7 Tips For A Successful Year At College

Fall is definitely the most exciting time of the year: the NFL comes back to our big screens on Sundays, the Chicago and New York Film Festival(s) close out the year’s most impressive entries, and Oktoberfest beers begin to line the shelves at the grocery store.  But another big moment is happening for millions of young people around the world at the beginning of September: the first year of college! 

Whether you are sticking close to home or going to a new city to begin a new life altogether, college is a time of personal growth and development that can lead you down many paths, some which you may not have even considered.  Here are some helpful pointers to get you started!

1. Be Confident In Yourself

Many people going to a big university or moving cities to experience an entirely different atmosphere can find either event to be an overwhelming task.  Not only do you face the pressures of collegiate study, but you may also face feelings of isolation and uncertainty.  The first thing to remember is to be confident.  If you are yourself, and not some molded conception of what you think people want (or expect) you to be, then you will have no problem meeting like-minded individuals who share your interests and respect you for being you.  Do not be afraid of not knowing anyone when you first arrive; embrace this as a challenge that will help you grow, build new relationships, and even take you to new places.

2. Set Personal Goals for the Upcoming Year

Obviously, you should have some idea of what you want to accomplish during your college years, but graduation is still a long ways away and this is only your first year!  In order to make your transition a lot smoother and be individually more productive, give yourself a set of personal goals that you want to accomplish.  For example, a student who comes to a new city like Chicago may want to set a goal to learn how to use the public transit system.  Taking some time to adjust to your new city and become a part of its culture will help you feel more at home and even offer opportunities to meet new people.   

3. Get Involved

Nothing works better at getting you adjusted to your new environment than participation.  Universities and colleges offer all kinds of extracurricular activities.  Get involved in a sport, join a university club or organization, or if you are not interested in a school-organized function, look to your new city to entertain your hobbies.  Most cities have institutes for the arts, local musicians that play small clubs or theaters, and if you have any athletic experience, consider becoming a coach for a little league team.  Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and utilize your talents for your benefit.  Remember, the possibilities are truly endless!

4. Reach Out To Your Senior Classmates

Many of us find ourselves in college classrooms with people from a wide range of studies; some are freshman students just working to get their prerequisites out of the way, others are more tenured students working towards fulfilling their degree requirements.  Again, don’t be afraid to be sociable!  Your senior classmates will, by that point in their studies, have a great amount of knowledge about university functions, the various degrees people study there, and what courses are worth taking and which ones are not so necessary.

5. Buy Your Books Online

This may seem arbitrary when it comes to acquiring social skills in college, but ALL college students are broke, and ALL college students need books.  My advice: buy them online!  It’s nice to have a university bookstore on the campus for last minute situations, but buying your textbooks online on sites like Amazon or Barnes & Noble will save you A LOT of money, which you will need for food and other functions. 

6. Stay In Touch With Family and Friends

I know going out on your own is exciting and incredibly fulfilling, but you should never forget your roots.  Your family is probably the most important thing in your life; they support you and love you unconditionally, no matter what you do or where you go.  Be sure to stay in touch with your family, siblings and parents alike.  Your childhood and high school friends are important too.

7. Play It Safe

Getting to know a new city and meet new people is an exciting and rewarding experience, but you should always use caution wherever you go.  Your college campus likely has a Public Safety department, but they have to remain on campus and cannot follow you as a personal bodyguard.  When moving to a new city, find a friend that may also be from out of town and go exploring together, and never walk down strange streets alone at night.  You may also consider learning the locations of the local hospitals and/or police departments, just for peace of mind.