Important Academic Advice for Freshman Year of College

After the first few weeks of excitement on campus, it's time to buckle down on homework and studying. Here's some key academic advice from a sophomore.

The first week of college as a freshman is great—it’s orientation week and you get to go sightseeing, participate in group activities, and make new friends. You can become more familiar with your university and create lasting friendships. Fast forward to syllabus week: You'll attend lectures, get familiar with your courses, and buy your course materials. There isn’t a lot of time-consuming homework at this point.

However, after these two introductory weeks, it’s time to divert your attention to the central aspects of a college student’s life: homework and studying. If you’re a master procrastinator like me, you probably excel at worrying about things but still saving them for another time. This may have worked for you in high school, but it won’t in college. Here's some advice on certain key aspects of college (planning ahead, studying, etc.) and the importance of minimizing procrastination and maximizing foresight. You should use the time at the beginning of the semester to figure out what works for you.

Get organized

In college, you will be given a syllabus for every class with a full schedule of the entire semester, most likely before you even attend your first lecture. This schedule includes homework assignments and exam dates. Look at these ahead of time and plan out your schedule. Create a calendar and write down all important dates and homework assignments. A lot of my friends use Google Calendar because of its simplicity and accessibility, but I prefer a checklist with everything I need to do and the Reminders app on my phone to keep track of things. As my schedule becomes full, I’ll shift to a physical paper calendar to keep all important events organized. You’ll quickly learn that it’s very important to make sure you don’t fall behind in college, so a calendar and schedule will be very beneficial to you.

Related: Why Every College Student Should Keep a Planner

Stay on top of coursework

I strongly encourage you to not only plan ahead but also stay ahead in your classes by completing assignments early, whether it’s pre-lecture or post-lecture. This will allow you to become familiar with the material, be able to explain it to others, clear misconceptions, and ask your professor questions. If you’re assigned lecture videos, watch them in advance—do not save them for later. You don’t want to just watch them but truly understand them and be able to explain them to a friend. You can’t do this if you’re crunched on time or just tired, so plan ahead! Speaking of planning ahead, foresight is a beneficial skill to develop in college. Being able to predict what could happen later will allow you to determine what actions you need to take now in order to reach your goal and prevent any unwanted outcomes.

Go to office hours and review sessions

One important aspect of keeping on track in college is office hours. As soon as you see your syllabus, jot down your professor’s office hours. They will have specific times that they’re available so students like you can get help outside of class. Whenever you need a detailed explanation on concepts, attending office hours is a great option. Try going to office hours after attempting homework so you can get help with exactly what you don’t understand rather than being explained the entire problem or concept again.

Professors will also hold review sessions, but only attend these if you are already familiar with the material and have completed your assignments. Do not go to a review session expecting to learn everything in an hour by sitting and listening to the professor or teaching assistant. Students tend to ask more detailed questions that will make little to no sense if you haven’t looked at the material in-depth before. Keep in mind that you can always skip a review session as they're by no means mandatory. If you need to study by yourself in the time that a review session is held, that’s totally fine. But I’d recommend attending the first review session for your class, seeing how it is, and then determining whether or not it's helpful for you. In addition, your teaching assistants for your various classes will also have their own office hours, which can also be helpful if you have a quick question. You can also email your professors and teacher assistants for general questions, so don’t forget that!

Related: Video: Taking Advantage of Your Professors' Office Hours

Review class notes as soon as possible

I want to stress the importance of reviewing your lecture notes after class. If you have taken notes, read them over and make sure you understand everything. This is important because you're more likely to remember what you learned right after class and solidify your understanding. If you had a lecture on Monday and wait to review that day’s notes until Sunday, you’ll most likely have forgotten some specific details and will have to review the lectures from Wednesday and Friday as well. On top of this, if you have a homework assignment that addresses material from these lectures and it’s due by midnight on Sunday, you’ll have saved everything for the last day—this can get very frustrating and time consuming, so make sure to review your notes the same day as lecture.

