My Tips for Freshman Year

To complement my recent post about What I Wish I Knew As a Freshman, I’ve come up with a list of 5 tips for freshman year.

1) Join a club!

This is the easiest thing to do to find people on campus who like the same things you do.  My school has a day early in the semester where all the student groups on campus can table and attract new members.  Take advantage of this!  It’s a great opportunity to find fellow students from all grade levels who share the same interests as you.  You’ll be able to make friends with your fellow freshmen and get to know upperclassmen, who can help you get to know more about the school, traditions, professors, classes, etc.

2) Find what works for you

Each one of us is unique, especially when it comes to learning.  Are you a morning person or a night owl?  If you like getting up early, a schedule with morning classes and dedicated study times will be ideal.  If you literally need to be dragged out of bed in the morning, a schedule with later class times and study sessions in the afternoon is probably a better bet.  The key is to find out what kind of schedule works for and take advantage of the type of person you are to maximize your time.

For me, I prefer to get up early and get work done first thing.  Usually, I’m one of the only people awake, so I enjoy the quiet.  I also find that when I get up and get to work early, I don’t have time to get distracted and, when I’m done, the sense of accomplishment I get motivates me during the rest of the day.  I find it inspiring when I’m able to say to myself, “I got my reading for this class done and finished my assignments for these 2 classes before most people on campus even got out of bed.”

3) Meet and get to know your professors and classmates

First off, good relationships with your professors and classmates will help you academics wise.  You’ll get more out of a class when you’re able to synergize with your classmates and work on things together.  Your professor is your direct link to nearly endless information on the subject, as they’ve devoted a very significant amount of their time to learning, studying, and researching the topic.  Look further on down the road and it’ll be these professors who will write you letters of recommendation or provide references for internship and job interviews.  Some of your classmates may very well end up being your colleague or perhaps a contact in your future career.  Get to know your professors and classmates now and foster those relationships over the next 4 years.

4) Lay out your expectations for the semester and for each class

As I talked about in my previous post, the goal isn’t to get an “A” in every class.  Take the time to look at each class with an open mind and write down your expectations for the semester.  I’m not saying assign a grade you hope to achieve.  I’m suggesting that you look at the course and ask yourself, “What do I want to do with this course?”  If it’s a course being taught by a professor in your intended major, your goal may be to get to really know the professor, establish a strong relationship, and blow them away with your work so that they write you a killer recommendation down the road.  A class in a subject that you may want to make a career out of may inspire you to set the goal of really mastering the material and exploring it further.  Another course may make you aspire to see if this is an area of study in which you’re interested in majoring in.

5) Never buy a new textbook

This one is pretty self-explanatory: never buy a new textbook.  They’re way too expensive and their sky-high prices can in no way be justified.  Look on sites such as Bigwords.com, Abebooks.com, half.com, and Amazon to see if you can find a used copy.  International editions are also big money savers.  Most of the time, the content is exactly the same in these international editions, but the page numbers are off.  If the required book is a new edition that just came out, email the professor to see if the old edition is still sufficient.  Oftentimes, the changes made from one edition to the next are negligible and the professor has actually used the previous edition in previous semesters.

(Note: Courses that require you to do homework problems from the book – such as a math or statistic – may be a different story when it comes to previous or international editions.  In these cases, you may have to buy the current or US edition or make friends with someone willing to lend you the book for a few hours every time there is homework due.)

There are my Top 5 tips for freshman year.  Share yours below in the comments!

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