How To Succeed in Your First Year of College

Five Meredith students walking on campus near fountain.

High school students often hear stories (good and bad) of what to expect during their first year of college. In this post, we offer some expert tips on how to survive – and thrive – during your first year.

You will be busy … and in charge of your own schedule

In high school, your days were very similar in that you were in school at the same times almost every day and maybe had some extracurricular activities or a job outside of school that were set at the same time every week.

In college, your day will depend on which classes you have and the reading and assignments you need to complete to prepare for class. You may also have a job, or you may be a college athlete and have practice or a game. You may be involved in a student organization with weekly meetings. You may have to run errands or drop paperwork off to a campus office. Oh yes, and you need to fit in time to eat, sleep, and take care of yourself!

Most important, you will be solely responsible for holding yourself accountable. Therefore, managing your time wisely will be very important for college success. Some great tips for managing your time effectively include:

  • Schedule blocks of time to get things done. Get yourself a planner that works for you and take time each week(end) to block out your schedule – class, study/homework time, meals, meetings, and free time.
  • Make a to-do list. Prioritize timely and larger tasks, like a group project or studying for an exam.
  • Plan ahead. You will receive your syllabi for all of your classes the first week of the semester. When you are doing your weekly scheduling, you can block time to prepare for any major tests, projects, or exams. There is nothing worse than waiting until the last minute to cram or write a long paper the night before it is due. Procrastination is NOT your friend!
  • Take care of yourself. Be sure to give yourself time each week to go to the fitness center, relax, or do something for yourself. If you get too overwhelmed and need some help, check out your campus Learning Center or Counseling Center.

Get involved

You may have already heard these two words on a college visit or an admissions tour — and you will hear them again from your Orientation leader, Resident Advisor (RA), staff member, and/or upper-level student.

Getting involved on campus is the best way to get connected to your campus community, make friends, and develop great leadership skills that will be essential post-college. Colleges and universities have dozens of student organizations that represent a broad range of interests. Whether it be an intramural sport, an interest group, student government, or your campus activities board – all have so many benefits! Here are a few:

  • Feeling connected to your school. Colleges and universities have so many resources for their students. However, it is your responsibility as a student to seek them out. Being involved on campus is an important investment in your undergraduate experience.
  • Being part of a community. You will want to create a new community for yourself in your new home. Getting involved means discovering new friends and peers with similar interests.
  • Discovering your passion and strengths. With campus involvement comes learning new things about yourself, what you are good at, and what you care about. These things will follow you throughout your life.
  • Developing leadership skills. Being involved in campus can have an impact on the out-of-the-classroom skills that are helpful in college and beyond – like teamwork, delegation, conflict resolution, and communication.

Know your resources

Colleges and universities all come equipped with helpful resources for students to succeed. Among those are the Learning Center, Disability Services, Counseling Center, Financial Assistance, Career Center, Health Center, Carlyle Campbell Library, academic advising, your Success Coach, your Resident Advisor, and countless more. It is likely that you will learn about a few of these during your orientation program. These offices come fully staffed with professionals who have a passion for supporting students and helping them to make the most out of their undergraduate experience.

Know this: never again in your life will you find so many different resources in one place. Take advantage of these campus resources that are provided for your benefit.

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