With over 185,000 copies sold, The Freshman Survival Guide has become America’s go-to guide for dealing with the difficult transition to college life while keeping the whole student–mind, body and spirit–in mind. The book–featured on The Late Show with David Letterman–spends numerous weeks each spring as Amazon’s #1 book in both the student life and college guide categories.
Freshman Survival Guide
The Spring semester has officially started. You have had a couple of weeks to settle in and now is good time to do a pulse check. Examine how the first few weeks have unfolded; have you started strong, pick up where you left off in the Fall, or do you feel overwhelmed? Whatever you are feeling, it is okay and checking in now can help steer your semester to success.
Have you had a test, written a paper, completed a group assignment? How did it go? Take this pulse check to determine if you need to study harder (or differently), get a tutor, or revise the focus of the group project.
At the beginning of each semester, we have discussed in earlier blogs, that you should write down short- and long-term goals for the semester. Use notebook or a journal to detail things that went well, areas for improvement, accomplishments and defeats for the past semester. Use these to jumpstart your goals for this semester.
This semester, take your goal setting to the next level, find ways to keep yourself accountable. Find out what motivates you and will help push you to achieve your goals. It may also be beneficial to find an Accountability Partner. An Accountability Partner will help you stay on track with your goals and remind you should you lose focus. Consider rewarding yourself for your efforts; perhaps a trip, a new gadget, or a concert. For some students the intrinsic reward is enough.
Every goal requires an action plan. Take time to plan out your goals and how you plan to achieve the goal. You will need to break down into smaller goals, so the bigger goal is more manageable. For example, your long-term goal may be to get an “A” in class, but that can seem like a daunting task. However, setting smaller goals of reading 2 chapters a week, writing one page each day a week before a paper is due, or reviewing notes each week.
Remember a goal without a plan is just an idea. Take this time to assess your progress thus far, don’t get too far into the semester before making adjustments. Find someone to be your accountability partner. Explore ways to reward yourself and to help you stay the course.
Academic Support on Campus
You have survived a few rounds of questions around the Thanksgiving dinner table about how your semester is shaping up thus far. Now classes are back in session and you are a few weeks from wrapping up the semester. As you prepare for the end of the semester, you may encounter several culminating tasks to conclude the semester and test your knowledge of the course content. You may see a variety of options, such as a paper, a group project, a PowerPoint, a speech, or some other creative approach to determine your knowledge obtained in the course.
Now is a good time to assess your skill level in the varying areas. You should be able to review your syllabus for more information regarding what the final assignment will be. Over the last semester, you should be able to determine which areas you may need additional support or direction. Examine your experiences, look at grades on assignments, review notes from professors. These are all resources to help you identify your areas of need. Now that you have identified possible areas of improvement, there are resources on campus that can assist you. Below are a few resources that are available to you.
Writing Center: The Writing Center is available to review samples of your writing and provide feedback on how to take your work to the next level, things to consider, and areas of improvement.
Office Hours: Office hours are a great way for you to connect with the professor or teaching assistant about the information and expectations for the assignment. Asking the professor for assistance could help clarify things and shows you took some initiative.
Academic Success Center: The Academic Success Center is a very helpful resource, because they can assist with helping you to organize your thoughts, help you to understand the assignment, pair you with a tutor, or even look at public speaking and offer tips on the roles of successful team. You can
Testing Center: The testing center is another space that may be available on your campus. The center provides a quiet place to test, offers information on how to prepare for an exam, and provides tips for success.
Academic Advisor: Your advisor is another person you can discuss any concerns you may have and is definitely a good starting point. Your advisor can point in the direction of the appropriate university resource. Your advisor is a good person to discuss any struggles you have encountered and how to overcome those challenges.
Each university is unique in the resources that may or may not be readily available to you. Take time to assess how you have been performing and areas that could use some support. Your campus is full of support and now is the time to explore what options are available and how you can combat it.
Good luck as you prepare for the end of the semester.
Spending Money at College
It is about 6 weeks into the semester and you should be settled in and have a routine established. You have most likely made a late-night food run, experienced entertainment over the weekend, and maybe even attended a home football game. You have also had the flexibility to do things you’d like to do with little to no guidance from your parents. One of those areas that you have (or will start to have) control over is your money and how you choose to spend your money.
