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How to Survive Your First Semester of College

Are you nervous and a bit terrified about starting your first semester at your chosen college or university? Maybe you've just finished high school and are beginning as a traditional freshman, or maybe you've been a working adult for some time and are looking to seal your accomplishments with a college degree. Whatever your situation, read on for some tips that can help you survive your introduction to undergraduate life.

By Erin Tigro

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2009, first-time freshmen enrollment in the U.S. exceeded 3.2 million. The same organization estimated that the total enrollment of first-timers was expected to climb 13% from 2008-2019. So if you're reading this, you were accounted for in those projections, and you need to be prepared.

lecture hall

Familiarize Yourself with Your New Surroundings

The first thing you'll need to do is become acquainted with your new campus - whether traditional or virtual. If you're land-based, take a tour of your campus. Once you register for your courses, spend an afternoon finding exactly where your classes will be held. If you're driving to school, scout out the best places to park in relation to your schedule (and when school finally starts, plan to leave an extra half-hour earlier than you would normally have planned in order to find a parking spot).

If you're taking online courses, you'll probably use Blackboard, so once you've registered for your courses and have your log-in information, access the program and get familiar with navigating it. Your college may even provide you with a helpful tutorial. Also plan a visit to your school's library, and see what kind of resources they offer.

Interact with Students and Faculty

Because you're a first-time student, your college may require you to take a freshmen experience class. Introduce yourself to other students; some of the people in this class may actually be in other general education or major-specific courses with you. You may even be able to make your own cohort of sorts. This can be a great way to make friends and study partners. Here's another tip, when you're in class, take part in group discussions. If you're not sure about something, ask questions. And if you have time, stay after class and meet your professor.

Take Advantage of On-Campus Activities

Bricks-and-mortar colleges are often known for their clubs and extracurricular activities. They can range from social to scholarly groups. On-campus organizations can cater to students of a particular major, religion, race, sexual identity or political affiliation. You could also meet people at the campus gym or by taking part in intramural sports leagues. So regardless of your interests, if you put a little effort in, you're sure to meet like-minded individuals who can help you ease your way into college life.

sleeping student

Remember the Necessities

As silly as it sounds, don't forget to eat, and eat healthily. If you're going to be at school for a good part of the day, pack snacks or visit the school cafeteria. Also, thank God for caffeine and take advantage of on-campus Starbucks and Java Joe's when you can. Additionally, with all the excitement that a first semester can bring, remember to get enough sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation can impair learning and focus. For most adults, 7-9 hours of sleep is sufficient for maximum alertness.

Read more about how to prepare for college.

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