11 things entering freshmen should know before entering college

11 things entering freshmen should know before entering college

college is arguably one of the best times of your life.  you learn about yourself in ways you wouldn’t have otherwise known. it pushes you beyond limits you didn’t think you could reach. in college, you go through the process of making friends (and losing them). you learn resilience, adaptability and the importance of networking. and if you do it right, you come out a little better than you were before you went in.  i know you may be excited and eager to start this new journey in your life. here’s a list of things to consider before the ink dries on your residence hall contract. 

11). don't pick a university because your friends are going.

this is a mistake that so many college bound students make. i get it, you’ve just finished high school, you’ve established a “wolf pack” and none of you want to separate from one another. college is new territory, so why not tread on unfamiliar territory with people you already know, right? wrong. don’t make the mistake of going to a school only because your friends are attending. The sad reality is that you probably won’t be friends after the first year anyway, or the first semester for that matter. 

10). do your fafsa on time; be in the know about your financial aid account.

fafsa stands for the free application for federal student aid. essentially, it’s a questionnaire that can be filled out (and filed) online. based on your (truthful) responses, the application will produce you an efc, which stands for expected family contribution. now, the efc is not a required amount you have to pay. rather, it’s an index that the government, your state, and university can use to see a round about amount that you’d be able to contribute. you will most commonly need information about your parent too, so it's not a bad idea to have them close. and another thing, when you get into college, don’t neglect your financial aid account. visit the financial aid office regularly or check your account online frequently. its not only their (the university staff) job to tell you when you’ll be at risk of not coming back to school due to lack of payment. plus, the government only allows you to borrow a certain amount of money per year (based on your age). so, borrow wisely, which goes into my next point. 

9). avoid taking out more loans than you actually need. 

ideally, borrowing money in the form of student loans should be used for just that, education. try not to use this as an opportunity to get yourself a car, sign a lease for a new apartment or buy the iphone 68z. it’s very tempting to take out more so that you can put more money in your pockets (for now). but in the long run, not only will you pay it back; you’ll most often pay it back with interest. so, have control over your finances. your older self will thank you for it. 

8). be active in the classroom (teacher's like engaging students). 

i taught college level english. i’m speaking from experience when I say one of the best ways to make you stand out is to engage in the classroom with your instructor and classmates. it's not “sucking up” or being a “teacher’s pet”. it’s called making the most of your collegiate experience and taking full advantage of the reason you are there, which is to get an education. you should understand that getting a quality education is just as much your responsibility as it as that of your institution. you have to stay current with class readings and allocate a sufficient amount of time outside of the classroom to your studies, which brings me to my next point.

7). don't procrastinate; develop good study habits early on.

procrastination is not your friend. don’t allow it to consume you once you get on campus. i imagine that you'll have your fair share of adjusting to do once you make it to campus; no need to add more stress to your plate by constantly pushing off assignments. you may think, “I do my best work under pressure”. well, that’s your opinion. is it worth playing russian roulette with your professors to see if they agree with you? not so much. my advice, do your work in a timely manner. putting it off is not as beneficial as it may seem on the front end, trust me. 

6). read over your emails before you send them, seriously. 

while trying to stay on top of your studies, you may find it necessary to send your professor an email. it is imperative that you proofread any correspondence you send to your professor (or anyone). make sure you have an appropriate subject in the subject line and that your grammar and mechanics are accurate. using text talk in an email or having misspelled words only lowers your perceived level of intelligence. so basically, the recipient could think you are either stupid, negligent or you just don’t care. who wants to have a conversation with someone like that? the bottom line is, look over emails before you send them. make sure you've stated what you intended to say in a respectful, concise way. once it’s sent, you can’t get it back. 

5). maintain adequate communication with your advisor. 

if we are going to talk about email etiquette, i minus well mention your advisor (since that’s someone you should be emailing from time to time). your academic advisor is the person you’ll be assigned to by the university based on your last name and/or your major.  most students only see their advisor when they are in jeopardy of not graduating. don’t be that person. know who your advisor is and maintain adequate communication throughout the semester. you only have one advisor; but your advisor has a plethora of students to advice. don’t fall through the cracks, people. 

4). be active outside of the classroom. 

if you think college is just about getting stellar grades, you’re misinformed. i highly suggest you get involved on your campus. whether you get active by joining student government, becoming a member of a fraternity (or sorority), or joining a club that speaks to your interests, you need to get involved in something that is not related to academics. not only will it keep you balanced, but it’ll help you with your networking and communication skills as well. plus, when you apply for jobs or internships, you better believe that they’ll look for things you did outside of the classroom to learn more about your personality. if you remember nothing else from this post, remember that a social life is just as important as educational success (in real life). 

3). utilize resources on your university's campus.

there’s a lot of resources on your campus that are free.  by free, I mean not free at all. in actuality, the costs for most services are already included in your tuition. so, if you don’t take advantage of something you’ve already invested in, you’re crazy. it’s either that or you like wasting money (which also makes you crazy). either way, you’re crazy. take advantage of the things your university has to offer its students. things like career service centers, workout facilities, writing centers; all of these can only enhance you as a student and as an individual.  make use of these resources. 

2). get yourself a mentor.

speaking of resources, mentors can be a great resource for college students. they don’t necessarily have to be at your school. It just needs to be someone that can get the job done. mentorship is serious business. picking someone because they are popular or good-looking will not yield you fruitful results. find you someone who will legitimately be invested in your success, and help you in pursuit of your goals. and, the great thing is, you aren’t limited to just having one mentor. you never know when you may come across someone who can teach you something worth learning. if you find someone, don’t be afraid to seek guidance from them and ask them questions. don’t treat it like a formal job interview, either. in my experience, mentorship is best served when it happens naturally. keep your eyes peeled for potential mentors. 

1.) figure out what you'd like to study.

universities give you the option of being undeclared when you first get to college. this is typically so you can get a feel for classes and campus life before choosing a specific field.  try not to take too much time, though. they (teachers and administrators) may tell you there’s no pressure, but there really is. start thinking now about what you’re interested in. how do you want to change the world? if you don’t know yet, that’s fine. make sure you’re getting active and meeting new people so you can find out. maybe you’ll see something that’ll spark something within you. one thing for sure is, if you can decide what you want to do, it’ll give you purpose. the sooner you can recognize your purpose for being in college, the more invested you’ll become. the more invested you become, the more prone you are to making sure you don’t lose out on your investment. don't get me wrong, college can be fun. but, don’t confuse it with a game. college is real life, and the more you know (about yourself) the better off you’ll be.  

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