Surviving freshman year at college

Getting in on those pizza parties in the dorm means more than just free food — it's an opportunity to make friends. / Image Source
Getting in on those pizza parties in the dorm means more than just free food — it’s an opportunity to make friends. Credit: Image Source

The days are getting shorter, your inbox is filling up with newsletters about sales, and the television commercials are all pointing to one thing: It’s back to school time.

Only this year is different because you’re ditching that dusty high school to enter college. It’ll be strange, emotional and definitely scary at first. With a little help from those who already learned the ropes, we found out what it takes to make it through freshman year.

Meet new people

Each activity – orientation, dorm hall meetings and even class – can be an opportunity to chat up someone new. “Don’t be afraid to branch out and meet new people. There is nothing that says you can only hang out with people from your high school,” advises Mitch Verboncoeur, a senior resident adviser at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla.

Matt Aiello, a resident adviser at Vermont Tech, suggests using dorm time as a way to interact with fellow newbies. “Keep your door open,” he says. “Living in a residence hall can be scary, but simply leaving your door open lets your floor mates know that you are interested in meeting new people, and others will jump at the opportunity to talk to someone new.”

Embrace independence

Remember, Mom and Dad aren’t here to harp on you, but they’re also not here to lick your wounds. “Become your own problem solver,” says Zachary Beaver, director of Student Engagement and Leadership Development at American International College in Springfield, Mass. “Stop calling Mom and Dad when something small happens. Learning to solve your own problems helps you gain independence.”

Participate in class

Education is the bulk of the reason you’re in college, so soak it up. Aiello agrees. “Be vocal in class and don’t be afraid to speak your mind. You’re in college now, you are allowed to disagree. After all, you’re paying for your education and only you can ensure that you get the most for your money. Sitting in the back of the room quietly taking notes might get you through the course, but your education is in your hands now. Make something of it.”

Wait to hit the books

College is pricey, cut costs where you can. It’s risky, but Aiello suggests not buying text books. “At least not right away,” he says. “In my experience, many classes are listed as requiring a textbook, but some teachers give handouts with all of the information you will need, and some don’t even teach to the text at all. Wait a week or so into the semester to test the waters in each of your classes to get an idea of if you will need the book or not. Who knows, you might just meet an upperclassman in that week that will sell you the book for a fraction of the price.”


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