You are probably noticing how fast and how little it stretches without a plan. Money is one of the most challenging things to conquer. You will see that most of your spending will occur on entertainment (parties, events, and outings), food (food court, late nights, and groceries), and school related expenses (materials for presentations, decorating your room, and extracurricular activities).
How are you doing with your spending? Do you have money coming in or do you need to find creative ways to stretch the funds you have. Do you have money for the rest of the semester? Good, you are doing well and keep up the good spending practices. If you are running low on funds, you may need to implement one of the tactics below.
1. Know how much money you have and how long it needs to last. Look at the total and divide amongst the weeks and stay within those limits. Consider any one-time expenses, travel home, and things on your list of needs.
2. Limit food purchases. Food is an easy way to spend money without having anything to show for it. Daily Starbucks, late night Taco Bell, and everything in between adds up and now you do not have much to show for it. You have a meal plan that includes enough meals to address your appetite. Your meal plan may also have bucks to spend like cash on campus.
3. Look for FREE events on Campus. There are events held every week that are geared towards students and are free for students. You have to make the most out of your experience and there are usually free events for every interest.
4. Consider other events on-campus that are not free. Do you plan to join Greek Life, do you need to pay dues to a club or professional organization?
5. Plan events accordingly. Go to the football game, enjoy a show in the theater department, or participate in a service project. Just keep in mind that you may not be able to attend every game, donate financially, or get the best seats in the theater.
6. Save. It is never a bad idea to save for an emergency, a rainy day, or a possible Spring Break trip.
The beauty of the first few weeks of the semester, is the ability to drop the class without a penalty. Before the semester begins, you will want to research the Registrars list of important dates. You will need to know the last day to add a class and the last day to drop a class.
Adding a class will be tricky, because it will be impacted by class occupancy, may require the professor’s signature, or clearance from the Dean. Even if a class is full at the beginning of the semester, you may have the opportunity to add the class in the event registered students already in the class decide to drop. Remember to be patient and allow the system to work. If you cannot get into the class this semester, try again next semester or next year.
Dropping a class will require you to monitor the calendar. There are two dates that you will need to observe. One will allow you to drop the class without the class showing on your transcript, while the other date will allow you to drop the class, but it will be reflected on your transcript negatively affecting your GPA.
Having the ability to pick your class can allow you the opportunity to “shop” your classes and professors. If a class is not a good fit for you, the ability to drop can alleviate some stress. Class shopping also allows you the opportunity to evaluate your course load and to step back if you determine you have too much on your plate. Keep in mind that the professor may not change with future offerings of the course. Additionally, the course may have a limited offering of once a year. Be mindful of the potential of a repeat experience if you elect to drop the class and attempt to retake it.
Getting into a Routine
The school year is right around the corner. As you prepare with the necessary items to live comfortably in your new home, you must also mentally prepare. Part of college is the mental rigor of wearing your critical thinking cap the majority of the time. For you to have to a relatively successful transition from summertime to academia, there ae a few things that will help make the transition an easy one.
1. Go to bed at a decent hour. You will want to start weaning yourself from the super late-night schedule you have developed in the summer. It may be a challenge to get in the bed at 10p, but you will soon see the difference when you are alert and energized while your peers struggle to get through the day.
2. Eat healthier. A healthy and balanced diet will also help your body run on good fuel and not be weighed down by the bad stuff.
3. Start reading. If you have a reading list, start early especially if reading is not your thing. This will help alleviate some of the reading load that you have. It also helps with retaining information and better understanding the material.
4. Purchase supplies. If you have your supply list, you should begin the procure items and books as soon as you can. The earlier you tackle the list, the better your chances to purchase used books of the best quality, supplies before they run out, and confirm you have everything prior to class starting.
Getting into a routine that somewhat mimics your class schedule with aid in the transition once your schedule begins. Developing the habit of sleeping 8 hours each day, waking up to shower, eating balanced meals, heading to work, reading, studying, and balancing social interactions will help your transition. Too much or not enough of any of these things could contribute to your ability to successfully navigate through the semester. Lastly, creating these habits early will help with a strong start will require little adjustments when the semester begins. It is a good practice to repeat this before the beginning of each semester. Establishing a routine prior to the beginning of each semester will prove to be invaluable as you navigate your way through the semester.
