If I had to describe my first year of college in one word, it would have to be “freedom.” At this point, you’re probably groaning since everyone is always telling you about how much freedom you have in college and how great it is, but hear me out. Before I graduated, my parents gave me free reign and I was allowed to do pretty much whatever I wanted, so I didn’t think college would be that big of an adjustment; I was wrong.
First, you have to realize that you’re living at your school 24/7. This may sound blatantly obvious and somewhat redundant, but there are a few things this fact entails that should definitely be addressed. For example, you’ll have tons of free time because you go to fewer hours of class each week than you did in high school; because of that, time management is of the upmost importance. Also, this means that your friends are always around, constantly knocking on your door and tempting you to procrastinate. Furthermore, living at school blurs the line between being at school and being at home, so “homework” becomes ambiguous.
Similarly, there will also be the constant temptation to party: and I mean all the time; you’ll get daily offers even on weeknights. To avoid falling into this trap (and many freshmen do), enjoy college life responsibly by indulging every so often, but also provide your days with some structure. Have consistent meal times, work out, and get involved in anything that sounds remotely interesting – whether that’s a sport, club, group or whatever – and go check it out at least once. Not only will this give you a solid base, which is essential for effective time management, but this is also a great way to meet new people with similar interests, and you might even enjoy yourself. Branch out and try new things – you might end up finding a new hobby or activity, and you could wind up developing a real passion for it!
Next, because the number of hours you spend in class each week are minimal, skipping class isn’t an option. I strongly urge you to attend class unless it is absolutely necessary that you don’t. You have to realize that there are fewer weeks in a college semester than in high school, but you’re held accountable for even more material; in turn, missing even one class can really set you back. In addition, you’re paying perfectly good money for these classes, so skipping them is, in essence, throwing away cash. Furthermore, you should (theoretically) enjoy your classes because college provides you with an enormous range of choices; if you’re picking classes you don’t like, you’re doing it wrong. Also, it’s important to make friends with other people in your classes – especially early on – so you can study for quizzes and exams together, collaborate on papers, have friends for group projects, get class notes when absent, and stay informed about any announcements or changes to the syllabus professors generally make at the start of class.
This last point is especially important because your professors really won’t track you down. Depending on the class and your professor, attendance may or may not be required, but you will be held accountable for all material discussed during class. If you miss class, your professor probably won’t even ask why, which means it’s all up to you. Everything you need to know is spelled out in your professor’s syllabus, so don’t lose it! Again, your professor won’t necessarily remind you about an upcoming deadline, quiz, or exam, so you should get a calendar or planner of some sort to stay organized. Make sure to include both academic and social events (such as sporting events and lectures you want to attend), as well as other important events or deadlines such as dates for adding, dropping, or even withdrawing from courses. You can usually find your school’s academic calendar online and start this process over the summer if you want to get a head start. Preferably, you should fill all this out at the beginning of the semester as soon as you get your syllabi, and color code your assignments by class. Altogether, this allows you to plan out everything that’s actually important which prevents you from forgetting anything or falling behind, and is essential for time management.
Furthermore, there aren’t really handouts and worksheets in college, and without these booster grades, exams and papers are essential to your grade, so don’t procrastinate! Never hand in a paper late unless absolutely necessary. Instead, always talk to your professor first and ask for an extension. In my experience, professors are usually willing to grant extensions if you ask in advance rather than the night before or day of the assignment’s due date, and it can never hurt to ask.
Overall, college is a blast and you really should love it. Soak it all in though, because it’ll fly by in the blink of an eye and be over before you know it.
– Andrew, former Sarphatie Education client