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The DOs and DON'Ts of Being A College Freshman

It’s August, which means preparations for the start of a new school year are well underway. Teachers are putting the finishing touches on their classrooms. Kids are organizing their backpacks and figuring out their schedules. And stores everywhere are seeing who can have the better sale on pencils and erasers. For college freshmen, this time of year is the beginning of a new era. You’re officially an adult and you have the whole world at your fingertips. Here are some dos and don’ts to make your years at college the best they can be.

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DO be a “yes” person.

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Go to football games. Join clubs. Write for your school newspaper. Do intramurals. Go to rec center classes. Join Greek life. Participate in student government. Take a road trip with friends. Go to parties. Be a tutor. Do volunteer work in your community. Have a picnic in the quad on the first gorgeous day of spring. Go sledding on the campus hills on the first snow day of the winter season. Have a weekly dinner with friends and try new restaurants in the community surrounding campus. Go to campus events. Do karaoke. Participate in poetry readings and open mic nights at the local coffeehouse. Take pictures and make movies with your friends. Go to student theatre and orchestra performances. Attend the college’s annual art show.

You do not want to be one of those people who stayed in their room for four years and only ventured out to go to classes. The best feeling in the world is waking up on graduation day feeling like you did everything you wanted to do and knowing you accomplished all of your goals.

DON’T over-commit yourself.

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Many freshmen stretch themselves too thin and end up flunking classes and forgetting the real reason they are in college: to get a degree. Balancing academics, extracurricular activities, volunteering, and a social life is a huge part of learning how to be an adult.

DO attend your classes.

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Remember, you are paying to get an education. Every day that you don’t go to class, you are wasting your own money. Not only this, but many classes are based solely on lecture material, class projects, and/or participation. Missing a few classes could mean a failing grade. In addition, many professors offer easy attendance points and extra credit for those who show up.

DON’T email a whole class if you miss a day or didn’t get the notes.

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Others will be annoyed with you for clogging up their mailbox and will not take the time to help you. Be sure to make a few friends in lecture and snag their email addresses along with the teacher’s, so when you have questions, you can rely on them for support.

DO the required readings and practice tests provided by your professor.

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It is truly important to read all the required texts assigned by your professor. Too many students think they can get away with not getting the books or doing the readings and they end up feeling uninformed and unprepared. Many times professors purposefully put an easy question on an exam that is practically torn word-for-word from a reading, quiz, or lecture, as a reward for those who go the extra mile and pay attention in class.

DON’T buy your books from the bookstore.

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You are begging to be ripped off if you buy your books from the college bookstore. Instead, you can usually rent books from your college for the semester or purchase texts for a third of the price from Amazon, Chegg, or Half Price Books. You can also cheat the system by chipping in with other students to buy one book and then making cheap photocopies of the pages.

DO strive for Dean’s List or a 4.0 GPA.

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In college there is such a thing as having too much freedom. There is no structure or discipline. Teachers aren’t standing in the hallways ready to give you detention if you don’t get to class. No one is monitoring your activities or what you do. Your parents aren’t there telling you to get your homework done.

By setting realistic goals for yourself, you are always working toward something and you have a constant reminder to focus and get your work done.

DON’T wait until the last minute to start an assignment.

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Some professors lay out major papers and projects in the syllabus at the beginning of the semester. Plan ahead and allot time for these, so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute trying to do an entire semester’s worth of work in a few nights. Not only this, but if you end up with questions and need help from your professor, they will not be forgiving when you ask them two days before it is due.

DO apply for internships and study abroad programs.

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The life experience and work experience will benefit you in the adult world when you graduate.

DON’T fail to make connections with everyone you meet.

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Professors. Classmates. Deans of colleges. Advisors. Class speakers. Internship bosses. College job fair recruiters. The more networking connections you have at graduation the easier the job search will be.

DO meet with your advisor EVERY semester.

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This sounds unnecessary or excessive, but it will benefit you in the long run. Think of your advisor as the Yoda of planning for your future. They are great resources for when you want to add on an extra major or minor, apply for a university program or scholarship, and/or get into a study abroad program or internship. They are also excellent at finding credit loopholes, finagling you into classes you want, and even helping you find classes that you’ve never heard of, but that are applicable to your degree and interests.

DON’T forget to take advantage of professor office hours.

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What better source do you have for advice on a class than the professor who teaches it? Professors schedule walk-in office hours for a reason. Do not feel like you are bothering them if you utilize this set time. If you don’t understand the readings or material, just ask. Many will even look over a paper that you’re writing or a project that you’re working on and give you pointers to make it better.

Most professors will be impressed by your initiative and be more willing to give you the benefit of the doubt, when it’s time to give grades, if they know you put forth effort and have shown that you are working hard.

DO take classes outside your major.

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Taking different classes not only makes you more well-rounded, but it’s fun to make friends from all walks of life. Maybe you will befriend a theatre major and score a ticket to a stage production on campus. Maybe you and an art major can start a student journal publication together. Maybe you will meet an engineering student and enter a robotics competition with a bot you both created. Maybe someone has an interesting life story that you can write about for the school newspaper. New experiences always lead to new opportunities.

DON’T be afraid to change your major.

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No one expects you to choose a major when you’re applying for colleges in junior year of high school and then stay with that field for the rest of your life. You change so much as a person throughout college. There is no shame in realizing your passion and making the switch. Most colleges have exploratory advisors for the sole purpose of helping students find their calling.

Plus, the sooner you change your major and get into what you are passionate about, the better. This is especially true in your beginning years of college when you’re still doing general education classes. You don’t want to get too far along in one major only to have to make up for lost classes and time in another.

DO try and schedule classes in longer block chunks.

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It stinks not getting a break in between, but, scheduling classes from 9am-4pm is well worth the freedom. Then, you can utilize you afternoons, nights, and weekends for homework, extracurricular events, volunteering, and fun.

DON’T schedule a class for the first time slot of the day.

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You may think that you have the discipline to get up for a 7am class, but you will kick your own butt later, especially if you are a commuter.

DO keep a planner and stay organized.

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Write everything down. Print out every syllabus. Use Post-Its. Color-coordinate your subjects and assignments if you have to.

Do whatever works to keep yourself on a good schedule and to make sure everything is on track.

Organization is the key to balancing your responsibilities.

DON’T leave your belongings unattended for someone to steal.

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From the library to the dining halls, don’t be naïve enough to think it won’t happen to you. You think you’re just going to get a napkin or book for five seconds and what you’re really doing is giving yourself a guaranteed stressful trip to campus police.

DO eat healthy, exercise, sleep, and take the occasional break.

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Go for a nice walk. Breathe the fresh air. Take a nap. Prepare a homemade meal for yourself. These seem like no-brainers, but life will become such a blur that you will sometimes forget to tend to your basic human necessities. Neglecting your needs can mean sick city. And there is nothing worse than getting sick and missing a few days of lecture. It can throw off your entire semester. A healthier and well-rested body does better work.

DON’T walk alone at night.

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Walk in groups or call someone while walking alone on campus. Utilize college shuttles or campus police services to get you where you need to go. Always remember, safety first. You do not want to become a statistic.

DO have fun!

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Squeeze every bit of life out of your college years because they can be some of the most fun days of your life!

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