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Freshman College Survival Guide

It’s August, which means college football is just around the corner. It also means that thousands of young adults are moving into their dorms for their first taste of life away from home. You can stay up as late as you want, sign up for only afternoon classes, and play a daily round of golf in the morning if you so please. I’m a junior now, and I vividly remember my freshman year. I joined a fraternity and lived in the dorms, so much of my life was consumed by those two things. There were a lot of things I’m glad I did, and a lot things I would do differently. I would like to pass on some of the wisdom that I gained from the things I did (and didn’t) do during my first year away from home.

Go to class.

You’re in college to get an education, and unless you’re on a scholarship, you’re paying a lot of money to do it. A friend of mine broke down the cost of each time I missed a class. It calculated out so that each time I missed class, I had essentially just wasted a hundred bucks. I’m a college student, which means I’m poor, so I don’t really have $100 to just toss around. A lot of freshman-level classes have attendance policies, which can really impact your grade. My English 1000 class had a policy that dropped your letter grade by 10% for each class you missed after four absences. I personally believe that attendance policies are dumb for college students, but I don’t make the rules. If you go to class, you’ll do better in your classes, not waste money, and it does actually feel rewarding once you do well on a test because of material that was only taught in class and not in the book.

Learn time management.

In college, you don’t have your parents to let you know when you have doctor’s appointments, meetings with professors, or when to go to the gym so you you don’t gain the Freshmen Fifteen. I struggled with this early on, but found that using a pocket-sized planner helped immensely. I put everything from when homework is due to when I have an event for my fraternity to when I’m taking my girlfriend out to dinner. Learning time management early on will make success in college come easier, as well as being is a skill that will translate over into the professional world.

Go out and do something.

Get out of your dorm and go walk around campus. Go hangout with friends or go to the gym. Don’t be the homebody who never leaves their dorm. I’ve had several friends tell me that their first semester was their worst simply because they didn’t leave their dorm. The brain needs to stimulation outside of schoolwork to be healthy, and just being social or active goes a long way towards that.

Make impulsive decisions.

More often than not, this leads to a great story and one of those “When I was in college…” memories. Last year, a friend of mine was selling two tickets for $15 each to a Cardinals game that night that started in five hours. If you live in St. Louis this wouldn’t be an issue, but I go to school two hours away. I texted him, asked for the tickets, and then two hours later my girlfriend and I were on our way to a Cards game on a random Sunday. Our seats were 15 rows behind home plate and I paid $130 less than face value for each. Sure, I had an exam that Tuesday that I should’ve studied for, but it’s not often you’ll get $300 worth of seats for only $30.

Make mistakes…and learn from them.

I did not do great on the aforementioned exam. I got a great memory out of it, but I also took a B- in that class when I could’ve done better. I now know not to go to Cardinals games on a Sunday night. College is the only time in your life you’ll be able to make mistakes and only have minimal consequences. You can fail a class, but then take it over again the next semester and replace your previous grade. In the real world, if you fail to produce on a project or presentation at work, you’re fired. This is the best time in your life to try new things, because as long as it doesn’t put you in jail or cost you an exorbitant sum of money, you’ll probably be fine if you fail.

Join a club or Greek organization.

Being a part of an organization is a great way to build a resume. As a freshman, your resume might look pretty bare. You could have a few summer jobs, clubs and sports from high school, or even an internship if you were really ambitious. Those are great for college applications, but after your freshman year it’s recommended that you leave most high school organizations off your resume. The best way to combat this is to find a club that interests you and take part. Most schools offer a wide variety of clubs (mine has over 550), and joining them is a great way to meet people. You start off as just a member, but can move up into leaderships positions that will look great to future employers. There are also professional Greek organizations that relate to specific majors like Alpha Kappa Psi (business), Phi Alpha Delta (law), or Tau Beta Kappa (music). These are great networking opportunities that will allow you to glean advice from older students in your major about classes or professors. Many alumni stay active in these organizations, which could potentially get you in the door for a job or internship in the future.

To sum it all up, if you go to class, don’t be a homebody, and live like a 19 to 22-year-old is supposed to, then you’ll do just fine in college.

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