Ten Suggestions for Incoming Freshman

If you’re about to begin your freshman year you have less than two months to prepare and think about how to succeed and kick start this life-changing experience. We chose these top suggestions based on leading comments from current students.

  1. Develop a time-management system. Use it effectively.

Lots of Sixup students need to balance academics, homework and a job while hoping to make time to enjoy college social activities like football games and clubs. So how do they do it all? Start by following these important steps:

  • Every morning make a list to plan what you want to accomplish that day.
  • Use a planner or modified notebook to track time and to write your lists.
  • Take advantage of on-campus resources, such as student counseling centers and time with a teaching assistant. Form a study group, which can be social and good for the grades.
  • Use lag time efficiently. Take the 15–20 minutes between classes to start homework or study while class is still fresh or send a few needed communications.
  • Limit social media. Test it out. Keep a log for a week of how much time you spent looking through Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. How much of that time was valuable and how many hours did you waste? You may be surprised at how much of that time could be spent elsewhere.

2. Take advantage of all the opportunities at college.

College is a time for growth and for many the first-time students experience things outside their immediate community. Be savvy about money. It’s not all expensive. Get to know different people from different backgrounds and geographic places. Everyone has their own story and a different perspective of the world. College is also a time to enjoy culture for free. Take advantage of free museums, campus theater performances, live comedy and music.

3. It’s okay to switch your major.

Heading into your freshman year you may have thought for years you wanted to be a doctor, a physical therapist or teacher. After learning about new opportunities, you may find that your hobbies can turn into a career. Now jobs in hotel management, website design and engineering are interesting. When is the best time to make that change? This can vary by person. If done early on many class credits can be used for either program as there are typically core classes for incoming freshman. For other programs, like engineering, there are prerequisites that need completion before moving on to upper-level courses. Before you think about changing schools, consider a new program at your current university. It’s much easier to transfer school within a school than move to a new one altogether, unless you have a guaranteed transfer.

4. Whatever path you choose don’t fall behind in learning basic technology skills.

We live in a world driven by technology and technology innovation will permeate any profession.

  • If you’re not tech savvy, take a class and learn how to perform basic coding.
  • If you’ve taken a class in high-school take an advanced class in college independent of your major. This will help anyone’s resume and help you get ahead. It may also help you find a better paying job while you are in school.

5. Stay on top of national and international news.

Your immediate community just got larger, but the world is out there. Don’t get your news from Facebook. Read newspapers like the New York Times, BBC News and Wall Street Journal. Even read the local paper to know what is going on in your college town. College is a time that breeds intellect. Watch the news with your friends, listen and participate in intelligent and thoughtful conversations about what’s current and happening in the world. The different upbringings, experiences and problems your peers share will help you learn, get a different perspective and maybe change the way you look at the world.

6. Go to class, get there on-time and take good notes.

A great way to flunk out of school your freshman year is not going to class. You’ll be surprised at how much you retain just by listening to the lecture. Learn how to take good notes. Here’s a hint. Just about all the important information will be shared during class. If you take good notes and capture all key points, it’s nearly impossible not to do well. Taking good notes in class also saves you time. Paying attention combined with the motor learning of note taking will enable you to spend less time after class catching up on what you missed. The information is already in your brain. You just need a refresher.

7. Find your secret study spot.

Study groups are great ways to get questions answered and work on projects together. But sometimes you need to hunker down and prepare for a big exam in quiet and where you know you won’t be disturbed. Find your secret study spot that only you know about. A place where you feel relaxed, comfortable and where you can focus. You will be amazed at how much you get done when there are no distractions.

8. Enjoy your social life but be aware that drug and alcohol abuse on campus is real.

College may be the first time you are exposed to life experiences that were hidden from you before. It’s also a time where you may feel pressured to make new and immediate friends. Underage drinking is an important topic that many colleges don’t talk about. Use good judgement in how you want to participate and with whom. If you feel uncomfortable get out of the situation. Do what feels right.

9. Get to know at least one professor really well. Even better if they are in your chosen major.

College can be difficult. Finding an adult who cares can be a great resource for questions and advice. But even more than that a professor can be a great mentor. A mentor can help you reach great success. They can help you become a greater part of your college community and introduce you to their network, which can be invaluable in locating an internship or job after school. How do you go about finding a mentor?

  • Talk to the adults around you
  • Attend office hours
  • Participate in class
  • Attend outside class activities where you share an interest
  • Get the courage to ask the professor to be your mentor

10. Take care of yourself.

Your freshman year is just the beginning. Make sure to get enough sleep. All-nighters can be fun or feel needed before a big exam. However, sleep deprivation messes up your time management system (#1) and learning. Eat right and exercise. Seriously what’s good for your body is good for your brain. This also means spending time with your friends and laughing. All good habits to carry with you throughout your lifetime.

Sixup is an online student finance & support platform that invests in high-achieving, low-income students in pursuit of great colleges + awesome careers.

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