College Freshman Survival Guide

AhhhâÂ?¦freedom! You just left the familial roost, and you are ready to spread your wings. Going away to college, even if it’s in the same town and you move out of your parents’ home, will bring many changes to your life. Are you ready?

The changes can feel great! You are now the one in charge of what you do day in and day out. No more, “Did you do your homework?” or “You need to clean your room,” comments from your parent. Now it’s time you get to choose whether or not you do your homework. And if you do, you decide when. Yes and when could be at 2a.m.! Clean your room? Now it’s up to you to keep on top of what’s important.

There are the upsides to being on your own and starting your adventure of college education. Along with those upsides, you can be sure to expect some serious challenges. I am here as a university graduate with a 4 year of university bachelors degree and a 2 year of master’s degree. This was my first time away from home (albeit only a 45 minute drive away!), and there are some tales to tell. The information I am about to give you comes from my own experience as well as from a group of individuals who are currently attending college away from home.

Here are some tips to survive your first year in college. Take them, talk with an upperclassman about them, add to them and pass them around. Here we go!

1. Choose your schedule wisely. Be aware of overworking yourself. When starting college, especially for the over-achievers (you know who you are!) it is tempting to load up the class schedule with whatever classes it takes to move quickly through school. This is okay, but you need to schedule in “adjustment” time. Yep, that’s right, time that simply needs to be there for you to soak up all of the changes. This might not occur consciously, yet when going through changes you can expect the brain process to step back and move a little more cautiously.

2. Be weary of alcohol and/or drug use. You may have already experimented with drugs and/or alcohol before starting college. So what’s the difference between then and now? Well, now you will have full reign of your time, whereabouts and activities unlike when you had an adult supervising you. It is very easy to get caught up in the high life and partying with new friends. Next thing you know, you won’t even remember you are there for schooling!

3. Relationship safety is something we don’t talk about too often, especially when everyone is out there to have a good time. What do I mean? I am talking about knowing the people you are with before trusting them too much. I can remember many-a-stupid time (and I thought I was pretty smart!) when I would do something like immerse myself at a party of strangers or get into the car of a “new friend” without really knowing where we were going. Let’s just say, I was lucky nothing bad happened to me. Thinking back, some of these guys were a little creepy. But at the time, I was just going with the flowâÂ?¦not putting too much thought into my decisions. OhâÂ?¦and always go in at least pairs. I know this might sound silly, but when you go somewhere or do something new, and you have a trusted friend with you, you can rely on each other to make better decisions as a unit. It’s true, and you’ll be glad you did!

4. Use your time wisely. Getting caught up in the social scene or procrastinating on schoolwork can throw off your momentum. Keep your assignments and schedules straight so you will know what you have going on. Plan around what has to be done, and make sure to put time in your schedule to relax!

5. Remember to eat healthy food and exercise. Often times, with the rush of each day and many things that are going on, it is easy to go on the fast-food diet (Top Ramen was my favorite). There is truth to the saying “starving student” with budgets being at a minimum. Plan ahead by making use of the low-cost shopping centers for healthy food choices and using the dorm kitchen instead of running for the mondo double bacon cheese super-sized combo meal. Too many of these, and you will gain that “freshman 15” you’ve probably heard about! On the other hand, scrimping on meals (like my ramen) can cause malnourishment, slow you down and mess with your immune system. I know this is not an easy one, so I’ve included with this article online references for you.

6. Strengthen you support system. When you are in a new environment and experiencing lots of changes, the mind and body can have negative reactions. It is important to have people available to you, who you trust, to support you through the transition.
7. Change your major. This is a special survival skill. When you enter college, you may or may not know what your major is. When you do have a major, and after a year or two it doesn’t feel right, do something about it! It’s never too late to visit your guidance counselor, study the college class guide and research what might be a better fit. Do some soul searching. Not much is worse than finishing your college career knowing that you wished you were doing something else. I’ve heard and seen many sad stories from adults, long out of college, who truly should have switched their college focus. It’s not hard logistically. It can be difficult in other ways such as feeling the need to explain to others why you’ve changed, worrying about parent expectations, wondering what it will take to get back on track with a new major. Even with all of this, it is definitely worth the work!

8. Remember your family and loved ones. It’s easy to get immersed into the college life and forget about those who have been there for you throughout your life. If you have a good friend that went off to a different school or stayed at home, give him a call, write a letter (snail-mail is extra special) or email. Not only will they appreciate hearing from you, you will more than likely feel reenergized by your connection. Who couldn’t use a little more energy while away at school?!

9. Keep in touch with yourself. If you play an instrument and your schooling doesn’t involve music, keep using your talents. Not only will your talents and hobbies keep up to par, they will give you a great outlet for when school and life gets overwhelming.

10. Ask for help. This is where it’s tempting to say, “Nah! I can do it on my own,” or “If I am smart enough to get into college, then I am smart enough to get me through college without help.” I realize that’s a little extreme for some people. But it is reality for many others. Pride gets in the way of looking outside ourselves to answer important questions. Sometimes, it’s a problem that gets only bigger without asking for assistance. Then, by the time the problem is solved after you’ve finally asked for help, you are so emotionally drained and wished you had asked earlier. Is it worth the pain? I say not. Know that just as you probably enjoy helping others, others are ready and waiting for you to propose your need. Some good people to lean on are your friends, professors, guidance counselor and/or therapist (there are good ones (including myself!) online for your convenience at

Now you’re off! With these 10 tips under your belt and knowing that you can expand upon them, you will not be caught off guard as much while in your first year in college. Remember that you are not alone in this new experience and that there are people (both experts and non) who are ready for your questions and to offer help.

Learn, grow and enjoy. You are bound for greatness!

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