Surviving Your First Year Of College

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Freshman year of college promises to be an exciting time.

It’s two semesters filled with fun, learning and a unique sense of independence. But there are also bits and pieces that can be a little overwhelming.

After all, this isn’t high school anymore. New environments, new faces and a whole new set of things to learn can be daunting even for the most extroverted and confident among us. The key is to be prepared.

Each year since the 1960s, the University of California at Los Angeles completes a college Freshman Survey, collecting feedback from thousands of students to get a sense of how the perspective of a student has changed over time.

While confidence in academic ability has remained rather steady, there are clearly a few things that have weighed heavy on the minds of students increasingly over the years.

Perhaps some of these things are on your mind, too. Here are some tips to help you through your freshman year.

  1. Socialize. Yes, face to face
    You just might relate to the more than 25 percent of freshman who reported that they spent six hours or more a week on Facebook, Twitter and other sites. The 2014 Freshman Survey showed that only 18 percent of high school seniors spend 16 hours or more a week hanging out with friends, compared to the 38 percent reported just a couple decades before. It’s clear that our socialization is more techy than not these days.
    No matter what your social patterns have been, college is a chance to change them. Odds are you won’t have hours upon hours to spend with friends in college, unless we’re talking about your roommate. But it’s important to make at least some time for friends.
    Join a club, find a study partner and attend the school games and events. As an added bonus, a lot of clubs and events have free food. What’s bad about that?
  2. Take one step at a time
    These days, a higher education is a long-term commitment. The 2014 Freshman Survey showed nearly half of freshmen planned to seek a master’s degree. About a third of students plan to go even further and earn a doctorate or professional degree.
    With the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting that a 4-year degree will likely be required for one quarter of all entry-level jobs by 2022, many students are making wise decisions in getting ahead of the curve.
    But remember, you can only climb a mountain one step at a time. There might be times when you forget an assignment, bomb a final, do something embarrassing that has your friends and acquaintances poking fun at you or encounter a situation that has you down. That’s just a part of the journey.
    Keep pushing ahead even when it’s tough and your goals will ever be closer.
  3. Be money wise
    Finances are increasingly a factor in which college students choose, according to the Freshman Survey. Making more money also consistently remains a factor in college attendance.
    Clearly, money is on the minds of students.
    One of the easiest ways to keep your money worries at bay is to be money wise. By now, you’ve probably realized that name brand products are much more appealing when someone else is footing the bill. But there are other practical ways to cut your expenses.

    • Eat in more and keep track of the free food offered around campus.
    • Buy used – used books, vintage clothing, gently used cars and electronics.
    • Apply for any and all financial aid that you can.
    • Get a job. Most schools have lots of opportunities for students to work on campus. It’s a great way to make a little money while earning your degree/s.

    Overall, just be smart about your money.
    p.s. Don’t forget to reward yourself every now and then. All work and no play … yada, yada, yada.

  4. Diversify your life
    College is your chance to learn about different ideas, people and cultures. Embrace that.
    The Freshman Survey showed that eight in 10 freshmen were confident in their ability to tolerate others with different beliefs and to work cooperatively with diverse groups of people, but nearly a quarter of them came from neighborhoods that are either completely white or nonwhite.
    Burst out of that bubble you’ve been living in. You just might find that your art is more inspired when your horizons are expanded.
  5. Don’t worry, Be happy
    While college is filled with fun moments that you won’t forget, it also has times of stress. Tests, papers, relationships and finances have a way of weighing us down.The good news is this is only temporary. Do your best and be happy with that. Worry will only hold you back.

If you are feeling too stressed, talk with friends, family or the school counselors.

Follow Alexia Lang:

Alexia Lang holds a journalism degree from the University of Missouri. Lang has worked in newspapers, magazines, radio and blogs, producing award-winning content centered around community and the arts.

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