We all know that entering college is a huge (but super exciting) transition. During orientation, you should expect a lot of organized activities: awkward ice-breakers, information sessions, campus tours and elective fairs. You will likely feel overwhelmed with information in a short period of time, and seriously, it’s okay if you don’t remember it all. Your college just wants you to know that you’re in a place that has a lot to offer.
Yes, you’re going to learn a lot about your school during orientation. However, it is important to remember that there are still a lot of “real life” tips that they don’t teach you. Keep reading for 20 life-saving tips that they don’t teach you during college orientation!
1. Rather than joining everything, try to just join a few things you actually care about.
When you go to activity fairs, loads of upperclassmen will try to get you to join their club, intramural team, newspaper, etc. Rather than signing up for everything you see, try to pick just a few things that you genuinely care about. College is going to be busy enough already, and overwhelming yourself the first semester with more than you can handle is not worth it!
2. If you don’t make friends on your hall right away, RELAX.
You are going to find your friends eventually. Keep being friendly to the people around you, and put in the effort to get to know others. Ask people for their names, where they are from, and what they want to do on campus. Remember that every other freshman on campus is looking for friends, too; people will be thrilled to meet you!
3. It is perfectly okay to drop a class.
My first week of college, I thought that taking computer science sounded like a great idea. Ha. ha. Wrong. On Day 1, the professor said, “Alright everyone, download Python. We’re going to start coding.” Understandably, I panicked (considering I didn’t even know how to download Python). There’s a happy ending to this story though. I transferred from computer science into a French class, and that French class ended up being my favorite class the whole semester. I finished it with solid A!
4. Changing your major is normal.
This one goes with the last one. You are not expected to know what you want to do with your life when you’re 18 years old. Heck, you don’t even have to know what you want to do with your life when you’re 22 for that matter. Be nice to yourself, and try out different things. It will all come together eventually.
5. Be present.
I can’t stress this one enough. Maintaining friendships and long distance relationships from home is great, but when you start getting stuck back in high school, you really do miss out on getting the full college experience. Be present in college. Get to know the people around you. Join organizations, go to classes, and form relationships with professors. You will be much happier!
6. Keep the food in your dorm room fairly healthy.
It’s a given that eating healthy comes with a plethora of benefits. But in college, it’s particularly important. You need to eat healthy to fuel your brain and keep your energy up. College is going to give you so many opportunities, and it’s important you have the energy for them.
Tip: I’m all for pizza and cheesy bread every once in a while, but once it becomes a habit, you are on your way toward the dreaded freshman 15. Everything is okay in moderation, just avoid too much of anything.
7. Say yes to people!
Go to dinner with your hallmates, study with that person from class, and follow up with that girl you met at the gym. Don’t be flakey. Reciprocating an interest in creating friendships will help you to make real friends. Do it!
8. Wear flip flops in the shower.
A cousin of mine (that went to Princeton) told me a horror story about her first week of college; she didn’t wear flip flops and ended up with warts all over her feet! Don’t let this be you. Because of my cousin’s advice, I have always worn flip flops in shared showers, and I’ve never had a problem.
9. Register for classes as soon as you are able to.
Typically, freshmen get last pick on classes. This means your choices are already limited. Sign up for classes as quickly as possible to maximize what is left of your options. Especially for bigger schools, waiting last minute for registration can really set you back. You want to make sure you can complete all of your requirements in order to graduate “on time.”
10. Keep track of your life…
Get a planner or start using Google Calendar ASAP. It will help you to keep track of due dates, meeting times, exam schedules, etc. I also definitely recommend keeping a journal. I only write in mine once or twice a month, but it is so much fun to look back on and remember my college memories.
11. Buy your textbooks through Studentrate or Chegg.
There is a 98.99% chance that your college bookstore is ridiculously overpriced. Trust this tip, I guarantee you will save money!
12. When possible, avoid signing up for 8AMs.
Now maybe you’re a morning person (like me), and you think you can handle 8AMs. I made the mistake of doing this my freshman year, and it was exhausting. I always wanted to stay up late with friends, but I was often too tired and would fall asleep by 11.
Tip: Sign up for late morning classes. This way, you still get them out of the way early in the day, but you don’t have to sacrifice having a night life.
13. GO TO THINGS.
I’m really not trying to sound like a parent, but seriously, you should go to things. There are so many speakers, games, musicals, and comedy shows that students miss out on because they simply don’t go. You won’t regret it! It will also mean a lot to your friends when you support the organizations they are involved in.
14. Put on real clothes for class (at least 60% of the time).
You want your professors and fellow classmates to respect you. Be professional, and try to look at least somewhat put together every day. Invest in comfortable but nice-looking pieces. They will be worth it in the long run!
15. Invest in a nice mattress pad.
For majority of what you buy in college (fridges, microwaves, storage boxes, even bedding), you should opt for the cheaper route. But from my experience, it’s definitely worth investing in a nice mattress pad and keeping it for all four years. Someone once told me a quote along the lines of,
“You’re either in your shoes or you’re in your bed, so it pays to invest in both.”
16. Beware of the mixed drinks.
Chances are, if you’re going to college, you’ll probably end up at a party at some point. Often at college parties, there are shared mixed drinks (i.e. jungle juice). These can be really dangerous, since majority of the time, the sweetness covers up the taste of the alcohol. Stick to making your own drinks so that you know how much you are drinking.
17. Don’t fall for the first boy that compliments you.
I get it. You’re in a new place with new people: boys, girls, whatever you’re into. It’s really exciting. But keep in mind that no matter how many times that senior at 2AM says “you’re sooo beautiful,” he’s probably not looking for something serious. Keep your feelings in check, and more importantly, just have fun!
18. Go to the gym.
Chances are this is the only time in your life that you will have a free membership. Use it! If you were an athlete in high school, maintain your fitness and get that exercise in. If you’ve never worked out a day in your life, don’t sweat it. College is a fresh start, and no one will judge you for being a beginner!
19. You will meet people who are smarter than you.
This is a GOOD thing. Live and learn. If classes aren’t hard for you, you’re in the wrong place. Be proud of yourself for taking on the challenge!
20. Transferring isn’t as scary as it sounds.
Sometimes a school just isn’t the right fit, and that’s okay. Transferring should not be looked at as stressful or scary. It should be looked at as a weight off your shoulders, because you had the courage to leave a place that didn’t meet your expectations for what you wanted in an undergraduate education. One of my very best friends hated the first college she went to and she ended up transferring. And you know what? She is SO much happier. She joined a sorority, got a job at a startup, and looks healthier than she ever has. Everyone’s path is different. You just have to find yours.
Have any other life-saving tips to offer college students? Comment below for our readers and share this article with everyone you know!
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Sophie is an Editorial Intern at Society19 and a current junior at Bucknell University. Raised in San Francisco, she can't live without yoga, music festivals and gourmet coffee.