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5 Important Things to Do When You First Start College

Your first year of college can be a hectic, overwhelming time. Here's some advice to help you get through it as smoothly as possible.

If you just started college this year, you’re probably in a state of jitters. It’s a complex mixture of emotions that you have to confront: stress and anxiety from leaving home and the curiosity of going to a new place and starting another chapter of your life.

Looking back at my first year of college, I realize how unprepared I was for the experience, both mentally and emotionally. The first few weeks are always the hardest because of the newness of your situation. Freshman year is usually when you carve out your identity after the familiarity of high school life. Here are some words of advice to make your transition to college slightly less overwhelming.

1. Don’t wear yourself down too much

It’s important to take a breather during this busy period or you may suffer your first burnout before classes even get going. It’s easy to get bogged down by all the appearances you need to keep up. The stress of the first week tends to be overwhelming for most of us, so it’s important to take the time to recuperate. Understand your limits and tolerance levels when it comes to first-year parties and events. Try allocating at least some of your time toward settling in as well so you have everything in order when you begin classes.

Related: 8 Tips for Finding Balance in College

2. Set yourself up for success

I strongly believe setting up your work and living space should be a priority once you arrive. Spend your first couple of days equipping your room with all the things you need to begin your new life! I spent a lot of time decorating my room and buying stationery, furniture, and little embellishments so I could brighten up my living space. When your room feels more like home, it will be easier to get through the adjustment period. My friends and I prettied up our desks and made photo collages on our walls to make ourselves feel more at home in our new apartments.

3. Deal with your homesickness

Homesickness is just part of moving away to college. I learned that it’s important to give yourself time to come to terms with any homesickness you might encounter while immersing yourself in your new home. Make a list of some of the places you would like to visit in your new city. As a history lover, I visited many of the museums and churches during my first few weeks. I also developed a habit of biking to the beach near my student residence during my afternoons off. With time and experience, homesickness wanes as you become more preoccupied with your studies and extracurriculars.

Related: Video: Leaving Home for the First Time

4. Get to know your location better

Take the effort to get to know your locality and neighborhood better if you’re living in a city. Be prepared and get all the advice you require. You should have all the adequate information you need about your surroundings so you know where everything is, and you can ask for help whenever you feel the need to. Ensure that you keep important contacts with you so you can reach out to them easily in case of an emergency. Discovering your new home will also help you deal with your homesickness. Get involved with campus life so you can develop a stronger sense of purpose and engage more in your interests and hobbies.

5. Connect with people on campus

A vital aspect of orientation is socializing, networking, and getting to know people better. The best way to make friends is by taking the initiative to understand people better. This involves getting to know and understanding the complex backgrounds, identities, and cultures of people at your college. We often connect with people who have similar stories and interests. Rather than forcing friendships and trying too hard on your part, keep an open mind when you interact with people so you can make deeper connections.

Related: Making Friends Your First Year of College: Top Do's and Don'ts

The move to college is certainly a big one, and it’s important to pace yourself so you can enjoy the journey. When you’re done with that grueling first year, you can pass down some of your own unique wisdom to other underclassmen!

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About Shivani Ekkanath

Shivani Ekkanath

As a person applying to college this year, I want to chronicle this crazy and unpredictable yet rewarding and fascinating journey so the experience feels less daunting for other students. I'm currently preparing to study Political Science for my undergraduate degree while trying my best to win a battle with the pressures of the IB diploma. I'm a lover of music, debating, reading about current affairs, dancing, baking (not too well), and writing. I'm also an an aspiring journalist and hope to attend Columbia University one day and work for the New York Times or Wall Street Journal.


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