For some, freshman year in college is no big deal. For others, however, it can be a bit intimidating to adjust to going to a new school with complete strangers, new expectations and loads more responsibilities than high school put on them.
If you’re in the first group, then congratulations. If you’re the latter, then here are a few tips to help you get adjusted to your college freshman year:
1) Carefully Consider Your Living Arrangements
One of the biggest factors that will affect your success in college is where you live during your college years—whether you’re in a dorm, an off-campus apartment or commuting from the family home. Also, it’s important to decide whether you want to have a room to yourself, or if you would rather share a space (and rent costs) with someone else.
Finding the perfect living arrangements can be tricky, because there’s pros and cons to each.
- Campus Dorms. Living in a campus dorm can be convenient for getting to class, but you have less control over who you’re rooming with (resident advisors will help if you absolutely cannot get along with someone, but there are no guarantees). Also, it may put you some distance from available work.
- Apartments. Living in an off-campus apartment can be liberating for some students. Depending on the apartment’s location, it could provide convenient access to both the campus and to your work area. Also, living in an apartment provides a greater degree of personal freedom—especially if you’re living in a single unit. However, balancing your budget can be tough and there are many things you’ll have to get used to doing on your own.
- Commuting from Home. For many students who live near Orlando, commuting to UCF can be a perfectly valid option if they have the means and time for transportation. However, commuters will also have to deal with tough city traffic and finding parking on campus daily. Without reliable transportation, commuting isn’t really an option for some UCF students.
Balancing the pros and cons of different living situations is an important part of adjusting to your freshman year of college. If you don’t find the perfect living situation in your first semester, don’t worry too much. You may learn in your first semester what you do and/or don’t actually want. There’s always time to make changes next semester, or even next year.
2) Review Your Class Schedule with Your Employer
If you maintain a job in college, it’s important that your employer knows how your class schedule will impact your availability for work. Few things are as stressful and frustrating as having to tell your employer week after week that “I can’t make it at 5:00 pm, I have classes until 6:00 pm.”
Taking the time to review your class schedule with your employer and fix your hours of availability with them is crucial for avoiding a ton of stress and worry throughout the semester.
Also, think about how your class schedule will affect your ability to get to work or have free time. Consider setting up your schedule so that all your classes are on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or just on Tuesday and Thursday, so that you can have the rest of the week for work or personal time. Alternatively, you could make sure that all of your classes are in the morning or later at night so your employer can easily adapt to your schedule by making you a night-shift or day-shift worker.
Additionally, be sure to put a cap on how many hours you work each week. Yes, having some extra pocket change is nice, but it won’t do you much good to burn the candle at both ends every day.
3) Get to Know Your Classmates
One of the best parts of being in college is that you get to meet new people and make new friends. Getting to know the people who are in your classes is a major part of fitting in and adjusting to life in college. They’ll probably be able to introduce you to their friends or student groups that you might enjoy spending time with.
Making friends with your fellow students can have some serious academic payoffs, as well. For example, say you miss an important lecture in class because you’re sick or otherwise cannot make it to class that day. If you have a friend who takes good notes, you can ask them to share with you so you can at least get highlights of the lecture (be sure to return the favor when they can’t make it to class!).
4) Read the Syllabus for Every Class at Least Once
Many professors spend weeks or months preparing the content of their course, assembling homework, due dates, reading materials, etc. to help their students get the most out of their education. These resources, as well as the rules of their class, are typically written into a course syllabus for students to read.
These course syllabi provide a map for students to breeze through their classes, yet all too many students forget to read them or refer to them later on.
Reading the syllabus and getting to know what you should read, when your homework is due, and what the general rules for the class are can make your life much easier. Plus, no one wants to be the student who constantly asks for reminders about due dates and directions that can be answered easily by reading the syllabus.
5) Consider Front-Loading Coursework if You Can
Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today. There may come a time when you have a big gap in your schedule where you don’t have any homework due or upcoming exams to study for.
Instead of sitting in your room and doing nothing, consider using this time to get a head start on some of your coursework for a particularly tough or time-consuming class. Yeah, you’ll be giving up some free time now; but, in a few weeks when these assignments come due, you’ll be able to kick back and relax, and just make a few edits to that paper or other assignment when everyone else is panicking.
Since most professors put a list of required coursework in the syllabus, finding and frontloading your assignments is super simple.
6) Set Up a Monthly Budget
One of the tougher parts of adjusting to life on your own in college is getting used to managing your finances. It’s all too easy to spend more money than you make in college—especially if you’re paying for cafeteria food, rent and books from the college bookstore.
Finding ways to regulate your monthly costs and setting up a budget that takes into account your earnings and necessary expenses is a huge part of adjusting to college life. Some things you can do include:
- Tracking Your Food Expenses. $8.55 a meal at a fast food joint sounds cheap, but multiply that by 2/meals a day 30x a month, and that’s $513.00! Track what you spend on food, and you might be surprised. If you find your food expenses are too high, consider taking advantage of meal plans in your apartment or your university’s meal plan.
- Setting Up a Weekly Fuel Budget. Track how much gas you burn through each week, and it becomes easier to know how much money you need to set aside for gas each month. Also, consider downloading a gas price checking app to see where the cheapest fuel is before hitting up the gas station. Just be sure not to drive too far out of your way to save only a few pennies; you’ll just end up burning more money than you save.
- Save Money for Emergencies. Things happen at the worst times when you’re broke. Your car might blow a tire, or you may have to go to the hospital with some sickness or injury, and the bill is simply too high for you to handle. Setting aside a few hundred, or even a few grand, for emergencies can be a tall order, but it’s important for ensuring you can stay afloat the next time your car breaks down or your medical insurance doesn’t cover a bill.
Basically, track your monthly expenses and make cuts where you can, and you should be fine. If your expenses get well and truly beyond you, try to identify why and don’t be shy about asking for help or advice from your friends and family—within reason.
These are just a few tips to help you adjust to college life in your freshman year. For more help and advice, check out some of CVI’s other resources today!
Looking for more college advice? Check out our favorite tips for Adjusting to College Life.