It feels strange to be sitting down and writing a post about college when my high school days are still so fresh in my mind, but here I am. After my classes starting picking up last year I realized blogging needed to wait. My freshman year of college was dedicated solely to getting a high GPA and starting college off the right way. I ended up making the Dean’s List, so apparently, I did something right.
Now I am back and armed with a few useful tidbits of college knowledge. It is amazing how much you learn in college that does not come out of a textbook. On the other hand, it is amazing how much you learn from your professors that has nothing to do with their lecture.
First off, it’s okay to not join clubs in your first semester.
Chances are your university will offer more clubs than you can possibly imagine. I am talking religious clubs, hobby clubs, greek life, and so much more. On my main campus alone there are over 500 registered student organizations. With such a wide variety of choices, one can plausibly join a new club every day of the year.
Instead of jumping into several clubs at the beginning of my first semester, I chose to focus solely on my courses. In high school, I struggled with time management. Although this may be a controversial take, I highly recommend you limit how many clubs you join your first semester of college. In fact, I do not recommend joining clubs at all in your first semester.
At the beginning of freshman year, courses start off light and easy. For the first few class periods (maybe two 🙃), professors try to acclimate you to a new academic setting and chances are you will find yourself with a bit of unexpected free time. Do not, I repeat, do not fall for the trap.
About a month in, you will find yourself scrambling for time while trying to turn in assignments, buy groceries, wash your face, and attend weekly club meetings. Make sure you have ample free time in your schedule. Between random study sessions and the ridiculous time it takes to get everywhere, you will need that extra time.
Yes, go to that info session for the free lunch, but stay for the content.
Instead of writing a long paragraph about my love for free food, I think sharing one of my favorite tweets from last year will get my point across faster. This sums up how I feel about free food in and out of college:
Free food is the magic word for any college student. During my freshman year, I literally planned some days around free food events. Heck, I know CPR, but for a free sandwich I will pump out chest compressions to Another One Bites the Dust.
As much as I love not having to cook a meal or two, that does not dictate whether or not I attend a lecture or information session. This may only happen at my school, but I noticed many students do not attend academic type sessions without the promise of extra credit or food.
Most weeks I find myself attending at least one extra lecture. These not only provide valuable information, but also professional connections. Going to college is so much more than lectures and good grades. I recommend you begin developing a well-rounding college experience by attending special lectures.
Do not take an early class unless you are positive it is an easy A.
Of course, this point is totally irrelevant if you are a morning person. However, I find myself most productive after 10 AM. Back in high school, I took online courses late in the night and never struggled with grasping the concepts, just staying awake. College courses are just a different level of intensity.
In my very first semester, I chose to study Chinese. I thoroughly enjoy learning the language and see myself using it frequently in my intended career field. However, due to the scarce availability of seats, I was forced to attend an almost three-hour lecture twice weekly on Monday and Wednesday that started at 9 AM sharp. When I tell you the struggle was real.
While registering for courses, try to schedule the most difficult ones during the hours where you find yourself the most productive. Of course, this practice can also apply to evening courses. At the end of your freshman year, you will gauge how well you learn at different hours and make the necessary adjustments.
It’s better to look dumb to a tutor than your professor.
Guys, this is not high school. Nobody cares if you use a tutor in college. Your university campus has a tutoring center for a reason. Plus, you may not realize this, but your tuition pays for it; and if you do not take advantage of that, you are basically wasting money. It is hard to raise your GPA after your freshman year, so do not waste this precious resource.
I learned early on that I suck at math. Seriously, my math skills are so nonexistent that I cannot even estimate time or distance. Unfortunately, my major required me to take a semester of math. Fortunately, that was the only semester of math I had to take in the entire four years.
Since I was not about to let the only required math course tank my grade, I made sure to take thorough notes and attend the tutoring center for each and every assignment. Girl, I passed that course with an A and never have to deal with word problems again *knock on wood*.
For specialized courses, try studying in groups with classmates. Or, trade your knowledge with someone else and offer to tutor them in a subject in return for some tutoring. Teamwork makes the dream work.
Professors are nice, go to their office hours.
Following my previous statement, I must also share that looking dumb to your professor is not the end of the world. Really, the word “professor” is just a fancy way of saying “teacher”. Similarly to teachers, professors act as your educator and your guide in college. In order to best advise you, professors offer office hours for you to attend.
Despite the confusing name, office hours do not mean the time your professor is in their office. This term indicates the specific hours your professors set aside each week for meetings with students. Some professors may request you book an appointment during those hours or allow for walk-ins.
One thing I forced my introverted self to do was meet with each of my professors one-on-one at the beginning of the semester. Most times I visited their office hours. If my schedule did not align with the hours, I remained after the lecture to talk. This showed them I was committed to their course. Also, when trouble did arise and I needed extra help, they already knew my face.
Make it a habit to visit your professor’s office hours. At the beginning of each semester, introduce yourself and ask how you can succeed during their course. Use office hours to go over difficult material, discuss methods to improve your grades, and ask questions.
Never, ever, ever buy textbooks full price.
I need you to seriously consider the question that I am about to ask. Do you plan on using your textbooks once the course ends? No? Me neither. That is why I cannot justify spending upwards of $100 on maybe three-quarters of a textbook, because you know we are not going to finish the whole thing.
When it comes time to buy your textbooks, I recommend two options: buy second-hand or rent. Thriftbooks.com is a website where you can purchase cheap, used textbooks. The books I purchased from them were in decent condition and the shipping was free. Make sure to check the textbook edition before purchasing or renting, as some editions may be outdated.
Amazon offers textbook rentals to certain countries at an affordable price. You should also look into getting a Prime Student account if you do not already have one. It gives you a free six-month trial of Prime and then switches to a reduced plan. Unfortunately, I cannot use the rental because I am attending a university in Korea. This is where Chegg.com comes in.
Chegg.com is the place to find textbooks for rent in mint condition. They also offer ebook rentals. Shipping is super quick and returning your books is free with their shipping label. Chegg also has study help for the textbooks that you buy from them.
Now That’s A Wrap on Freshman Year
School starts back up in two weeks and I will officially be a Sophomore. As of today I only have the syllabus for one course, yet I am living my best, stress-free life. Last year showed me so many new things and I cannot wait to see what I learn, and how much I cry, in the upcoming months. To good grades and clear skin, cheers!