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College freshman year is your first step into adulthood and it’s a year you’ll remember for the rest of your life. All those past achievements and high school grades can get you into the college you desire, but once you’re in, it’s a complete new start. Everyone gets an equal chance to prove themselves and what you make of this opportunity matters the most in shaping your personality and career.
So here’s a list of ‘must dos’ to help you make the most of your freshman year so you don’t look back and regret your decisions.
The very first thing to do (*cliche alert*) is to put some thought into selecting the right major. As statistics show, 30% of college students in the US drop out of college in the first year, or complete their graduation elsewhere. I’m guessing that you wouldn’t want to fit into that number, right? You must believe in your instincts and pick the right program that interests you, while at the same time being feasible with your SAT/ACT scores.
Be an occasional nerd
It’s okay to sometimes stay back and study instead of slipping out at night to party with the clan. You must resist the temptation (I know it’s hard!), and prioritize academics whenever need be. Trust me, it’s really cool to be the student who’s out with friends when he/she wants to – and who also does well in class. You must learn to say no at the right time, and loosen up and unwind when required.
Timetables and due-dates
It’s college, not high school. Every time you’re late with a submission, or miss out on a lecture that you “didn’t know” about, it’s a red alert. Colleges are very strict with timetables and dates right from the time of applications. It’s wise to sit down and draw up a timetable of lectures and upcoming due-dates for submissions. Put it in a chart and hang it on a wall over your bed so you don’t forget.
Hang in there
It’s not easy for everyone to cope with the newfound freedom that comes with college. And it’s okay to be scared. Some of us are introverts. Some of us don’t make friends easily and need time to build a good rapport. The good news is, you’re not alone. There are others just like you feeling the chills in a new place. Find them and make friends with them as they are also probably looking for someone who can understand how they feel. Always be nice to your roommate, and if they don’t reciprocate, change rooms. It’s hard to survive college without at least a small set of friends, so surround yourself with like minded people.
Define your study style
The college curriculum is a lot harder than high school, and it takes your first year to understand and implement this in your study routine. It doesn’t mean you’ll be slogging through the years. Be smart at your work. Identify your study style. Are you good with group study? Check out the library and find students who do the same. Stay connected with your groups online even when they’re not around. Like to keep testing your skills? Take pop quizzes and solve question papers from the university’s website. Like to make short notes? Use websites like Evernote to save notes, and Cram to make your own flashcards to remember hard concepts. It’s important to find your comfort zone while studying.
Try to be yourself
Right from the time of filling out an application, to writing that crucial college essay, applicants are expected to describe who they really are. Adding that ‘you’ element in an essay describes your unique quality and gets you into the college. You need to maintain that ‘you factor’ all throughout freshman year.
Work on your speech
Take a speech class if needed. Communication skills are very important to make yourself heard among the cluster. You may have been a pro debater or an elocution expert in high school, but the trick is to keep that spirit alive in college. Communication skills are like a good dessert after dinner. From making college life easier to impressing potential employers that want to recruit, your communication skills will play an important role in your future.
Draft a plan for the next four years
Yes, live in the present, but also think of the future. College is about enjoying your precious young-adult years, but with an element of added responsibility. It’s the right time to plan your academic goals for the next 3-4 years. Discuss them with your counsellor / mentor. This helps you to stay on course, tick off the milestones, and reevaluate your choices and options if needed.
Join a club
Extracurricular activities are crucial to making your resume shine, exploring your interests outside of the classroom and to make new contacts. Involving yourself in college clubs (drama, debate, etc) and student organizations will help you reap significant benefits in later years. It improves your leadership skills and your ability to perform as a team; two qualities much sought after by employers.
Technology is your friend
Times have changed and it’s a definite perk to be tech savvy. Learn to work your way around on the internet and use online tools like Google Drive (If you’re not already into it!). List down important blogs to read. Learn online etiquette to get a good reputation. It’ll help you to finish your assignments quickly, and stay in touch with the latest developments in your field.
Build a good rapport with professors
A good piece of advice here is to get noticed and fall straight into the good books of at least one teacher. It helps with getting good research opportunities, recommendations for internships, and a better understanding of the subjects. You don’t need to become a ‘teacher’s pet,’ but be regular for the lectures, take interest in finishing the assignments, and contact them for study help.
Draw up your resume (if you don’t have it already) and keep updating it with your newly acquired skills. Towards the end of your Freshman year, start sourcing for summer internships. Your teacher reference comes in handy for this. It will help you to get another internship next summer after your sophomore year. Graduating with two of these certificates will give you a competitive edge over others.
Freshman year is all about re-discovering yourself and laying the foundation of your career. Remember, it’s very tempting to get carried away into different social groups and succumb to peer pressure. Stay focused on your goals.
This article was contributed by guest author Ethan Miller.