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le_inferno's avatar

Do you have any advice for a first-year college student?

Asked by le_inferno (6189points) August 22nd, 2009

I’m leaving for college in 3 days (shit) and was wondering if any of you wise Flutherites could give me some helpful tips that you may have garnered from your experiences. I know basics like “Get to know your professor”... “Get involved in activities on campus”. But if you have any interesting tidbits to share that you think I might not know, I’d appreciate it.

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53 Answers

StephK's avatar

Do your homework and show up to class. You might not “have to”, but you’re going to college to learn, so make sure you’re actually learning. If you don’t, you’ll be paying to waste time.

gailcalled's avatar

Well, maybe a different attitude. “Shit” is going to be very costly.

Meet your roommates and neighbors and advisor; get to know the lay of the land; learn how to navigate from the gym to the science lab; be prepared to be nervous and apprehensive. Every other freshman is feeling the same way. I remember the first week as being very difficult but gradually I got the hand of things.

marinelife's avatar

You are probably already enrolled so it may be too late, but I went to a large school.

I wished someone had told me that not all sections of courses, especially freshman courses, were equal. Check out who is teaching what and what kind of ratings they have. If you can’t get in, wait list (sometimes someone has to drop something).

I also went to school in a big city and was away from home for the first time at 17. Remember why you are in school. Enjoy the wonders of adult life with none of the true responsibilities, but keep school work at the center.

Have a wonderful time!

Dog's avatar

Identify the most motivated students in each class you have and form study groups with them.

Not only will your grades get a boost but you can form awesome life-long friendships.

NowWhat's avatar

Yea, I have some advice. Actually show up at class or you’ll be lost.

gggritso's avatar

@Dog That’s crucial. You can learn things twice as fast and see things from twice as many angles if you work with other people.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Do assignments right away, don’t party too much. Call your parents once a week and keep them up on what you’re doing.

Sarcasm's avatar

@gailcalled Well, maybe a different attitude. “Shit” is going to be very costly. I think by “Shit”, she meant it as an exclamation regarding how quickly college days are approaching, not as a descriptor for what she thinks college is like.

tinyfaery's avatar

No credit cards!

chyna's avatar

DO NOT sign up for a credit card. @tinyfaery beat me to it.

kibaxcheza's avatar

party on the weekends
work during the week

its served me well, Im havin a blast

Judi's avatar

If you live in the dorm, skip the cafateria food line all together and eat at the salad bar.

Treat it like a job. Regardless of when classes start, get up and out the door by 8:00. When you’re not in class, go to the library and study or do homework. Don’t go home until 5:00. If you do this you will be able to party all weekend and still stay on top of your studies.

gggritso's avatar

@PandoraBoxx Or if you want to save your minutes, get Skype. Seeing and hearing is better than hearing.

chelseababyy's avatar

Yay, my first year too even though I’m 20 and I’m doing all my courses online.

bennihan's avatar

Well I’m 20 just transferred from college at the beach to college in the city.

It’s all about the experience and finding yourself. Colleges make students their own as a Harvard Grad is not the same as a Penn State Grad. Go out and experience the world, people, and make some not so good decisions because hell you still can.

Live it up and stay focused on what’s important to you. Don’t ever stop learning and don’t let anyone ever put you down. You can accomplish anything.

janbb's avatar

Two pieces of advice that my sons actually used:

!. If you find you are going through money fast and don’t know where it’s going, write done everything you spend on for a period of a week or so. Then you can look at the list and see where you want to cut.

2. If you are drinking a lot and worried that you might be becoming too dependent on it, see if you can stop for a period of time, say two weeks or so. If you can’t, then you may have a problem you need to deal with.

And thirdly, don’t ever, ever use your cell phone or text during class. It’s just rude.

Quagmire's avatar

Do NOT wait for the last minute to study or do your readings, no matter what anyone else CLAIMS they do.

