Yesterday’s thoughtful New York Times opinion piece, Overcoming Freshman Fear, by David Kirp, highlights a few of the challenges that some new college students experience during their first year. Feeling like an imposter at a highly selective college is much more common than you might think and anxiety of any sort certainly makes the first year transition more difficult.
Action can help moderate feelings, so what constructive habits can you practice to make your first year as successful and enjoyable as possible? Here are 10 tips to help you make the most of your first year.
- Live on campus and keep your dorm room door open. This is key to making friends, finding commonalities and developing your personal network.
- Get to know your professors. Visit instructors during their office hours. No, you’re not bothering them. Being available to students is the entire reason faculty hold office hours. Introduce yourself, ask a question, inquire about their research.
- Take advantage of the resources available to you. Visit the study skills, tutoring, and writing centers before you actually need them. Scope out the career development center before you’re desperate for a job or summer internship. Seek out reference librarians who can assist you in developing your research skills. And by all means, don’t forget about the counseling center. It’s not uncommon to find first year challenging.
- Ask for help. No one expects you to know all of the answers. If you’ve looked for your own answers and are still unclear or unsure, by all means ask. Waiting too long to ask for support is one of the most common reasons students flounder during their first year.
- Manage your time. You may have been able to pull off As by cramming for exams the night before or by writing single draft papers, but that kind of effort will leave you high and dry in college. Effective time management involves two things: 1) accurately estimating the amount of time required to finish a task and 2) planning and executing a schedule with that time built in.
- Get involved. Join a club, team, or other campus organization. Participating in an activity that connects you to campus and to others who share your interest is one of the surest ways to settle into college.
- Stretch. Stretch your comfort zone and challenge your assumptions. Open yourself to new people, new experiences, new thoughts, and new feelings. Don’t toss everything about the “old” you, just be open to a “bigger and improved” version.
- Take care of yourself. Work hard to establish a new routine that includes healthy food, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep. Managing stress is crucial, so make a habit of doing something you love each day – even if it is only for 15 minutes. When the machinery isn’t working well, everything else is more difficult.
- Know why you’re in college. Sure, you’re going to college to meet new people, have fun, and learn new things, but let’s get real. When it’s all said and done at college graduation, what do you want to have accomplished? If you think about that now, and keep it in mind, you’ll be well on your way to making it happen.
- Remember, the saying, “Moderation in all things”. It’s not exciting advice, but oh so true. Balancing academics with socializing and personal self-care is one of the keys to navigating the first year in college.