The start of freshman year is right around the corner. Grad party season is slowly fading out into that strange transitional period where summer days are punctuated with trips to Target. Phrases like “thread count” and “shower caddy” are probably working their way into your daily conversations.
But before you load up your car and take off into the collegiate sunset, take a quick look through this list of tips that could potentially benefit your freshman year experience.
1. Take your time choosing a major…
If you’re passionate about one field of study and know exactly what you want to do career-wise, great! More power to you. Get a head start on your core classes and save the gut-levels for senior year (or for a study-abroad trip). Otherwise, If you’re at a solid “I’m pretty sure what I want to study”, try basing your gen-ed course choices on whatever you find interesting rather than what you perceive as useful. Get outside of your academic comfort zone. Follow your instincts.
2. …but not too long.
Student loans suck. They suck even more if you end up paying a little extra due to past indecision. Don’t fret too much about the exact field you want study. Next to an education, the second most valuable thing you will pick up at school is a network of friends and colleagues. These people will help you get a job wherever you want to be, both during and after college. The world is full of CEOs with history degrees. To offer a bad metaphor: if a degree is your career’s pulse, a good social network is the body.
3. Keep your door open.
This may feel strange at first, but it is absolutely the best way to meet your neighbors (prerequisite: live in a dorm). The more you keep your door open, the more random encounters you will have with people around your hall. This inviting atmosphere tends to spread pretty quickly too; more neighbors will follow your example.
4. Talk to your advisor (more than once a semester).
This is a big one. I 100% regret not talking more with my advisor. You know that career field that you’re trying to break into? There’s a good chance that they’ve been in it for quite a while. They are incredibly valuable resources, full of first-hand experience and information. Plus, you don’t want to funnel half a lifetime’s worth of debt into their salary and just let them sit around in their office watching Youtube all day, right?
5. Get used to downtime.
I entered Freshman year with the preconception that my life was about to be consumed by classes, projects, internships, and essays. Cue the first week of class in September, AKA syllabus week. In other words: show up to class, grab a syllabus, listen to the professor’s 10 minute introduction lecture, exit, repeat. It didn’t take too long to realize that I was going to have much more downtime than expected.
For the remainder of the semester you will be very busy, but no where near the culture-starved, over-caffeinated study monster that many people lead you to believe. A large chunk of your day is going to consist of free time between classes and meals. Which leads me to my next piece of advice…
Almost every college graduate will tell you the same thing: it was the best n years of their life. College is the least amount of (real) responsibility that you’re likely to experience again, so take full advantage of it! Both campuses and the towns that host them are melting pots of new people, events, and experiences. See a hockey game. Go for a hike. Take a salsa class. Get lost in a neighboring town. If you’re like me and completely new to an area, there are tons of online resources for fun and cheap things to do.
7. Learn to balance your priorities.
Not to rain on the former point’s parade, but this piece of advice is probably the most obvious and essential to your survival as a college student. College, and freshman year especially, presents you with a level of freedom that you probably haven’t experienced before. Nobody is going to hold your hand anymore (it may be cliche, but that doesn’t make it any less true).
Learning how to constructively manage your time and energy is the best trait that you can pick up on your way to a degree. If you already have this going for you, congratulations, you might be Yoda. Consult this venn diagram for further explanation.
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About Mark Thomas
Mark helps build the look and feel of the Magoosh product and brand through visual design. He graduated from UMass Amherst with a BFA in Studio Art. When he’s not designing things, he can be found painting, critiquing restaurant menu fonts, exploring the west coast, drowning his demons in a pool of bourbon, and watching the Celtics.
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