I almost forgot…BTW, good luck!

growler's avatar

Carry an umbrella, even if it’s only a little bit cloudy. Having just gotten soaked because of a lack of umbrella I emphasize this point even more.

blondie411's avatar

I was in a smallish major where I actually had to apply to, I’m not sure if the same applies but my advice is to make friends with your professors because when you actually get into your major basically you have the same ones over again. Depending on your actual major the department could be small enough that they could be friends and know you and it could be beneficial for you to make friends with the professors, it helps you later in life with jobs and letters and all of that sort of thing. Plus having a friendly working/teaching relationship always helps.

DominicX's avatar

Hey, good luck! I don’t go to Stanford until mid-September (I feel like almost everyone starts earlier than I do), but I am getting more excited and nervous by the second.

le_inferno's avatar

@DominicX Does Stanford go by trimester?

DominicX's avatar


Goes by quarter. The “Autumn Quarter” is the first one.

gailcalled's avatar

@DominicX: Excitement and nervousness…perfect. Have you met or contacted your roommate yet? If you have a buddy for the first few weeks, it does help.

le_inferno's avatar

Yes, I am feeling the excitement/nervousness combo too. More nervousness though, and anxiety. Overcome by too much doubt and fear of the newness. Anything I haven’t experienced before troubles me. I have spoken to my roommate, video-chatted with her, etc., so I’m glad we established a relationship.

DominicX's avatar


Yeah, I’ve met him. I’ve actually known him before this (just a coincidence), but not that well. Still, he seems awesome and he and I hung out in San Jose (he’s from San Jose) along with my friends and one of his friends and we all know each other now. It’s been great. I still don’t know what I’m going to do about telling him I’m gay and all, though! >.<


“Anything I haven’t experienced before troubles me.” Word up.

gailcalled's avatar

@DominicX : Get used to each other and each other’s habits for a while. Get a sense of him before you talk about personal stuff. Join a Gay/Lesbian group on campus in order to have some allies. See how it all shakes out. No rush.

DominicX's avatar


Yeah, joining an LGBT group is one of the first things I want to do when I get to college. I’m pretty excited about it as this will be the first time I’ve not kept it hidden.

gailcalled's avatar

@Dominic: It must feel like the elephant has left the room. I have a niece by marriage who just graduated from Stamford (she was an Olympic rower and is now at Med. school) and if she is typical, you will be fine.

janbb's avatar

@DominicX Good for you. I thiink you’ll find an LGBT group great to be in.

gailcalled's avatar

@DominicX: Ooh, guess who’s having a birthday in two days? Sweet 18. If I’m not around, early birthday wishes. g

DominicX's avatar


Thank you! Yep, it’s Monday. Tomorrow’s my last official day as a kid…lol.

frdelrosario's avatar

Schedule enough time between classes to think, rest, read, whatever.

The most useful person you’ll meet is the teacher who knows all the other teachers.

The campus newspaper is an excellent resource.

Determine the best parking spots at the basketball gym. Er, that’s not advice, but a request. =)

I think you’re going to be a smashing success, because you’re the smartest young person I’ve read on Fluther.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Get an hour of real exercise in every day. It keeps the brain nice and sharp.

Most dorm food is very cheap and starchy. Stay away from it as best you can.

Get involved in activities at the student union. Developing leadership skills is a good thing.

Learn to speak up for yourself (politely) in whatever circumstance you find that you need to. Developing communications skills is also a good thing

Sarcasm's avatar

Exercise is great, but what’s it do to keep the brain nice and sharp?

gailcalled's avatar

it gets the circulation going, prevents you from nodding off over a book at the library at 9:00 PM, helps insomnia, anxiety, stress, cures cancer, male pattern baldness, and hangnails.

I found that walking or biking to all my classes, on a spread-out campus, got my blood coursing thru my veins.

WiseOldUnicorn's avatar

Don’t procrastinate and put everything off until the last minute. Finish your homework BEFORE you go out and party, or chill and play video games, or whatever it is you’re wanting to do—use it as a reward to motivate yourself to get your work done. Of course, when you’ve got a LOT of work piled up in front of you, don’t be afraid to take a break every now and then.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something, or email or talk to your professor outside of class if you need to. Don’t hesitate to take advantage of any help your school or your professor might offer (my school has a tutoring center, plus on multiple occasions I’ve had my teachers offer to read the first page or so of a paper before it’s due and offer advice). And go to class every day unless you have a damn good excuse not to, even if it’s one with no attendance policy.

