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9 Tips to Get the Most Out of Freshman Year

It’s early August, which means in a few weeks many of our recent Fiver graduates will be heading off to their first year of college. From the minute freshman step onto campus, they are subject to a seemingly-limitless range of opportunities, challenges, experiences, people, and events. Navigating this environment can be difficult and takes time to get right. To help, we’ve put together a list of tips for rising freshman, so that they may get the most out of their first year.

  1. Try New Things

    It’s probably one of the most frequent pieces of advice you’ll get in college, but it’s often unaccompanied by an explanation of why it’s so important. For many, college is the first time in their lives that they have full control over what they study, what they pursue, and what they spend their time doing. Try studying new things because, a little less than two years from now at the latest, you’ll need to declare your major. That’s a big decision that can have a big impact on your career, so you should be well-informed about what options are out there and how you feel about them. Join clubs and organizations that you haven’t thought about joining before or have no experience in, because they can help you discover an interest, talent, or passion you didn’t know you had. Meet people who have different backgrounds, opinions, and cultures than your own; you’ll become a more well-rounded, tolerant, and knowledgeable person because of it. Basically, embrace the opportunities you’ll be presented with: Say “yes” often. Having said that…

  2. Be True to Yourself

    Not every opportunity in college is worth taking up. Venture out of your comfort zone, but never lose sight of it. The fact that many classmates or friends are doing something is never a reason in itself to do it; be independent, respect yourself and your values. Keep in mind that there are students at every school who share those values, and that it takes time to find them.

  3. Stay Open-Minded About Your Peers

    You’re about to become part of a group that is most likely more diverse than your high school’s student body in every way. There are people of every ethnicity, belonging to every religion, holding every political view, having grown up in every culture, hailing from every continent. Remember your Fiver values: be respectful of their opinions and background, never be quick to judge, go out of your way to promote your school’s sense of community and inclusiveness, and take interest in learning about the ways in which your classmates are unique.

  4. Connect With Your Professors

    Many college graduates agree that one of the most important factors in their careers, college experience, and discovering their interests was having a strong relationship with at least one professor. There are some important contrasts when comparing college professors to high school teachers. A high school teacher will often take note of your absence; a college professor may not. High school teachers will often cover most if not all of the material for a test in class; college professors expect their students to devote significant time outside of the classroom to understanding the material. Whereas a high school teacher will approach a student they see is struggling, it is the responsibility of the college student to seek help proactively. It is for these reasons that establishing and maintaining a good relationship with as many professors as possible is so important. The more you attend office hours, the more you engage in class, and the more you demonstrate interest in the subject matter, the more likely the professor is to become invested in your academic success. Plus, demonstrating interest and ability to your professor can open doors for you down the road, whether that be through research, projects, or professional opportunities.

  5. Take Advantage of the Career Center

    Yes, even as a freshman. Your school’s career services will provide you with the information, practice, opportunities, and support to succeed in the workplace; the earlier you start taking advantage of it, the better. Attend networking events for industries you’re interested in; practice your interviewing skills; sit down with a career fellow to review and update your resume; review their guidelines on cover letters, email etiquette, and professional behavior; submit your resume to their resume drop; use their alumni database to reach out to alumni for internships, job opportunities, or informational interviews. The career center is an incredible resource on any college campus that you can only get the most out of if you begin using it from the start.

  6. Maintain Contacts and Connections

    Within your first few weeks, you’ll end up meeting more people than you could possibly stay in touch with throughout your college career. While it’s OK not to keep in touch with everyone you meet initially, do your best to take down names and phone numbers for future reference. It’s great to be able to reach out to people during those first few weeks to meet up for food, collaborate on work, or attend an event together. Keep track of what clubs and campus activities people are involved in; down the road, the connection will pay off.

  7. Find Your Study Space & Develop Study Habits

    Find a place on campus where you can focus well and get into a routine of doing work there. Give different places a try—if you’ve done work in your bedroom for all of high school, head to the library and see if it feels any different. Be aware of what study settings work best for you—can you concentrate in a group setting? Do you need complete silence? If you get along well with your roommate, your dorm room may not be the most productive place for you, but if you don’t feel like walking far, your dorm’s common room may be a good fit. Try different things until you figure out what works.

  8. Never Feel Alone

    Without the support network they had at home, many freshmen struggle with their new independence, and for some, the distance and change in lifestyle from home. Keep in mind that every other freshman is going through what you are, despite how it may come across and how acclimated they may seem. You have your school’s resources—advisors, counselors, and staff who are all invested in your well-being. Understand that the adjustment to college doesn’t happen overnight, with every low comes a high, and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

  9. Discover All Your Campus Has to Offer

    Or, at least, try to, because chances are your campus has so much going on you’ll never be able to know the full extent of it. That being said, spend lots of time on your school’s website to learn about different programs, services, resources, organizations, and opportunities. Pay attention during those orientation meetings that nobody wants to sit through. Keep an eye out for flyers around campus advertising different things. Explore campus—find that secret library few people know about, the best place for late night food, which academic buildings are somehow always too hot or too cold, and where all of the dorms are. You’re embarking on an adventure, so be adventurous!