50 College Freshmen Tips

We’re surfing a heat wave into August, which means college move-in day is almost here! Enjoy our take on “Independent Living 101,” which includes a list of hacks and advice for college freshmen and parents.

Class and Study Tips

  1. Your studies: don’t mess ‘em up! The education part of college trumps everything. You fail out; you go home.
  2. Get to know your professors: arrive five minutes early, answer questions in class, make eye contact, smile and say hello using the professor’s preferred name. We’re not suggesting you bring coffee, but familiarity does help in the event you need advice, extra help, or another day to finish a paper (gasp!).
  3. Check your study priorities on a daily basis. Prioritize which subjects need immediate attention.
  4. “Showing up is 80% of life.” This famous 1975 Woody Allen quote still holds true. Go to every class. Don’t even miss one, unless you are really sick.
  5. College has “shiny objects.” It’s hard to focus on one task. Starting that Zoology paper seems b-o-r-i-n-g. Silence your phone, put in earbuds and give yourself a carrot: “After I have typed 300 words/finished this chapter, I will hangout with so-and-so for 20 minutes.”
  6. Invest in a nice lap desk and kickstand for your computer/tablet. Dorm rooms are small and it gets old sitting at your desk. Lying on your bed to study is inevitable.
  7. GENIUS HACK: Set a timer on your phone for how long you will study/hangout/go to the library/check email. When the timer goes off, hit the next task.
  8. PARENTS: Get the advice out of your system before move-in day. Limit probing questions about studies, or calling professors. Your newly minted adult needs time to bob around in the sea and figure things out for him/herself.

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Getting Social

  1. Roomies can be tough. Be aware of your surroundings and sensitive to another person’s basic needs to sleep and study, even if he/she doesn’t reciprocate.
  2. Sometimes rooming with a best friend from high school can be worse than playing the roommate lottery. Either way, go with the flow - it gets better sophomore year. Sometimes you do have to move out, though, so know when to make that change and just do it.
  3. The coolest thing about college is the fresh start. Keep that in mind as you find friends and become known around school.
  4. If you still have a boyfriend or girlfriend from high school, be realistic about meeting those expectations.
  5. Stand back and observe the Greek organizations on campus before you jump into one. It’s best to take your time on that decision.
  6. People on your hall may be your first friends in college. Get to know them and find some who share your interests.
  7. Respond to conflict, rather than react. Don’t lose your temper or say something in anger that you will regret later.
  8. Get to know your R.A. It helps in case you need advice, help, or a second chance.
  9. GENIUS HACK: You will meet a ton of new people, so when you save contact info to your phone, add who they are to the “Last Name” field, (Conner Mathison-geology class).
  10. PARENTS: If your son/daughter keeps coming home for the weekend, jokingly tell them, “I need to miss you.” When you start missing/worrying about/pining away for your kiddos, your mantra is: I deserve to be an empty nester.

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Organization 101

  1. Purchase supplies to organize your desk surface and drawers. Buy a desk lamp to use when your roommate is sleeping.
  2. Purchase a small, inexpensive chair to use when you are tired of sitting at your desk.
  3. Bring a clip-on reading light. You know this will happen: 11:30pm, you’ve put off reading five chapters of your Biology textbook, and your roommate’s catching some serious z’s.
  4. Set up a file folder structure on your computer/cloud that mimics your classes: Fall 2015/Biology 101.
  5. Create email folders: Freshman English, Accounting 101, Keep Temporarily, Action Items, To Read, Friends, Sorority. Get a handle on email. This will help in your career as well.
  6. Key life skill: Organize and prioritize time and tasks. Every Sunday, examine the upcoming week and type/write on your calendar the things that HAVE to be done each day: go to class, attend club meeting. Next, add tests and paper due dates. Then, add small tasks leading up to due dates: study 2 hours, go to library, type paper. Lastly, find leftover pockets of time and add fun stuff: hangout, go to a party, go to the gym. Re-adjust and prioritize as the week goes along.
  7. Limit TV and video games to just hangout time. Don’t keep them “on” all the time. You won’t get enough studying done, and/or miss too much fun on campus. If your roommate feels differently, go study somewhere else and find a new roomie next year.
  8. GENIUS HACK: No need to go to an expensive storage store. Just upcycle items from around the house, such as shoeboxes or large yogurt containers with lids. Use to hold items like nail polish, extra medicines, or gloves/hats. Label with a sharpie pen.
  9. PARENTS: Sit down with your son or daughter and come up with a list of potential organizational pitfalls. Purchase items that will help solve these common problems: calendars, calendar apps, tablet cases or protectors, shower caddies, and plastic crates to hold books/shoes/food.

