College is your opportunity to find your passion. Here, you get to step away from the more rigid parameters of high school to take the classes you want, live away from home (should you choose to), and start to forge your own path. It will be a lot of fun, but it will also be very challenging at times.
We want you to go into college feeling positive but aware and armed with information to make this life-changing transition as smooth as possible. So, we are sharing 10 tips for navigating college.
College is going to be the first time you’re off on your own, for most people. While you’ll love the sudden freedom, you have to stay aware, alert, and safe. Learn your campus, walk at night in groups, use campus security when needed, don’t stay alone with people you don’t know (even if they’re “acquaintances”), and if you’re going to be partying, make sure a trusted friend is around to keep an eye on you (do the same for your friends). Look into self-defense classes, carry deterrents like mace and/or a whistle, and always be aware of your surroundings. We don’t want to scare you, but countless attacks do happen on college campuses every year.
Save Where You Can
College is also the time of being broke in as stylish a way as possible. Stories of living off of Top Ramen, cramming several roommates into an apartment, and learning to love your local library, are very common. While many can juggle a full-time job while studying, others depend on part-time jobs and/or student loans to get by. While the idea of money being handed to you while in college seems ideal, just borrow what you need, and not a penny more. Opt for grants whenever possible, save money by buying used books, search for required books in pdf/eBook form online, get work-study jobs on campus for extra money, search for dorm/apartment furniture on places like Facebook Marketplace, and search for dorm/apartment furniture Craigslist, and more. Try not to spend all your extra cash at the bars and clubs on the weekend, as tempting as that may be.
Don’t Forget Your Health
While you’ll learn how to get quick snacks and “groceries” for dirt cheap as a college student, you’ll want to remember your health. Try to eat as fresh as possible, shopping from the outer perimeters of the grocery store, where fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and more reside. Avoid the freshman 15 by eating small, healthy, preferably homemade meals (you can pack homemade snacks to go) throughout the day. Don’t eat too late, get plenty of sleep (don’t make sleeping at 3 am a habit), drink plenty of water, and remember to take time to unplug and unwind. Meditation, relaxing walks, a set exercise schedule, and like-minded activities will help keep you happy and healthy in college. Also, you’re paying a fee to use the health center each semester, so stop in and make an appointment if your physical, mental, and emotional health need tending to.
Find Your Group
While many develop friend groups in high school that will last a lifetime, college is another opportunity to find your group. You will make friends, start building a professional network for your career and meet like-minded people that will give you a sense of community on campus. This will happen organically and through the many groups, clubs, and organizational meetings advertised on flyers, social media, campus radio stations, and through word of mouth. Go to several different meetings if you can — there’s no obligation to keep attending or join, and you may discover a new interest or cause.
College will completely open your mind to new ideas, ways of thinking, and different people and how they live — if you let it. This means sometimes you’ll have to take a moment to stop sharing your opinion and let others talk. To listen. To update or completely unlearn things you have been taught, to replace them with what you now understand is right. Read a lot, ask questions, challenge authority and old ways of thinking, learn from others, and share what you know. It can be scary at first, but life is all about evolving.
Find Your Academic Passion
You are forced to take certain classes in high school — classes you may not like at all. These classes can make you feel inept, insecure, and isolated. While college also has its requirements, you now have a world of courses available to take beyond a small sampling of electives. You may have an idea of your major (and it’s totally fine if you don’t), but this is the time to try out classes that interest and challenge you. See what else is out there. And of course, take courses you know you’ll love now. You are discovering where you truly shine, where your calling is, and you have four (and usually longer than that) years to figure it all out.
Being organized will make your college life so much easier. At home, you’ll be able to find your things easier, keep your room/workspace tidy, and not feel overwhelmed all the time (this also avoids drama with the roommates). Being organized with your studies will also make things run smoothly. Taking clear notes in tabbed notebooks (per class subject), having a dedicated space for school work with your computer and supplies, and taking the extra time to make things easier for you — be it color-coding or highlighting, setting up a library for your books, or creating up a filing system for all your school forms — really pays off.
Sure, in college, no one will go after you if you don’t go to class. It’s your responsibility. But taking that freedom too far will mean you’ll fall behind in your class(es). The same thing goes for all the good habits you had at the beginning of the semester. Things will only move forward if you do. Being consistent — in your studies, health plan, and everything — will keep you on the path to success.
Yes, you should focus on your studies, first and foremost. College isn’t just one big party. But it should be fun. It’s about learning, but it’s also about the moments you experience and people you meet along the way. Join clubs, be social, make new friends, go to some parties, check out campus functions, and get out of your comfort zone. During this time, you are learning more about who you are, and college will facilitate that. Also, make it a point to study what you love, make connections, and nab some internships that won’t feel like work. It’s all about balance, with your happiness being the most important factor.