- Go to office hours: Developing relationships with your professors will make you more invested in the course, and will also make your professor invested in you; your professors are humans too, so when they see you dedicated to your learning, and to their craft, they are more likely to do favors for you. Set a goal for yourself to go to an office hour once a week, once every other week—whatever works for you. You never know when you will need that letter of recommendation…
- Make rules with your room mates: You will skip this step, but if you begin with ground rules with your room mates, you will have significantly less conflicts. Depending on your living situation, you might want to discuss rules about having people over, when lights should be out, who is in charge of what, how you are planning to divvy up money—setting these ground rules ahead of time will significantly decrease potential conflicts. And, remember, like a marriage, living with another person may mean compromises. You may love staying up until 2 AM, Netflixing, and your roommate might have an early morning test, so you might have to take your activities elsewhere. But don’t worry, room mates are fun as well.
- Try new things. Go to free stuff: Attending college suspends you from the real world. While you think you are ‘adult’ and ‘grown up’, you really are not, and you will still probably rely on your parents more than you think. But, this is a period of your life you will never get back, so make sure you take advantage of it. Colleges always do cool stuff—free movie screenings, speakers, food. There are many ways to get involved—clubs, intramural sports, traveling. Explore these things now, and even if you find yourself repulsed by some activity, you know you will never have to do it again.
- Build your potential future career: And, remember that the reason you are in college is to get a job someday, so engage yourself in things that will help you later on. If you want to be a nurse, get a job in a hospital. If you want to be a teacher, tutor. If you want to go to grad school, volunteer in a research lab; build your resume, and your networking, so when the time comes for something you want, you get it.
- Apply to scholarships after your freshman year: Most people think they can only receive scholarships their first year, but actually, there is plenty of other money to be given. Sometimes specific college/programs offer scholarships. Sometimes the school gives scholarships for grades, sometimes for change in circumstances. These usually are posted in the spring, so make sure you keep applying!
- Don’t go home: Especially if you are staying in state, you are going to be tempted to go home your first couple of weekends, because it is uncomfortable. You don’t know anyone, and you don’t want to spend the weekend lonely. But, trust me. Everyone is in the same boat, and it’s usually not until 9 PM at night that someone stops by your room, invites you out, and suddenly, a life long friendship is born. Make yourself available for these interactions.
- Ramen noodles have no substance: When you are on a tight college budget, you will be tempted to buy the cheap food, such as Ramen Noodles, energy drinks, and the dollar menu at McDonald’s. But, remember that these cheap foods have no substance, your body digests simple sugars fast, and you are better off spending a little more money for more sustainable food.
- Find ways to extend your existence: When you get to college, you will realize that actually no one cares if you show up to class, no one cares if you don’t come to dinner with them, no one cares if you skip the gym. I mean, this makes sense because people are self-involved, they are busy, and you probably don’t care if other people show up as well. But, this lack of validation often makes people feel insignificant, so just finds ways TO be significant.
- You change, and your high school friends change: What will most likely happen is, you go away, your high school friends go away. You make new friends, adapt to a new lifestyle. When holidays come around, you are SO excited to see them and tell them about all of your grand adventures. And, you realize that you have changed, they have changed, and your relationship has also changed. That’s ok, because that friendship served you for a specific purpose, at a specific point in time. Those memories you have will never be erased, you will always hold some kind of connection, but people change.
- Forgive yourself, and forgive others: You are going to make mistakes, and other people are going to make mistakes. People get stressed out, say things they don’t necessarily mean. You will grow (hopefully) academically, personally, morally, and the person you wake up as in the morning is never the same person you go to bed as at night (or early the next morning). But, forgive yourself, and just learn to never do it again.
“You’re off to Great Places! You’re off and away! You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go”