Dog's avatar

@WiseOldUnicorn Welcome to Fluther. Great Answer.

Nially_Bob's avatar

Having recently completed my first year of university I can honestly tell you that it’s very probable that on some occasion, if not multiple occasions, you will act contrary to much of the advice offered in this thread. However, this should not be misconstrued as a negative happening as university is not merely about academic learning but learning in its entirety, learning how to live independantly, learning how to evade detrimental circumstances, learning how to feel comfortable with yourself; it just happens that many of these lessons are most efficiently taught through harsh methodology (such as that examination you were supposed to wake up for but almost didn’t because you spent the whole night drunk at ‘TGI fridays’ making bizarre offers to the employees and singing ‘Kung-fu Fighting’ repeatedly while performing the dance moves on the table). Basically, don’t expect to act perfectly as you will spend much of your time attempting to apply what you’ve learnt minutes after learning it but do try to make an effort (personally, socially and academically).
The only other advice that occurs to me at this time is to not cling onto your old friends too much, everyone will go their seperate ways and begin new lives but when meeting again, be it in a matter of months or years, it’ll be as though nothing has changed. Atleast, this is what I have found in my experience.

derekpaperscissors's avatar

Join up on organizations, they’ll help you meet new people, network, and have things, interests, events to do and develop.
You’ll learn more about your personal interests more in these orgs than in what they teach you in the classroom.

Zuma's avatar

The royal road to a Phd:

1. Follow your curiosity. Don’t take any course you are not interested in. Everything comes to you much easier when you are interested in the subject; you will not only retain things better, and get better grades, over time you will positively inhale the subject. Your curiosity will lead you down the path of least resistance and greatest enjoyment. If you don’t like a course or you get a bad vibe about the instructor, drop the class immediately and pick up one you do like.

2. Take all your courses on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If it isn’t offered Tu-Th this quarter, it will be next quarter. The idea is to reduce the number of days you have to schlep to and from school. The more compact you can make your class schedule, the more time you will have. Intellectual work, like reading and doing papers, requires long blocks of uninterrupted time. A M-W-F schedule is second best. Not only do you have a shorter “weekend” but it burns an extra day. Going to and from campus takes way more time than you think it does, not only for all the getting ready, the going to and fro, but for all the side trips, snacks, socializing and other temptations to fuck off.

3. If you are not a morning person, don’t take any courses before 10 AM. Otherwise do.

4. Don’t take more than two hard courses in one Quarter (e.g., Chem 1A, English 1A, Calculus I) the idea is to make sure you get straight A’s in these courses, which you will be better able to do if you can devote enough attention to them. These hard courses are the ones people will be looking at when they evaluate you for scholarships and graduate school (Yes you are going to graduate school). Take light courses like drawing or archery to get yourself up to the required number of units.

5. Never, never, ever accept any grade less than an A. If you get into a course and it looks like you are not going to get an A, take it Pass/Fail or drop it. The higher your GPA, the more free money you get. The more free money you get, the less work-study you will have to accept, and the more time you will have to study. If you are in doubt about whether you are going to get an A, ask. Ask if there is any extra credit or anything else you can do. Your GPA is your ticket to graduate school.

6. Don’t declare a major until you are near the end. Then, go see a counsellor and have them add up how many courses you have in each subject, and declare your major in the subject you have the most units in. Then you can worry about knocking off your major’s requirements, and whatever breadth requirements you have left. Do the most interesting ones first. Save the least interesting ones for last. By then you will have better study habits, a deeper knowledge base, and the discipline to power through it.

7. Make good friends with your favorite professors. Take independent study courses of your own design with them. The idea is to pursue something you find really, really, interesting, which will energize you greatly, round out, and consolidate your knowledge, and deepen important relationships that will serve you in the future. With any luck, they will mentor you and provide you with timely contacts, resources, references and valuable letters of recommendation.

