This post isn’t meant to scare you. In fact, it should do the opposite and reassure you that your first semester in college can and will be a success; all you need to do is put yourself in the best possible position to succeed. However, you must come to terms with the fact that you are taking a big step and many students dig a rather deep hole for themselves by starting college with a disastrous first semester. The beginning of college seems a little overwhelming for everyone at first, but the key is to remember, you, just like everyone else at the school, made it in for a reason.
1. Find The Right Fit
Let’s backtrack to the application process. Making sure the college you’ve decided to attend is the right fit for you is CRUCIAL. Nothing will make your grades suffer like the feeling of finding yourself at “the wrong school.” You’ll feel detached from your classes, professors, and classmates, prohibiting you from achieving the goals you’ve set out for yourself. Sure, it’s impossible to know what you’re getting into until you actually attend the school, but make sure you can clearly articulate WHY you’ve committed to that particular school.
2. Utilize The Library
The library is your friend. Find it, attend it, ask if you can move your bedroom into it if possible. Sure, there are a million places to study and get your work done, but nothing will beat the library. There’s something about being surrounded by books and endless resources that will lock you in study mode. More than that, chances are the other students in the library are serious about their work as well. Become friends with them, look for students in your classes in the library, and ask if they’re interested in studying together. There is a 95% chance that they will say yes. Which brings us to number 3….
3. Form Study Groups
There is strength in numbers. You may not digest 100% of what you’re learning in class, but someone else in that class mastered the area in which you’re struggling and quite possibly vice versa. This is what college is all about: working together. Form groups, hold each other accountable for the work, meet regularly, and compare notes. Many professional relationships down the line will come from connections made from college. Collaboration is where it begins.
4. Take Notes
You can never take too many notes. Whether this comes in the form of recording your lectures or writing every relevant bit of information you hear in class, make sure you have it all down. Lectures can be overwhelming. Remembering all of the information presented to you will prove a daunting task without writing some of it down. When you get back to your dorm room (or to the library) go over all of it while it’s still fresh in your head, as this is the best way to start committing it to memory and piecing together a deeper understanding of the material.
5. Schedule Everything
Yes, it’s fun and stress free to let your days come to you naturally, but staying on task and learning to balance your life is a skill you will gain a new appreciation for in college. Procrastination is something ALL college students suffer from to varying degrees, but proper scheduling can help mitigate this. Giving yourself “all day to study” is a great way to get nothing done; filling up your schedule and only allowing 4-5 hours to study is a better way to make sure you actually allocate and utilize your time optimally.
6. Office Hours
Right around the time your professor hands you the syllabus, you should also be receiving his or her office hours schedule. This information is gold. Treat it as such. If you attend a bigger university with large lectures, this is your chance for one-on-one time with your professor. Here, you can receive direct answers to your questions, hone-in on tips for upcoming exams, and allow your professor get to know you. Trust me, if your grades suffer and you try to plead with your professor at the end of the semester for extra credit, the first question he/she will consider is, “did this student even attempt to come to my office hours throughout the semester? Or is he just here for the first time at the end of the semester as a last ditch effort before the grades are posted?” Be proactive; attend office hours as many times as your schedule permits. Furthermore, know that some of these discussions you will have with your professors and the dynamic mentorship that can result from cultivating a meaningful relationship might very well transform your life, clarify your passions, and lead you to invaluable opportunities within your chosen profession.
A big part of college is having fun, and there will be plenty of time (well, enough time) to party and socialize. However, it’s important to lay down your academic foundation at your new school first, before you try to integrate too much fun into the routine. Starting off with a strong first semester will do wonders for your confidence and allow you to really appreciate the experience instead of fighting an uphill battle with your GPA all the way to graduation.
Now, I want to hear from all of you current college freshmen! How did you do during your first semester? Have any horror stories? Did you breeze through it with no problems? Leave a comment below or head over to our Facebook Page to join in on the discussion.