Starting your first year of college can be a stressful time. You want to do well but you're not sure you're ready for this new challenge. Use the tips below to learn from people who have done it before you.
Want to know some secrets to starting your college years off on a good note? We asked college grads to give us their best advice for incoming freshman. Their tips can help you with costs, getting your coursework done and getting ready for your career.
Managing the Cost of College
Using Medical-Based Financial Aid
''It would have been helpful if I had known about medical-based financial aid before I started my freshman year. My family paid for my college for two years before I found out that I qualified for medical-based financial aid because of my asthma and allergies. Had I known how to apply for medical-based financial aid before college, I could have saved my family the cost of two years' worth of tuition, books, and fees. The medical-based financial aid program is not very well-known amongst students, but it is very, very, helpful. In fact, it paid for the remainder of my undergraduate degree completely and paid for most of my law degree without me having to take out expensive student loans.''
-Jason White, Author, The Medical Loophole
Don't Spend Extra on College
''Set short- and long-term goals that can be articulated… I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life when I started college, and I drifted for a while, looking for my place. As a result, it took me about five years to finish my undergraduate degree, meaning I spent more money on classes as I searched. Yes, it's true that people change their majors two or three times on average, but as a freshman, I didn't even understand the parameters and pitfalls of my chosen profession…. I found it easier to talk to advisors and faculty mentors when I had a goal I could clearly articulate. They understood me better, making it easier for them to show me the path I needed to take. Go in with a plan. The plan may change, and that's okay.''
-Michael Frizell, Director of Student Learning Services , Missouri State University
Getting Your Assignments Done
Understanding Professor Expectations
''…have a realistic expectation of your academic performance. Many freshmen are unprepared for how much their grades will drop in first year and are horrified as a result. Realize that this drop is to be expected and is typical for all freshmen. Try and understand what your professors are looking for and meet their expectations. This means not only showing up for class, but completing all of the required reading, and knowing in detail the class syllabus.''
-Mani Goulding, Owner, Career Passion Limited
Organizing Your Assignments
''Recognize that you need to overcome the bad habit of living day to day or hour to hour, struggling to keep pace with assignment due dates. Review each class syllabus at the start of the semester and begin populating your calendar with assigned due dates. Learn how to break down long-term assignments into smaller, more manageable steps and assign to each step a designated timeframe.''
-Michael Delman, Founder & CEO, Beyond BookSmart
Avoid Writing Papers Last Minute
''Writing your papers at the last minute may have worked in high school, but in college it doesn't. Most professors pay close attention to a paper's grammar, structure, details, and research. It's easy for them to tell which students put an effort into writing their paper versus those who didn't. If I had taken this advice during my first year of college, I would have definitely got better grades on my papers.''
-Holly Zink, Lifestyle Writer, Grapevine
Staying Awake for Class
''I'd advise college freshmen to focus on getting enough sleep. One of the biggest mistakes college freshman make is sleeping through class. This often occurs due to staying up too late partying, playing games, or just messing around. After all, college freshman are experiencing complete freedom for the first time. And in many cases, they don't immediately realize the necessity for setting and managing a schedule, particularly a sleep schedule.
Sleep deprivation has been linked to lower GPAs, depression, anxiety, lower resistance to sicknesses such as the flu, and long-term health issues like heart disease and Alzheimer's.''
-Chris Brantner, Certified Sleep Science Coach, SleepZoo.com
Preparing for Your Future Career
Deciding on a Career
''My advice for college freshmen is to determine where they're going. There's two parts to this: First, a general destination, and second, the path to get there.
Yes, college is a time of exploration and discovery. Though some students enter knowing they want to be doctors or lawyers, many are in less structured career paths. Some enter college with an undeclared major. You don't have to know exactly what you want to do in 5 or 10 years, but as I tell students: Pick something. Have a general destination in mind.
Then learn the path to get there. Research the industry and career options. Shadow professionals in that field. Get an internship. All of these experiences will help you clarify whether that's the right path for you. If it is, great - keep going! If it's not, you'll know sooner and not waste your time pursuing it.''
-Christopher K. Lee, Founder and Career Consultant, Purpose Redeemed
''My advice for freshman students is to network. Developing relationships with other students and professors on campus is very important. Although it may seem daunting, this will certainly pay off as you start looking for internships and eventually as you enter the 'real world.' The advice you receive from your networking connections can help you become familiar with what to do and what not to do with regards to your potential career.
I would also recommend joining clubs and groups that are aligned with your future career. In my own experience as a university student, the business school had a Management Consulting Club, which used the MikesBikes business simulation to give students an opportunity to run their own company. I've always regretted not joining this club as I missed out on the opportunity to learn how to run my own business and network with like-minded people.''
-Camille Canuto, Sales Executive, Smartsims Business Simulations
''Do 2-3 internships before you graduate. Too many college students are graduating with their bachelor's degrees only to realize that even entry-level jobs in today's market require the candidate to have previous work experience. Internships are low risk for the student and employer. The experience can only help you figure out long-term career goals.''
-Meg Radunich, College Career Coach in New York City
Still nervous about your freshman year? Take Study.com's College Success course to get more information on doing well during your first year.
*Submissions were edited for clarity and length