At the Bachelors level: Don’t believe everything you read.
At the Master’s level: Concentrate on relationships; the 2 AM bull session is the seminar where learn the all-important art of Bullshit.
At the Doctoral level: Remember that everything, absolutely everything is negotiable.

College is the menu of life; sample widely.

Take a critical thinking course early if you can.
Avoid learning Bridge.
If you should take any drug harder than alcohol or pot, do it on a Friday so you can be straight by Monday.
If you must take a pre-med course with a high percentage of asians in it, only take one hard course that quarter and devote all your energy to it.
Do these things and your social, financial, and academic life will sort itself out.
Print this out and read it a year from now.

Don’t be ashamed to take a cram course to prepare for your GREs

Nially_Bob's avatar

“The higher your GPA, the more free money you get”
I have never thought to study the US system of student finance. Is it arranged based upon each students academic aptitude?

Zuma's avatar

@Nially_Bob To some degree. Scores on Aptitude tests like the SAT, particularly if they are very high, determine whether you get certain competitive scholarships instead of financial aid offers consisting of some mix of grants, loans or work study. GPA refers to Grade Point Average, which is a measure of academic performance.

Nially_Bob's avatar

@MontyZuma I have read about GPAs and some other general traits and quirks of the US education system previously but, as I have mentioned, simply never thought to investigate the financial elements involved.
I understand that higher education in the US is rather costly (particularly at the more renowned academic institutions), are there government loans which cover such hefty expenses or do they often only cover a specific amount unless other factors including academic aptitude are involved?

Nially_Bob's avatar

Forgive my discourtesy, I neglected to thank you for your initial insights MontyZuma.
Thank you.

Judi's avatar

@MontyZuma; where you been? I missed your super long answers!

answerjill's avatar

Get a planner/calendar that you can carry around in your bag. At the beginning of the semester, take our each syllabus and mark due-dates for assignments and exams on the appropriate days in the calendar. You may want to use an electronic calendar device. I’m partial to the Old School hardcopy.

mattbrowne's avatar

Meet other people. Eventually form study groups.

JLeslie's avatar

Have FUN! How is it going so far?

growler's avatar

Make friends with the people from facilities and those who work in the dining hall. A little respect and friendliness goes a long way, and you may be surprised just how awesome they can be. As a side benefit, it also helps you be more informed about how things happen at your school.

le_inferno's avatar

@JLeslie It’s great.. I’ve been having fun. Classes start tomorrow :X

JLeslie's avatar

Great to hear! I had a wonderful time in college. I’m flying my husbands parents to Michigan to take them to a college footbal game at my school this year, I can’t wait. Are you at a large University? Are you living on campus? What do you think you will major in?

Nullo's avatar

Pay attention in class, take notes on the material. Study. Ask the teacher any question that you might have about the course, even clarifications. Participate in class discussion. Get a tutor, if you need one. Allow plenty of time for your assignments, even if you work best under pressure. Read the book even if the prof doesn’t tell you to.

You will eventually end up in a group that has a slacker in it, which will be stressful and cause everyone to complain. Anticipate this, and be prepared to pick up the slack in case nobody else volunteers. Your collective job is the project, not making sure that the work is evenly divided. And picking up the slack gets you the respect of your more serious groupmates.

Many schools do not require you to pick a major right off the bat; I suggest that you wait until you’re confident.

Avoid the party crowd. It’s good to cut loose sometimes, but it’s bad to cut loos all the time. Use your judgment.

Use the libraries.

Use when picking classes, and keep in mind that a tough professor is not necessarily a bad one.

Remember that the professor (or the textbook author), despite any thoughts that he might have to the contrary, is not God and therefore fallible. Also remember that arguing with him about it will likely not help you any.

From a resources standpoint, it’s good to get chummy with the faculty as well as the students. A professor that likes you is much easier to work with than one that hates you, and is that much more likely to be helpful. Talking back to your more obnoxious teachers, while potentially satisfying, is also potentially detrimental.

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