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How to Prepare for College: 16 Tips for Freshmen

Going to college can be one of the most exciting times in a young adult’s life. Once entrance exams are finished, college application essays are completed, and acceptance letters are posted on the refrigerator, the process of preparing for college begins. If you’re nervous about this new phase, don’t worry! We’ve put together some college tips and advice that will make getting ready for your new adventure a breeze!

1. Practice Your Time Management

Freshman year of college is when many young adults experience the freedom of making their own schedules. While unstructured free time may seem awesome, it’s important to establish routines.

Practicing good time management is one of the most important pieces of advice for college freshmen. Along with online calendar tools like Google Calendar, there’s a wide range of free time management tools that can help ensure you’re spending the hours in your day wisely.

“Scheduling blocks of time in a planner or Google Calendar works,” said Jeffrey Levine, Special Advisor to the Vice President of Student Affairs & Director of Enrollment Management at New Jersey City University. “I encourage students to put class time, meals, workouts at the gym, study time, exams, and all other pertinent appointments [in a calendar] on weekly mode to see where time is for fun.”

2. Make Studying a Priority

It’s easy to let studying take a backseat to social events, but adopting a good work ethic early on during your freshman year can be incredibly beneficial. Dedicate time each day to work on class assignments. If you’re worried about getting distracted in your dorm room, opt for a change of scenery.

“For me, being in a coffee shop or library away from outside distractions worked,” Levine said. He also recommends taking the time to learn about different studying techniques. “There has been research that students who study in study groups do well because they’re not afraid to ask others in the group for help.”

With these study tips for college and other good student habits, you’ll get into a routine that will stick with you all four years.

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3. Watch Your Budget

Budget Planner Made Into a Game. Photo by Instagram user @planwithsteff

Photo via @planwithsteff

Between late-night dinners, nights out on the weekends, and general college expenses, managing finances is usually a big challenge for college freshmen. But knowing how to manage money is one of the most important tips for new college students. A few basic money management tips include:

  • Know how much is in your bank account at all times so you don’t overdraw.
  • Always pay your credit cards off on time and in full each month.

When talking with incoming university students, Levine recommends that they put at least $25 a month into a savings account so that they can have some money saved by the time they finish school. In addition, he suggests students find part-time jobs over the summer in fields related to their desired careers.

Learn more about how to avoid common financial mistakes in college here.

4. Know How to Stay Safe on Campus

Blue Phone on Campus at California State University - Fullerton. Photo by Instagram user @csufpd

Photo via @csufpd

Study sessions at the library and parties can go pretty late. While walking back to your dorm or car, make sure to be aware of your surroundings and have the campus security number saved in your phone.

Many campuses have emergency phones placed throughout campus that can put you in touch with a security officer right away. Be sure to check the school’s website to see what type of security is available.

You can also stay safe at college by downloading apps like NoonlightCircle of 6, or bSafe, which utilize mobile device tracking, emergency contact lists, and other security features for your personal safety.

5. Don’t Forget About Your Health

Smoothie Bowl on a Table. Photo by Instagram user @britandco

Photo via @britandco

Going away to college means you’re responsible for your health and well-being. New classes, eventful weekends, and late-night study sessions can take a serious toll on your body. Combat these effects and stay healthy by getting eight hours of sleep a night, drinking lots of water, taking vitamins, and eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

If you do get sick, most universities have student health and wellness centers with medical professionals on site who can provide flu shots, cold medicine, and basic first aid care.

And while your physical health is incredibly important, your mental health also requires care. Simple ways to take care of yourself during school include meditation, breathing exercises, and stress management tips like avoiding procrastination, getting regular exercise, and limiting caffeine.

6. Get Involved on Campus

Campuses are full of clubs, teams, organizations, and other opportunities for college freshmen to meet new people. Not only are these activities great for expanding your hobbies, but they’re also a fantastic way to expand your network and make new friends.

Whether you want to play on an intramural team, audition for the university choir, write for the school newspaper, or be a member of a political action committee, there’s something to join or do for everyone!

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7. Attend College Orientation

Going to freshman orientation is a great way for students to get to know the campus and meet new people before the start of the school year.

Many university orientations are structured with campus tours to help students become familiar with dormitories, health and recreation centers, and various department buildings so you don’t get lost on your first day.

Also, be sure to ask your guide plenty of questions during college orientation to learn about campus policies, dining options, safety procedures, clubs and activities, department advisors, and more!

8. Visit the Career Center

Exterior of the Boston College Career Center Building. Photo by Instagram user @bc_career

Photo via @bc_career

If you’re curious about post-collegiate job prospects or how to get involved in a desired career field, make a stop by the career center on your college campus.

