Many people say that their time in college was the best time of their lives, and that if they could do anything over, it’d be those four (or two, or five) years on campus. While you should be excited, it’s also normal to be a little apprehensive or nervous about the transition from high school to college. After all, you’re an adult now, and with being an adult come adult responsibilities like budgeting, balancing new friends and a social life with academics and a job if you land one. Don’t be fooled by all the spare time it may seem that you have and let procrastination and weak time management land you at risk of failing classes or worse. With a little bit of preparation and a few tips on the basics of campus life, even the most overwhelmed freshmen can learn how to navigate that first year of personal freedom successfully.
Managing Money, Time
Sticking to a budget while in college is a lot about willpower, and those who don’t learn how to manage limited funds in college could be at risk for a mountain of credit card debt waiting for them once they graduate. Take advantage of offers that target college students but wouldn’t damage your credit rating, like free checking and reduced ticket prices at movie theaters. (Or rent a movie if you’re really trying to be frugal.) The spending decisions you make in college will stick with you well after you’re done with school, and if you use your blank credit score slate and spend (and save) responsibly, chances are you’ll take what you’ve learned and be wiser when you’re budgeting that first paycheck from your first job post-graduation.
Whether you’ve applied for work study, have been hired at a full- or part-time job or plan to find more creative ways to make money to help pay for your college expenses, it isn’t easy to manage your time well enough that your grades – and social life – don’t suffer while you’re earning a living. Keeping up with a more intense academic pace is a fulltime job on its own, and throwing extracurricular activities and a job into an already packed calendar isn’t easy. For many though, the advantages of balancing your classes and a job with a steady income outweigh the stress and potential bad decisions that come with tight budgets.
New People, New Lifestyle
Most college-bound high school seniors know of the dreaded freshman 15, and vow that before they step onto campus in the fall that they’ll exercise, eat right and avoid the junk food that pads college students’ midsections. What they don’t know yet is how hard it is to balance classes, a potential job and a social life with healthy living. Luckily, you don’t need to have chef’s knives and a spice rack to eat well in college, and buying healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables is often less expensive (and better for your waistline) than ordering pizza every other night. Most colleges also have meal plans to ease the transition for college freshmen who haven’t yet found the health- and budget-conscious options on campus. And picking up a club sport or joining an intramural team if you’re able to fit it into your schedule could be a great way to make new friends and keep fit on a regular basis.
Another rite of passage for the college freshman is learning how to live with roommates, sometimes complete strangers. If you don’t have a close friend to live with who has the same dorm preferences as you that first year, or are just adventurous and want to meet new people on campus as soon as possible, you’ll need to learn how to be respectful in that cramped space by keeping your side neat and discussing your preferences about things like guests, loud music and study time. (Note that this is especially important for females.) Set the stage for a lasting friendship with your new roommate by being honest about your expectations for the shared room, or if you really don’t get along, try to avoid the most common roommate problems by coming up with ways to make each other’s preferences known for the rest of the year. With more independence comes more responsibility, and it won’t only be roommates that you’ll need to get along with, but professors, your classmates, advisors and your parents when you return home on college breaks. Chances are you could be different than when you left for school.