9 Things I Wish I Knew My First Year of College

Written by Ema Perez
Published on December 18, 2022 · Updated on May 28, 2023

9 Things I Wish I Knew My First Year of College

Written by Ema Perez
Published on December 18, 2022 · Updated on May 28, 2023

Your first year of college is an exhilarating time. Many students are on their own for the first time ever, and navigating academics, social life, extracurriculars, and personal health all on your own can be daunting. I learned the following tips from the best teacher: experience. Hopefully, this advice can help you as you start this exciting phase of life! 

1. Read The Syllabus Before Day One… 

This tip is the antidote to the first-week pandemonium that many students experience. Getting acclimated to the grading scale, office hour times, and general workload of your classes before they actually start lets you focus on introducing yourself and making connections the first week. By familiarizing yourself with the syllabus, you can also avoid asking professors questions that they already answered there, which is a common first-week blunder. 

2. ...But Don’t Buy Textbooks Before The First Day Of Class

Waiting to buy textbooks will save you money and buy you time in case you want to order online. Sometimes all of the textbooks listed for a course by the bookstore or even on the syllabus are not actually necessary. Unless the syllabus you need a book on the first day of class, hold off on buying it until you know you’ll need it. 

3. Bring Or Buy Dorm Room Snacks And Drinks 

First-year cafeteria plans usually suffice for meals. However, most dining halls are not set up with grab-and-go snacks for in-between classes or late nights. Always have some of your favorite non-perishable snacks on hand. If you like to drink coffee or tea in the mornings, you’ll find that it is very convenient to have a kettle or coffee maker in your dorm. These are generally inexpensive, as low as ten dollars each on Walmart.com. 

4. Find Your Spots To Study On Campus

Do you need a quiet place to study or are you fine with low conversations in the background? Will you need to be on Zoom? Do you study late into the night or early in the morning? Outdoors or indoors? The answers to these questions will determine which locations on campus are available to you and conducive to your success. 

During the first week, assess your specific preferences and needs and scope out what spots will work best for you. Varying your study locations has also been shown to improve memory, especially when the material is tested in a different place than it was taught/learned. When the semester picks up, you’ll be glad you thought ahead! 

5. Get Into A Workout Routine 

The hardest part of implementing physical activity into a busy schedule is starting. Whether you like walks, going to the gym, or playing a sport, form a plan and stick to it. 

Carve out an amount of time in your typical day to nurture your physical health from the beginning, before you are in the full swing of the semester. Make sure you purchase a lock if your facilities have lockers and a large water bottle you can refill throughout the day. 

6. Plan Transportation

If you won’t have a car on campus, plan how you will get basics like toiletries and food regularly. If you live in a big city, check out bus or subway routes. Evaluate what places off-campus you will likely visit during the semester. Exploring the town or city where you are studying is a great way to unwind and temporarily get away from the academic atmosphere. Always keep safety in mind, and travel in a group if you can.

7. Don’t Overcommit

Many universities have club fairs during the first week or month of school that are specifically geared to first-year students. These events can be overwhelming, but don’t feel like you have to visit every table or join every organization that interests you. 

Try to choose a few (2-3) clubs that you are passionate about and invest your time and energy into these. Consider the depth of each experience, and don’t spread yourself too thin. Use the open enrollment period to gauge how much time you will need for classes before taking on a concrete role in any extracurriculars. 

8. Know The Dates Of Your Exams And Papers Before School Starts 

Nobody wants to think about exams during the first week of school, but having an exam schedule laid out will help you to maximize your time from day one. You’ll feel more in control of your grade by knowing the layout of the semester for each class. 

Make sure to update your exam schedule throughout the course if any changes are made. Unlike in high school, college professors do not usually warn about upcoming assessments until the week of and you want no surprises. 

9. Nobody Knows All The Answers! 

During my first week of college, I felt like everyone knew what they were doing except me. Not true! Everyone is figuring out how to allot their time and energy efficiently, and no one does it perfectly. Realize that you know your capabilities best and avoid comparing your needs to those of your peers. Capitalize on your strengths and keep your head up, you’re going to do amazing!