Career centers are invaluable resources that can guide students toward ideal career paths, and the counselors who work in these centers are great at helping students find internships, create resumes, and learn how to network, all of which can go a long way in getting you set for life after college.

9. Take Advantage of Student Discounts

Did you know you can get discounts just for being a college student? With valid school ID, college students can take advantage of great discounts on dining, shopping, Amazon purchases, and shipping!

Book cheap airline tickets on Student Universe, enjoy discounted access to digital newspapers like The New York Times, or save money on car insurance through companies like State Farm.

Don’t forget to ask about student discounts at restaurants, movie theaters, museums, and other local attractions near your university, too!

10. Get a Good External Hard Drive

Adata External Hard Drive. Photo by Instagram user @adata_na

Photo via @adata_na

Save yourself major stress by frequently backing up files on your laptop or tablet with an external hard drive or USB drive. You can store all of your assignments, papers, and notes, which frees up space on your computer and safeguards against computer crashes.

For a more cost-effective option, Google Drive allows you to save up to 15GB worth of documents, videos, PDFs, and other files for free.

11. Learn to Do Your Own Laundry

Linen Bags from Cozy Linen. Photo by Instagram user @cozy_linen

Photo via @cozy_linen

If you plan to go home on weekends or during holiday breaks, the last thing you’ll want to do is lug a ton of laundry with you. Do yourself (and your family) a favor by learning how to do your own laundry!

Most university dormitories will have washers and dryers available for resident use. But if your school doesn’t have laundry machines, you can always visit the local laundromat. Just make sure you always have quarters on hand!

12. Put Together a Shower Kit

Simple Shower Kit with Lotion and Soaps. Photo by Instagram user @hyggecornerpk

Photo via @hyggecornerpk

Master the dorm shower routine by keeping all of your toiletries and shower necessities together in a portable caddy! Shower totes make it easy to carry shampoo, conditioner, body wash, a razor, shaving cream, lotion, and anything else you need back and forth between your room and the bathroom.

Also, keep in mind that dormitory showers are used by many people, and even though they’re cleaned regularly, they can still be host to some pretty gross stuff. Trust us on this one—wear a pair of shower shoes or flip-flops every time you go!

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13. Talk with Your Professors

Professor Sitting in a Chair at Marymount Manhattan College. Photo by Instagram user @ewlmmc

Photo via @ewlmmc

It’s easy to be intimidated by college professors when you’re new to the university system, but remember that they’re guides for your educational growth. “Visit the professors and ask questions in office hours,” said Levine. “They’re here to help, and it can only help your final grade.”

But professors aren’t just useful resources for when you have questions about class assignments, projects, or readings. Their knowledge extends beyond the classroom, too.

Ask their advice on how to explore your chosen field more deeply. They might recommend courses to take in other departments or things to research outside of class materials. They can also provide suggestions for career paths and how to get started. And don’t forget they can be great references for future internships and jobs!

14. Try to Find Secondhand Textbooks

Stacks of Textbooks in a Campus Store. Photo by Instagram user @cbcollege

Photo via @cbcollege

Shopping at the campus bookstore can be incredibly expensive, as the average cost of a brand new textbook is estimated around $80. First things first—before you buy any books, check out the syllabus from each course to see which textbooks are required (Some will be optional, which can save you money).

When it comes time to buy books, check out thrift stores, Half Price BooksAmazon, or Chegg to see if you can purchase a used version of the textbook. This will save you lots of cash down the line! You can also resell your textbooks in the university bookstore or online when the semester is finished!

15. Prep for a Good Night’s Sleep

Dorm Decor Set Up Bed with Graphic Pillows. Photo by Instagram user @ocmcollegelife

Photo via @ocmcollegelife

Life in the dorms can be noisy, even during weekdays, which can make it hard to get a solid night of sleep. One of the easiest ways to make sure you rest well is by setting up a comfy bed. Dorm mattresses can be a little stiff sometimes, so combat the rigidness with soft sheets, a fluffy comforter, and lots of pillows.

It’s also a good idea to bring items like earplugs and an eye mask in case your roommate decides to pull an all-nighter. Other helpful items? A fan, white noise machine, and apps like White Noise Lite. They will be lifesavers, especially before that early-morning midterm!

16. Look Forward to the First Day

Freshman move-in day can be extremely thrilling and a little scary. Even though moving into the dorms, finding your classes, and adjusting to your new surroundings can be overwhelming, remember to enjoy the experience. You’ll be making friends, discovering new hobbies, and learning more about yourself than ever before in no time!

Going to college is an awesome opportunity. By following these studying, time management, health, and campus survival tips, you can go into your freshman year of college with confidence!

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