Improve your study techniques

When should you start studying for an exam? Well, if you have one on Thursday, for example, do not wait until Wednesday to start studying. This may sound pretty simple, but students (myself included) tend to procrastinate. This is why I want to emphasize that it’s best to start studying a week in advance and review a little bit of material each day, as opposed to all the material in one or two days. Splitting up the material is more manageable and a lot less stressful than covering everything in one cram session the night before a test.

If your professor posts a practice exam, don’t wait to take it the day before the exam (unless you procrastinated and have to catch up with learning all the material first. Side note: don’t do that!). If there is a review session, start studying two or three days prior to it. The goal is to learn the material and solidify your understanding before the review session. This might sound like simple advice, but you’ll find that it’s more meaningful in practice.

Related: Infographic: Find Your Learning Style and Study Smarter

College is a learning experience. You 'll make mistakes, but the best thing to do is to learn from them and make a change. If you find that you didn’t do well on an exam, make sure you implement different study strategies for the next test rather than the same methods you used for the previous one. Try studying with other students or explaining a concept to others. Ultimately, these are just a few helpful tips, and a lot will be more relevant to you after you become familiar with how your courses work. Good luck with the beginning of your college journey!

Find more study tips for college students in our Majors and Academics section.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now

Tags:

About Dev Gandhi

My name is Dev Gandhi and I am currently a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I'm majoring in Biology and I'm on the Pre-med track. I hope to attend medical school and be a doctor one day so I can help people in need. In regards to college, it's not easy! It took me some time to adjust (and I'm still learning something new every day). Some of my hobbies and interests include drawing, reading about technology, history, conspiracy theories, and architecture.

 

Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Kelly Nogueiro

Kelly Nogueiro

Counselor

For me, CollegeXpress has given me a valuable tool to use with my students to explore colleges easily beyond objective data. It helps me find colleges for students that fit their needs and wants that aren’t quite so black and white. It's a wealth of knowledge, and the Type-A side of me loves all the lists and the fact that I know they're coming from folks who know what they're talking about. I share it with colleagues and students alike, and it's always well received.

Hannah Nelsen

Hannah Nelsen

High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has helped me look at colleges that fit my interests by taking my profile and matching it to colleges that have the programs I'm looking for. It has the ability to connect me to colleges so I can be contacted by them and look at them more in-depth to find what's right for me. Additionally, the scholarship database is super beneficial for getting scholarships for college. Not only does it help lift the financial burden of college but it shows all the opportunities available. Overall, CollegeXpress has been very helpful to me.

Damian Rangel

Damian Rangel

September 2021 Mini Scholarship Winner, High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has helped me tackle college expenses, which will allow me to put more of my time and effort into my studies without the need of worrying as much about finances.

Lu Diehl

Lu Diehl

High School Class of 2022

I never would have found the college I plan on attending without CollegeXpress! I've always been a person of ambition and have been dreaming of studying and working on my passion for law, legal studies, and political science. Washington College is where I plan on pursuing my career. My journey with my education has been difficult, and oftentimes, I was told I would never amount to much, but now I'm dual enrolled at Caroll Community College and have had experience in the fields I am dedicated to. Without the help of CollegeXpress (even in its early days), I would never have found Washington College and the information I need to apply and become a part of their community.

Khush

Khush

High School Class of 2021

CollegeXpress is a multi-maneuver platform that has been helping students in their college applications and scholarship hunt process. For me, CollegeXpress has been a boon. I've been able to find my dream university via CX, and I've also been able to apply to thousands of scholarships through it. All the thanks to CollegeXpress for doing such a great job for free. I express my sincere gratitude to you for doing such a wonderful job. I recommend CollegeXpress without any reservations.

College Matches
X

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Whitworth University

Spokane, WA

University of Vermont

Burlington, VT