Being prepared is never underrated. If you’re searching for all the information you can on what to expect in your first year of college, congratulations. I already know you are going to be a top-notch college student.
I want to be real with you though. That first semester of freshman year is one of the hardest. You could be adjusting to a new “home,” new friends, a new rhythm – basically a new life. But thousands of students have gone before you, and the transition can be smooth, and even FUN! Let’s dive into the top issues that new college students face in their first semester.
What to Expect in Your First Year of College:
For many students, heading off to college will be their first time leaving their childhood home. While you might have attended week-long camps in the summers or spent what felt like the majority of your time sleeping over at a friend’s house, college is different. Your dorm is your new “home.” Yes, you can go back to your parents’ house on the weekends, but now the majority of your time will be spent on your college campus miles away.
The best way to combat homesickness that first semester is by getting involved on campus. Find a group that has similar interests to you, and go to their events. Make plans with classmates on the weekends so you’ll stay on campus. DO NOT go home every weekend! If you can’t figure out how to do your own laundry, FaceTime your mom. Don’t go home.“Say hello to your new home for the next 4+ years.”
The same goes for your friends back home. It’s tempting to not try making new friends at college because you feel like you have plenty of great friends in your home town. But not connecting with other classmates on campus will only lead to you wanting to transfer out by the end of the year.
If you have a significant other back home, this gets even more tricky, because visiting every weekend will be even more tempting. You might both be asking what to expect in this first year of college as you figure out how to have a long-distance relationship. Make a set plan together of what weekends you’ll be visiting each other, and make sure THEY come to YOU every other visit.
Most colleges know that homesickness is a first-semester issue, and will have plenty of events planned for you to attend. Take advantage of that, and enjoy this first experience in college as much as you can!
Be honest: when was the last time you were sick and had to fully take care of yourself? Welcome to adulthood. If you catch a cold or get the flu, you’re going to need to fight it out on your own now. Stock up on medicine and “sick food” so you’ll have what you need WHEN the time comes (notice I did not say “if”). Nyquil, Tylenol, and Chicken Noodle Soup need to be in your luggage on move-in day.
If you get really sick, this is when having friends on campus will come in handy. Make sure your roommate or Resident Advisor has your parents’ contact information so they can call in an emergency. And ask about how your college deals with illness during orientation. There might be a nurse on campus that can come visit you.
One of the biggest challenges facing new college students is how to manage your own time. Many students underestimate just how much studying and class preparation goes into college courses, and they don’t know how to plan out their schedule accordingly. Gone are the days of short, daily homework assignments, my friend!
Treat this like a job, and put in the hours for each course. Start your semester with a planner open, and schedule out when you will study for each class. We suggest adding an hour of study time for each hour that you attend the class (for example, if you have a course 3 times a week for a total of 3 hours of class time, then you need to add 3 hours of study time into your weekly schedule for that course).
A typical semester is about 15 class hours a week, meaning you’ll need to spend at least 30 hours a week between class time and studying. Add in an extra couple of hours before exams and projects for each course, and you’ll get a basic overview of what your weekly schedule should look like for the semester. Then you’ll be able to add in clubs and organizations according to how much time you have left.
In college, your professors will not be following up to make sure you’re getting work done, studying, or turning in assignments. Your parents will not be there to tell you to go to bed instead of playing video games until 4 AM. YOU are now in charge. Again, welcome to adulthood. This is one of the hardest parts.
If you have a boring class, you’re the only person that can make you go to it. If your new friends are going out before a big exam, you are the only person that can make you stay in the dorm and study. You have to take responsibility for yourself, which takes practice. The earlier you can start doing this before stepping on a college campus, the better.“Yes, you have to keep studying. Sorry not sorry.”
Start taking charge of your classwork, your free time, and your college search now to practice for the self-discipline you’ll need during crunch time at university. Your future self will thank you for it. That’s not to say you can never go out or have any fun. But know that you are the only person responsible if you have any problems later.
Working with Others
Listen, not everyone likes their first roommate. Not every lab partner will be ideal. And not every team project will create lifelong friendships. What to expect in your first year of college heavily leans on the people you will be around. Learning to work with others is going to be one of the first things you experience in your first year of college, even if you’ve done it before. There won’t be any parents or teachers to referee confrontations now.
Communication and honesty are key in ANY relationship you’ll have in your life, including those first connections you make at college. Be open with your roommate about things that bother you, and try to reach a compromise. But if things don’t work out, go to the RA and see if you can switch rooms, at least starting in the next semester.
If you get stuck with a lab partner that doesn’t pull their weight, put in the work and make sure you get a good grade – and don’t be afraid to let the professor know that it was all you (although he really might not care). You don’t have to be friends with everyone, but learning to work with all types of different people is a great skill to hone for the future.
College is exciting, and in those first few weeks, there will be lots of opportunities for you to get involved, explore new things, and meet new people. But don’t feel like you have to do everything for fear of missing out. In fact, some organizations won’t let freshmen in at all, because they know that a new college student hasn’t had the time to figure out their identity on campus yet.
Take this time to explore all the options, but don’t jump in too deep into one group just yet. The same goes for new friends – especially if they’re inviting you to do things you might not feel comfortable with. It’s okay to say no, even if it’s just for now. There are lots of new friends available to you, and you don’t have to settle for the first one that invites you out.
Along these same lines, don’t let people asking you about your major pressure you into deciding a major too early. If you’re struggling with deciding on a major, you can say you’re exploring your options for now. There is no pressure to decide your first year. The same goes for Greek life. You don’t have to be decided on if you want to join a society or not that first semester. Explore your options, and keep an open mind.
Challenges and Memories
What to expect in your first year of college can be summed up into two words: challenges and memories. You’re going to face a new, exciting, scary, and exhilarating time in your life. These are the years that many people look back on with fondness – and also some cringes. College is all about making mistakes, learning from them, and becoming an adult.
Set yourself up for success as much as you can, including in your academic endeavors and future resume. Having a college and career expert on your team can completely change your college experience and beyond. Wondering how a college advisor can help you? Sign up today for a no-strings-attached consult to learn more about having an expert on your side.