Colin graduated from Purdue University with a B.A. in English education and a minor in history. He is currently teaching in Northwest Indiana, where he lives with his beautiful wife and goofy dog.
With summer quickly approaching, many high school seniors are excited about going away to college in a few short months. However, as bags are packed and parents drive away, reality starts to set in. Students realize they are alone in a new town, possibly living with someone they barely know.
The first year of college can be difficult. It can be scary, upsetting, and awesome all at the same time; but, the transition from high school to college student can be as smooth or rocky as you make it. Therefore, here are five tips to making the most of your first year – as well as your entire – college experience.
Talk to People
If you are lucky, you might be attending a school where some of your friends are going. However, if you are like me, you are going to an out-of-state school, where you know nobody. There are going to be times where you feel alone, and it seems that everyone else is making new friends but you. The truth is – at least for incoming freshman – that all students go through a period where they have to adapt socially, move outside their comfort zones, and talk to people.
This seems fairly obvious, but, in reality, there will never be another time in your life where you are surrounded by students who are your age and actually want to meet other people. The “real world”, on the other hand, is full of people that are focused on their careers, their families, and vary wildly in age. Therefore, take advantage of the opportunity to get to know some of these students who – most likely – feel the same way you do. Strike up a conversation with someone on your dorm floor, hangout with your roommate outside of your room, engage with your professors, and look for clubs to join. My freshman roommate and I hit it off and ended up living together for four years – he even officiated my wedding. Every person that you talk to has the potential to become a life-long friend, but the conversation has to start before that can happen.
With classes, homework, and the occasional date (if you’re lucky), college can be exhausting. It can be very easy to fall into the rhythm of going to class, going home, taking a nap, doing your homework, and going back to bed. Heck, I think that 90% of the time I spent in my dorm room, I was napping on the futon. But, don’t forget to get out there and take advantage of all that your college has to offer.
Universities want to look good. Their reputation is probably why you applied there in the first place. That is why they spend a lot of money to have nice facilities, great sports teams, and an exciting culture. Don’t just go to sporting events – although you should go to as many games as you can – but go see the convocations the school puts on, or go listen to a guest lecturer. You never know when you will have these opportunities again.
I remember my first week of freshman year. I went out to eat with a few people, and then began to walk back to my dorm (which was the farthest off campus). After about 20 minutes, I realized that I had no idea where I was going. I called my roommate, but – as he was also an out of state student – he was no help. At about one in the morning, I finally made it back tired and sweaty. However, getting lost allowed me to explore campus, and, to this day, I can still navigate my alma mater with ease.
There are many subtle things about each school’s campus that you can only discover by exploring. Don’t be afraid to leave you campus map in your dorm and get lost for a few hours. You might discover a fantastic restaurant or great record store.
Peaks and Valleys
The best advice I ever got for being successful in college was on my campus tour. The lady who was showing my mom and I around said, “College is peaks and valleys. One day, you are king – or queen – of the world. You are getting good grades, crushing it on homework, and a good looking person just asked for your number. And, the next day, you failed a test, slept through a class, and everything is falling apart. Just remember, it will always get better.”
This, of course, is true no matter how smart or talented you are. There are going to be days that suck and days that rock. The key is to put the bad days behind you and enjoy the good days as they come. So, remember, peaks and valleys happen but never last. The key is to keep moving forward.
This is by far the most important tip. College will really be one of the best times of your life, and it goes by quick. So, don’t forget. While college is difficult – and expensive – and you should work extremely hard, it is also a time you will miss when you graduate. Enjoy it.
Read our blog for other tips for college