strong, positive, forward-thinking attitude to be successful in your college experience. From going to class with an attentive mindset to actively meeting new people to working off some stress at the gym to caring about how you present yourself to the campus community—your attitude matters."
— Katie Fritsch, 2011 graduate, Seton Hill University
Follow your passions
"Join those organizations as a freshman that you are passionate about, especially those that have a direct connection to academics. If you have declared a major, or have a specific academic discipline in mind, look for those clubs, groups, and organizations that are linked to your field of study."
— Erica Tomaszewski, senior, Franklin Pierce University
Stay on your personal schedule
"Try to set a schedule for yourself with everything you do during the day. Include your class schedule, when you want to eat, breaks, everything! It takes discipline at first, but it keeps you organized and soon it will become a routine."
— Isaiah Moore, senior, Morehouse College
Related: How to Manage Your Time as a Student
Ultimately, college is what you choose to make it. No two college experiences are alike, so take all this advice with a grain of salt. But there are a lot of similarities from college to college and student to student in how students get through their freshman year, so if even one piece of advice from this list resonated with you, then it was worth it.
For more advice to get you through freshman year at college, check out our Student Life section.