Going to college for the first time is a unique experience that forces students to take on multiple new responsibilities — and hopefully have a good time doing it. Here’s some unsolicited (but hopefully useful) advice from Team Clark members who’ve been there and done that.
Take advantage of your school’s health and fitness services!
Most schools offer health services like doctor or nurse practitioner visits, counseling, and fitness centers that are already part of your fees. It can be hard to transition from having someone looking out for your health to managing your appointments alone, but taking advantage of these services while they’re close and available may help you form good habits in the long run.
Eat at home or in the dining hall
The FOMO is real when it comes to going out to eat with friends, but it can get expensive very quickly. Dining hall food can be unexciting, but you’re probably already paying for it, so take advantage while you can. If you have access to a kitchen, there are plenty of simple recipes you can make – even if you hate cooking! Check out these 27 meals and desserts you can make in a mug and microwave!
If you have a big block of classes with little or no break, try bringing snacks or packing your lunch — that way you don’t buy marked up snacks and meals on campus.
Drink LOTS of water!!!
This is so important for your health no matter what stage of life you’re in. Going to the gym, staying out all night or studying for a final can be draining – don’t forget to take care of yourself.
Stay in with friends
Avoid spending money to go out by staying in! Chances are someone has a cool video game, Netflix or old-fashioned board game (beware: you may bring out the competitive side of your friends). Load up on popcorn and other snacks for a night where you can stay in pajamas and just hang out. Remember, you won’t all live in the same place forever.
Keep track of how much money you have — and waste
This may seem obvious, but knowing how much you have can affect your thinking. If you have an hourly wage job, simply keeping track of your hours and looking at your paychecks can make you more aware of your finances. Get your bank or credit union’s app for account access and simple deposits, too!
Figuring out how much your courses cost per class meeting may also deter you from skipping — especially if you’ve taken out student loans!
Read more: Student loans 101
Take a variety of classes
Most schools require basic courses and then let you narrow your focus to a major. Taking classes early on that sound interesting can open up new possibilities help you find hidden talents and possibly lead to opportunities you might never have expected.
Get to know your professor before and while you’re in their class
Use a site like RateMyProfessor.com to see how people react to a professor’s teaching style — with the caveat that some professors may get unfair, harsh reviews from students who had a single bad experience.
Ask your professors questions or just strike up a conversation outside of class — it could lead to mentorship or other networking opportunities. Having a good relationship with a professor also means they’re more likely to write you a recommendation in the future.
Don’t buy all you textbooks right away!
Some professors will require you to have and bring your textbook to class, but sometimes you won’t need them after all. I wasted $96 my freshman year on a textbook that I only used twice! Take a breath and wait until after the first day of the class to get your book — you may decide to drop the class, find out that the book is optional, or that you can get it from the library.
If you do need books for class, look into renting or buying used online.
Manage your time wisely
Everyone does this differently and it can be difficult at first, especially when procrastinating can be so appealing. Time management is a skill that will be useful to every aspect of your life once you embrace it! As you gain more experience, you learn how long certain tasks will take you and you’ll be able to decide whether you’ll still be able to get that paper done if you go out with friends. Here are a few simple things you can do to help manage your time:
- Set alarms for yourself – they aren’t just for waking up. Apps like Google Keep can help remind you what you need to do and when
- Buy a planner, put all the assignments from your syllabi in it at the beginning of the semester, and change out as necessary — just make sure you actually look at it!
- Use Google Calendar and get a calendar to hang up – having these visual reminders can help you figure out how packed your day or week is at a glance
Look for community service opportunities
Many campuses have programs geared toward giving back, and it’s a great way to meet people you go to school with. Often, during the first weeks, campus will be littered with booths and tables set up to encourage new membership.
Most schools have Greek organizations that do philanthropic work, but there are other ways to get involved, too. If you have are interested in being involved with anything from animal rescue to sexual assault awareness, chances are there is a group on campus you can. Sometimes, there are even days of service you can sign up for — like the Dance Marathons that are held at many schools to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.
Seize the opportunity to build your résumé
College career centers often host workshops and organize career days to give students the opportunity to network and reach out to professionals before they graduate. Take full advantage! This type free help rarely exists anywhere else. If you’ve already graduated or are getting close, investigate whether your school offers help after you’ve earned your degree. Learning how to write a résumé and having someone else proofread it is also important — look into whether your campus career center offers this service (it’s usually free!).