These important tips for the college freshman will help you thrive and set a foundation for years to come.
Although, they will head in different directions: one to a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) and one to a large public/research university, there are still a lot of similarities in the things they need to know, understand and do to survive their freshman year.
So, I decided to get the ball rolling with these (which I consider) 5 essential tips for not merely surviving freshman year in college, but for thriving and setting a foundation for years to come.
Important Tips for the College Freshman
1.) Get to know key contacts
Throughout your college career, there will be crucial on-campus personnel such as academic advisors, professors, student leaders that can help you stay the course and achieve a positive outcome. So, as you begin your college career don’t just make a note of who these individuals are but get to know them and let them get to know you.
You may find yourself in a professor’s class multiple times in your undergraduate life cycle so building an excellent foundational relationship can be of great help if you find yourself needing extra help, direction or just a break to make it through a course.
While specific academic advisors and student leaders may come and go during the time you are in college, having a connection with whoever is performing that role for any period can become a plus.
Individuals in these positions can help you navigate campus life, gain access to other contacts or information you need to establish yourself, carve out your own space, and even springboard to opportunities outside the campus.
2.) Build networks
There is a lot to be said for networking and building coalitions as you go along the road of training for your career and then actually embarking on it. It is clear to anyone who has forged any type of a career that networking with those in your field, or with whom you share similar interests can give you a leg-up in finding your next position or your dream job. But networking should begin long before you embark on your actual job search.
There is no better time to start growing your network than during your college experience. Friends, teammates, classmates, roommates, dormmates, professors, campus staff, are all available connects that can result in building an extensive network of contacts and a support system from which you can glean mentorship, guidance, introductions, information about opportunities that are of interest to you and just that right connection to land the position you seek.
3.) Manage your money
If you haven’t been exposed to financial literacy, take time during your term in college to get acquainted. College is your preparation for your career – a job – your economic sustenance. One of the fruits of working is a paycheck – money.
When you leave college and begin getting a regular and hopefully lucrative income, you will have the means to get things. But, more importantly, you will have the means to live, prepare for the unexpected, and set yourself up so you can have the type of life you wish.
Access to money will also give you the ability to travel, explore, help others, and control your destiny. However, you will only be able to take this control if you first control and find ways to grow the money you earn. Money isn’t everything, but it is a necessity for living.
- So, take a financial literacy class and practice what you learn. A few key areas of focus are to:
- Stay clear of credit cards as much as possible.
- If you do have credit cards, keep balances low, and make payments on time.
- Don’t overdraw your bank accounts.
- Set a budget and stick to it.
Managing your money is also critical to keeping your credit history positive. Remember, when you apply for that dream job, employers will more likely than not check your credit history as a part of your overall background screening. You don’t want to blow it. So, start now to manage your money and build an excellent credit portfolio.
4.) Balance work with school
Work-life balance is how you manage your time and interest between your career (work-life) and your personal life (family, recreation, etc.). A healthy work-life balance is essential because, when you manage work-life balance, you usually have a good handle on stress and can enjoy all aspects of personal interests while still enjoying a successful career.
Well, there is no better time to begin developing work-life balance than in college – freshman year. I remember, being in college and getting on the campus bus late one night going from the library to my dorm, as I exited, the bus driver ( who saw me everyday), said, “I hope you’re not staying locked in your books 24–7, get out enjoy your time here, because if you stay locked in those books it can get to you.” I remember looking at him quizzically as I stepped out of the bus. But he was sending me a message.
I took it to heart and followed the advice I gave you above. I started getting to know key contacts, joined organizations, and built networks. I kept my studies going; I just did a better job of balancing classes, studying, and living.
I formed life-long friendships and had learning experiences that helped to prepare me to deal with different personalities and expectations as I entered the workforce. Developing your work-life balance now will put you well ahead as you too look down the road because in no time you will be starting your career.
Although, I highly recommend that you do take time out to have some fun and enjoy college life. Don’t allow pleasure to swallow you up. It is critical that you keep your focus and remember that the most crucial part of this suggestion is a balance.
5.) Eat well and exercise
College may be the first time that you won’t have a home-cooked meal and have to fend for yourself, planning your diet and menu for at least three meals per day. It’s easy to grab and go as class schedules, and requirements get hectic.
Similarly, it easy to forego physical exercise because of the rigors of your academic program. But, physical health will impact your body and then affect your mind/psyche as well as your ability to concentrate and keep up with the demands of your academic studies.
Eating well and exercising play right into your need to balance your studies with the other aspects of your life. If you neglect your health, it will erode your performance in your classes and can negatively impact your success.
Also, eating unhealthy and lack of exercise are top contributors to weight gain.
As you get older, your metabolism typically gets slower. If you make it through college only gaining a few pounds but having manifested bad eating habits and ignoring the physical activity, it will eventually catch up with you in a negative way. You are likely to manage your health and weight gain, better, in later years if you practice doing so as you start as a freshman and throughout your college years.
View your freshman year with a lens to the future
Freshman year is more than the start of your college years; it’s the beginning of your independent living – making your own decisions. Many choices that you make during your freshman year can be the drivers for the remainder of your college career and influence your life after college.
With this in mind, heed these five suggestions and recognize that you have the opportunity to set standards now that will move your life in a positive direction. Use your freshman year as a time for new beginnings and a time to chart your future.