If you’re about to start your freshman year of college, congratulations for making it this far. Your friends and relatives are probably giving you all kinds of college advice from back in the day when they were in your shoes. How do you sort out what’s relevant from what no longer applies?
Here are a few tips from current undergraduates who have made it through their first year, and some evergreen advice from those who have the perspective of greater age and experience.
Budget Your Money
At the beginning of the term, if you have never been entrusted with a large sum of money to spend over time, sit down with your parents or another trusted adult and make a budget. That way, you will be confident that your college money will last over the whole nine-month term.
Don’t stop with the figures included in your FAFSA; often those are unrealistically low because they are based on averages set by the college for a typical student fitting your profile. Begin with anything that’s not already paid for in a lump sum at the beginning of the term (things like tuition, room and board, and student activity fees).
List each item individually, total them, and divide by the number of months in the academic year. This is what you will have to spend each month without running short.
Don’t Stress About Changing Your Major
College is for exploration, especially in the early years. Many students change their majors mid-course or even double up at the end. It’s not unusual to enter college thinking you want to be a doctor only to find out you hate organic chemistry and would rather be a sportscaster. Your college’s career center can help you with these choices, but for now enjoy the privilege of learning and the variety of subjects at your disposal.
Learn to Manage Your Study Life
Balancing your time attending classes, studying, socializing, and other activities, like getting exercise and sleep, can seem daunting. It is also important to experiment with different environments to find the ones most conducive to your personal study habits. Some students can study well in their dorm rooms, while others find a carrel in the library to be the only place they can concentrate.
Begin to Develop Your Social Circle
Friends will likely come and go as your interests develop in college. Beyond the fun you’ll have together during the year, if you’ve made friends, they can tell you about unadvertised opportunities for jobs and internships. Later, you may find that the friendships you develop through your focused career pursuits become the seeds of a professional network following graduation.
Beware of the Snack Attack
It’s important to ward off weight gain (aka the dreaded “freshman 15”) by keeping a supply of healthy snacks handy in your living space. Fruit, nuts, low-fat yogurt, veggie sticks, and granola bars can help. A hot pot and a supply of instant soups or other hot drinks can satisfy hunger pangs with a few calories.