First Year at College? Top Survival Tips

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Updated December 2014: 

Starting college is a huge milestone for students and their families. Cramming possessions into a rented truck and moving lock, stock and barrel into a new world of possibility is a reminder of the exciting adventure ahead. This can also be nerve-wracking, emotional and just a bit daunting in equal measures. For many of you, it will be the first time away from your parents. While on the surface that might sound like exactly what you want, the reality of not having your family there at a moment’s notice is not without its trials.

The decisions you make at this stage and the way you conduct yourself in your first year of college can have a major impact on your success or otherwise at college, not to mention the rest of your life. The point is not only to survive, but to thrive and develop the skills and tool set which will hopefully carry you forward to the glittering career of your choice.

There are several distinct stages involved in starting college; the big pack, the first few weeks and the transition into life as a first year student. Follow these top tips to help you get through each stage.

#1. Packing Up

Aside from the necessary list of items issued by your chosen college, it is likely that you will want to bring a whole heap of other stuff. Keep in mind that just because you can fit it into the truck, that doesn’t mean it will necessarily fit into your college room. Your space is likely to be small, shared and every inch coveted. Keep it simple and bring only the necessities. It’s not like you will never be going home again. You can always add to your belongings later on when you have settled into your new surroundings. One thing to definitely consider bringing is a lockable filing cabinet where you can secure valuables like your laptop, phone, camera and cash.

#2. Getting Settled

There will a mountain of stuff to distract you when you first arrive at college. It’s tempting to put the important stuff on the back-burner and concentrate on going to all the parties instead. Make an effort to organize your dorm or apartment and stock it with healthy food before classes begin. Even if you do it in between social gatherings, you should make an effort to go to orientations. The quicker you find your bearings, the sooner you will feel at home. You should get to know the other students in your residence hall. The friends you meet now will be sharing similar emotions and will be by your side for the next few years. Make sure you know where you are supposed to be and when for the first few weeks. Become familiar with campus and where your classes will be. Eventually, everything will come naturally, but you still need to turn up in all the right places while you are finding your feet.

#3. Knuckle Down

After the hectic first few weeks, life at college will settle down. It’s up to you to make this experience work for you. What does making it work mean? Undoubtedly it means different things to different people, but at the very least, it means attending class and doing the work that is expected of you on time. College professors and your academic advisor are there to help you, so make sure you take full advantage of this key resource if something isn’t clear to you and even if it is. Fostering good relations at this early stage may just serve you well later in your course. Make time for friends and social events too. That old adage, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” is true. Seek equilibrium between your academic pursuits and your life outside of that. You should be looking to achieve a good balance between the two sides of your life.

#4. Be Open-Minded

College is a time for you to find yourself. Cheesy at it may sound, this mantra is true. This is your opportunity to learn and grow intellectually as well as personally, and this begins the moment you step foot onto campus. When someone asks you to attend a meeting for a new club, go see independent movies at the student union, play on their intramural softball team when you’ve never played a day in your life, and other such opportunities, you should consider. You may surprise yourself, all the while making lifelong friends.

#5. Discover Your New Home

Moving away from home, whether it be down the block or thousands of miles away, is intimidating. Making your new surroundings into home can be challenging, but finding ways to adapt to your new environment and finding a sanctuary for relaxation is key to success and sanity. Whether this is your cozy dorm, a local coffee shop, your sorority/fraternity house, or the park, find places where you feel the same comfort that you feel when back home.

Above all, be true to yourself and remember that mom and dad are only ever a phone call away. If you want your parent’s help in making the transition, point them in the direction of this thought-provoking article over at Today.com – How to prepare your child for freshman year.

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