Wellness and Health Tips

  1. Impulse control is 80% of wellness. The key to college wellness is impulse control and moderation. Learn it. Live it. When you really want that instant gratification, whatever it is, consider your larger goals.
  2. If you start getting headaches, you probably need more sleep and hydration. Down some water or Gatorade and go to bed early.
  3. Your immune system takes a hit in college. Germs are close by, and you will see people experiencing: lack of sleep, skipping meals, bad dietary choices, not enough fluids, excessive alcohol or drug use. Make sure these don’t repeatedly happen to you.
  4. It is common to put on a little weight in college. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Aim to make good food choices, walk to class, put in some time at the gym with a friend, and get a decent amount of sleep.
  5. Be aware that depression is incredibly common on college campuses. Seek help if you or a friend stops eating, stops going to class, repeatedly drinks to excess, has suicidal thoughts, or shows any signs of serious emotional distress.
  6. It is hard to find time to sleep. If you miss some z’s one night, try to get in 8 hours for the next few nights.
  7. College is a major life change. Stay in touch with friends and family at home via social media and phone calls. They will love to hear from you, and it will help ease stress.
  8. If you get sick, go to the doctor. Seriously. Everyone is living in pretty close quarters on the freshmen halls.
  9. Homesickness is normal, but it will fade. As the weeks tick by, you will feel more comfortable, making friends and memories.
  10. GENIUS HACK: To maintain wellness, keep easy fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator. Grapes, apples, baby carrots, kiwis (cut in half and scoop out). Nuts and yogurt are good energy foods. Microwave sandwiches are better than not eating. Water flavorings, Gatorade powder and granola bars are also good to have on hand.
  11. PARENTS: If you become concerned about your son or daughter, take him/her on a little mini-weekend vacation to a nearby town. A change of scenery, some hugs, a good night’s sleep, and a couple of yummy meals might help. If the campus is too far away, send a care package with a sweet note, thoughtful food, and reminders of home.

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Safety Rules to Live By

  1. We all know a post can go viral, and quick. Be wise about what you choose to share on social media. No drunk-posting. Exit stage left if people are taking pictures while drinking.
  2. If you know you’ll be walking across campus or into a parking garage after dark by yourself, carry mace or a safety whistle. Don’t text or talk on your phone when walking in the dark unless for safety purposes. Be aware of surroundings and have keys in hand.
  3. The buddy system isn’t just for a 1st grade field trip. Use it.
  4. Always keep safety items, like keys, phone, and a panic whistle in the front pocket of your backpack where they are easily accessible.
  5. GENIUS HACK: For girls, buy a wristlet purse that holds cell phone, credit cards, ID and money. Add a karabiner to the wrist strap to attach panic whistle, keys, or mace. Now everything is in one little package.
  6. PARENTS: Store at least two cell phone numbers of your child’s friends, in your own cell phone.

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Housing Tips

  1. Over the summer, coordinate with your roommate on who brings what. Make a list on SignUpGenius to make communication easier! If family wants to know how they can contribute, a sign up is ideal! SAMPLE
  2. Dorm rooms are small. Pack light and consider the seasons. You can bring more after winter break. Mom and dad can send additional items, if needed.
  3. Bring quarters for laundry. Aim to do your laundry on the same day every week.
  4. On-campus living is often safer and more protected than off-campus. Bear that in mind as you visit new friends and consider different living arrangements. Check out online reviews before jumping into a lease.
  5. GENIUS HACK: Girls, buy two shower caddies: one for makeup and one for the shower. Boys, instead of a shower caddy, use a mesh bag.
  6. PARENTS: Be aware that re-entry into the home atmosphere can be a little turbulent, come May. As your new adult creature rockets towards you, set aside a space for him/her to put college belongings. Sift through the piles after a good night’s rest. Allow for a little tension as you both re-acclimate to home rules.
With the above tips and hacks you’ll be enjoying that first year away in no time, and your parents won’t be quite so worried about how you’re surviving out there in the “wild.” Good luck!


Emily Mathias is a freelance writer living in Charlotte, NC.