Agree to Disagree
One of the most exciting things about college will be meeting new people. Although meeting new people is overall a positive experience. Meeting new people will be a perk and an exciting part of the college experience. New people will mean diversity and diversity means diverse ways of thinking, communicating, and engagement. Meeting new people comes naturally to others, while others may stumble upon new friendships. You will not always have clear lines to the friends that you will develop in your lifetime. The challenges of meeting new people include effectively communicating with others that think differently than you, your way of thinking being challenged, and finding the value in what others bring to the conversation. Various encounters will force you to acknowledge and own your bias, shortcomings, and closedminded perspectives. Meeting different people might also mean, you are forced to have conversations that push you, challenge your beliefs, and impact your way of thinking. They may also reinforce your beliefs and approach to various topics in life. Additionally, you may need to be the person that challenges the others way of thinking.
Having people with different opinions brings value to the conversation. It allows others to challenge the conversation, question the norm, expose the inconsistencies, bring humor, show compassion, express anger, diminish fear, or to just be open. The varying viewpoints in the conversation, are necessary! You may not understand it, you may be frustrated, and you may even be challenged to evoke change. You do not want to surround yourself with people just like you. It is easy to navigate towards those that think, act, and see things the way you do. However, relationships some time require intentional interactions, that push you to be the best person you can be.
Although there are never-ending benefits for incorporating diverse relationships in your daily life, it can also be challenging. Every disagreement is not going to be pleasant and some will challenge you, others will make yo uncomfortable, and others may lead to anger. Even during these difficult moments, you must find the beauty and know there is a lesson to be learned in the interaction. Just remember to be respectful, listen actively, and although the goal is not to convert the other person, you may have to simply learn to agree to disagree.
In the end, you will not enjoy every encounter, but you can learn something from every encounter. Take the time listen to others, really see who they are, and learn to accept people for who they are and where they are in life at the moment. Hopefully you will acquire new friends, that will enrich your life and provide the different perspectives to your newly evolving world.
Be true to thine self
Freshman year will provide so many fresh starts and new experiences. You will meet new friends, try new foods, and have new experiences. For some students, this fresh start will be the opportunity to find their tribe. You will be able to find people that have the same interest, dress the same, and have a similar philosophy on life. For others, this experience may prove to be challenging and may not come as easy as things did in high school. You will be amongst others that may have been homecoming royalty, valedictorians, or brightest. Although you have grown into your previous role as a high schooler, you might be out of your element and need some time to adjust.
One thing remains the same in both scenarios, you must be authentically you. Walk with confidence, hold on to your beliefs and ideals, and don’t change who you are. Being you is the only way you will find the people that “get” you, the interest that speak to you, and the path you are meant to be on. Below are a few tips to help you be authentically you in your first semester.
1. Have an open mind. There will no longer be parents, siblings, or childhood influences. This will give you the opportunity to try new things. Your parents did not like sushi, but guess what, it may be your new favorite thing. Your siblings did not enjoy your favorite show, but you know what, a new season is about to start. Have an open mind and try not to be swayed by anyone.
2. Try something new each week. Make a decision to challenge yourself by trying something new each week. It can be a new exercise, a new smoothie, or even a new book. The idea is to keep things fresh and to not get stuck doing the same things week after week.
3. Meet someone new. Make friends with someone in your residence hall, one of your classes, or in the dining hall. A simple smile, sitting with someone alone at a table, or inviting someone to sit with you is an easy way to open up and meet new faces.
4. Learn to be confident in saying no. There may come a time when you are encouraged to participate in activities that you do not have an interest in. Learn to say no, instead of being sucked in, going with the flow, or following the crowd. If something does not look right or feel right, know that you can walk away.
5. Do what you love. Find an activity, an organization, or a class that you love. You will find other that will accept and welcome you with open arms. Not sure what you love, go back to #2 and repeat until you find something you love.
6. Be prepared to talk about your experiences. Other people want to know how things are going an how things are going. Be ready to share, as some people will learn from you, may offer support, or even have resources for you.
Freshman year brings a lot of changes, because you are learning, growing, and nurturing who you are and hope to be. So, take each day one day at a time and have fun learning who you are and how to stay true to yourself as you navigate your new world. Being yourself is the best way to embrace your new environment.