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Advice From An RA: What I Wish I Knew As A College Freshman

Advice From An RA: What I Wish I Knew As A College Freshman

college freshman, Advice From An RA: What I Wish I Knew As A College Freshman

Even if you looked forward to college for years like I did, starting freshman year can be a huge adjustment. There’s so much newness all at once– new home, new friends, new classes, new schedule and lifestyle, and although exciting, it can be difficult to navigate your first year. As a current junior at Fordham University in New York City and Resident Assistant for freshmen students, my main goal in mentoring freshmen is to make sure each of my residents’ first-year experience in college is a positive one. I learned a lot during my freshman year of college and even through my sophomore year. Here’s what I tell me freshmen residents, and what I wish I knew for my first year of college. 

You Don’t Need To Be The Same Person You Were In High School

High school was a strange time for me personally, and ultimately, I was just going through the motions of everyday life until I could start college. But when I finally was a college freshman, I realized that it wasn’t so easy to live the life I dreamed of living, at least not without some effort. I thought it would all come so easily, since college was supposed to be the time of my life. I soon realized after my first semester that making the most of college and becoming who I wanted to be couldn’t happen unless I worked to do it. I wasn’t very social in high school, and quite frankly, I wasn’t happy. I knew I wanted to change that in college, but it was hard to break my patterns of isolating myself. Bottom line is, becoming yourself is something that takes work. For me, that meant actively reaching out to people I wanted to be friends with, changing my sleep schedule, going out and not taking everything so seriously. Just because I wasn’t happy in high school didn’t mean I couldn’t be happy in college! I just had to take a look in the mirror, decide who I wanted to be, and make active changes to get closer to being that person. 

Advice From An RA: What I Wish I Knew As A College Freshman

Balance Is Key

Coming from someone who never partied in high school, hardly went out on weekends, and had a very quiet social life, I didn’t know what to make of the new opportunities college proposed. Like in many areas of life, I have found that balance is key. It’s important not to go overboard in any given category: social life, extracurriculars, academics, working out, drinking, whatever it may be! I have found what works for me, and you will too! But it’s important not to put all of your eggs in one basket. In other words, everything is good in moderation, and just like you shouldn’t go out too much, you also shouldn’t workout too much, study too much, or sleep too much! Everyone is different and the ways in which you divide up your week will vary from person to person. For me personally, I only go out on Fridays and Saturdays so I can focus on my studies during the week. I never do schoolwork on Saturdays so I have a day off to explore the city with my friends or catch up on sleep from the week before. I workout almost every weekday but only for 45 minutes, as I’ve learned that for me, I do better with short but consistent workouts. I create my schedule so I only have 2-3 classes each day and then I cut out some time for independent study and down time. It’s a learning curve and you won’t find the perfect balance right away, but as long as you’re working towards it, you’re on the right track!

Advice From An RA: What I Wish I Knew As A College Freshman

Make Studying An Event

Unlike high school where you’re in class for nearly 8 hours a day, you typically will only have about 16 hours of class a week. This isn’t to say you’ll be doing less work, in fact it usually means the opposite. But college is based more on independent study, so as a college freshman I calculated that for every 3 hours of class I had a week, I had about 6 hours of studying or independent work. Of course, the numbers vary based on your classes’ coursework, but regardless of how your numbers add up, you’ll be doing more work out of class than in class. I tend to get distracted easily when studying, and I have found that if I don’t make studying and homework an event, it often won’t get done, or at least not as effectively. Even now as an RA having my own room, I still make an effort to leave my dorm and go to the library, a study lounge, or coffee shop in order to do my work. I set guidelines for myself, for example, “I can’t leave the library until I finish this assignment,” or, “I can get a refill on coffee after I type 3 pages.” Creating rules for myself and going places to study keeps me on task and productive, holding myself accountable for completing my coursework.

Advice From An RA: What I Wish I Knew As A College Freshman

Create Structure

Going off of creating structure for your study time, structuring your days in general can be important since classes are only about 16 hours a week. At the beginning of each week I like to sit down with my laptop and my planner and prepare for the week. I use google calendar to keep track of how I am going to spend my time, and my planner for assignments and to-do lists. First I will go through my syllabi and mark in any assignments I have due that week or exams I have to prepare for. Then, each day, I bring my planner to class and jot down the homework assignments and readings for that given day, so that everything is in one place. As for my google calendar, I schedule everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. I’ll start by plugging in my classes, which I usually have as “repeating” from week to week in my calendar settings. Then I’ll plug in any appointments, meetings, or scheduled events I have that week. Then, I’ll plan for the weekend, deciding what I want to do that weekend so one, I have something to look forward to, and two, so that when Friday night rolls around my friends and I aren’t lost as to what to do. Start a group chat early in the week, buy concert tickets or make reservations, and then when the weekend rolls around, you won’t have to worry! After that I schedule my workouts, my designated study time, and allow time for transportation, since living in New York City, transportation is often a large chunk of the day. Having a plan for the week helps me to keep track of things I need to get done, as well as helps to make sure I am making the most of my time. 

Advice From An RA: What I Wish I Knew As A College Freshman

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Clubs & Activities: 4 Quarters Vs. 100 Pennies

It’s important to get involved on campus, but finding your niche is also valuable in doing meaningful work. You’ve probably heard of the saying “I’d rather have 4 quarters than 100 pennies.” This typically applies to friendships, but it’s relevant here too. It’s much more valuable to choose a few clubs and extracurricular activities you’re really passionate about, run for an officer position, and get super involved, than to sometimes show up to a bunch of clubs, but not feel any real connection to their purpose. For me, my time and attention in terms of extracurriculars is dedicated to Residential Life, Fordham’s Fashion blog, their Fashion Sustainability Club, and their Feminist Club. Of course, there are other campus organizations I support and occasionally attend meetings for, but by choosing 4 that are especially valuable to me, I have been able to truly make a difference in reaching the goals of those specific campus organizations.

Advice From An RA: What I Wish I Knew As A College Freshman


Lean On Your Support System

College is often many students’ first time living away from home, and with new independence comes a new need for different kinds of support. As college freshmen, we want to feel independent. We want to feel like adults, and we often don’t like asking for help. Leaning on your support system at school– you’re RA, your ResLife staff, your school’s psychological services, professors, and other faculty, is extremely important in not only building connections within your community, but in thriving at college. And don’t forget your classmates– you’re all in the same boat!

Advice From An RA: What I Wish I Knew As A College Freshman

What are you most nervous about for college? If you’re an upperclassman or you already graduated, what would you tell an incoming freshman? Let us know in the comments below!

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