Freshman Year Survival Guide
by Paula Cantillo
Freshman year: the start of the best four years of your life; the transition into adulthood; a whirlwind of excitement and confusion. Adjusting to new places, new people, and an all new lifestyle can be a bit overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Based on my own first year experience and the help of my peers, I’ve constructed a quick list of tips that will help you make the most of your freshman year.
1.) Crack your door open You’ll find that some of the best friends you’ll make can be found on your floor or in your building. Make yourself accessible by leaving the door open, especially during move in day and early in the semester — you’ll be surprised at how many people pop in to say hello.
2.) Get involved on campus from the get go. Attend every welcome event, and resist the urge to skip orientations. Not only are these events great ways to meet people and find your niche on campus, they’re also great ways to get to know your school and what it has to offer. While you may have to endure the occasional awkward ice breaker game, you’ll find that the friends you make and the knowledge you gain are well worth the effort.
3.) It’s easy to feel overwhelmed on your first day. An agenda will help get you organized by keeping you up to date on projects, due dates, and other important events. It will also help you find a work rhythm as you go throughout your day, so that eventually you’ll know exactly how much time needs to be set aside for each subject and activity.
4.) Make time for yourself. Speaking of allotting time for things, make sure you set aside time to relax, spend time with friends, and enjoy what your campus has to offer. For me, playing lacrosse on my school’s club team is the perfect way to unwind after a long day of work. For you, it may be painting, hiking, or maybe something as simple as watching your favorite TV show. Don’t allow yourself to be consumed by your school work. Finding the right balance between work and play is crucial to a successful first year.
5.) SLEEP. The average human needs 7–8 hours of sleep per day. Now I know what many of you are thinking: “I’m not the average human.” And while for a few days (or even weeks) you may be able to convince yourself that can you function just fine with 3–4 hours of sleep and two cans of RedBull, you’ll find that these lost hours quickly begin to add up. Your mental health, physical health, and productivity suffer greatly from lack of proper sleep, which could in turn affect your grades. No matter how difficult it is, make it a point to schedule a healthy amount of sleep into your day.
6.) Read the syllabus. Here’s a little cautionary tale from my freshman year at NYU. It was only the second day of my performance seminar. As I settled into my seat, I was surprised to see the professor had placed a bin on her table at the front of the room. “You can drop off your assignment at the front.” she announced. I felt the blood drain from my face. Had I really forgotten to do an assignment on the second day of college? Frantically, I flipped through the pages of my agenda — I was sure that I had written down everything that had been assigned the day before. “But you never told us there was homework!” protested the unfortunate soul who was brave enough to voice what the entire class was thinking. Without a word, the professor whipped out her syllabus and pointed out a nifty little section titled “Assignments and Due Dates,” where a five page essay was assigned for that day. Please, save yourself the dread and extra work by reading your syllabus. Not only will this keep you on top of your assignments, it will also help you get acquainted with each professor’s unique preferences and policies.
7.) Use your resources. My writing professor always told me that office hours aren’t for people who are struggling but for people who want to achieve beyond what they’re already capable of. Don’t be afraid to reach out and get to know your professors. Office hours are a great way to assess how you’re doing in a class: where you’re excelling and where you can improve. In addition, most colleges offer counseling services, free seminars, and fairs that are specifically designed to help you throughout your collegiate journey. Make sure to take advantage of these resources so that you too can achieve your best!
8.) Remember that everyone in your class is just as much a confused freshman as you. This is probably one of the most important things to keep in mind throughout your first year. Every student at your university turned in the same admissions application as you, and every student was accepted under the same standards. So when you’re feeling like you’re the only one in your whole class who doesn’t understand organic chemistry, or who can’t write a good thesis paper, or who isn’t fit to solve advanced calculus equations, remember that you are no less qualified to succeed than everyone else around you. Never doubt yourself. Instead, look to your classmates for support — odds are they are struggling just as much as you are.
Paula is entering her sophomore year at NYU. She interned with Vocatio over the summer.
Vocatio is a career discovery platform and media network, designed to help young people find their perfect career path through a process of self-discovery, exploration, and engagement with employers and peers.