The beginning of my freshman year wasn’t perfect. As a couple points of reference, I once used my purchase of blueberries as a conversation starter, genuinely thinking it was a great way to socialize, and almost set my laundry on fire with a hair dryer. And although I still make regrettable decisions more often than I like to think about, I have learned a few things along the way about how to make college life a little easier. Read onward for seven tips to start off your semester on the right note.
1. Make a course plan.
If you haven’t made one already, it’s super helpful to have a course plan for however many years you plan to graduate in. Realistically, your plans will probably change at some point, but having an idea of what classes you intend to take ahead of time will save you so much stress during course registration. In the process, you’ll see the requirements for any majors and minors you’re interested in, which will help you figure out which classes to enroll in to create a balanced course load. Sometimes classes have prerequisites or are only available during certain semesters, so having a course plan comes in handy to account for this.
2. Learn your schedule.
Aside from knowing what classes you’re enrolled in, make sure you leave early and know where all of your classes are. In smaller classes, you won’t want to make a bad first impression by being late, but showing up early is also beneficial for larger classes because you can find a good seat during those first few lectures where everyone shows up. If you aren’t familiar with your campus yet, Google Maps saved my life back when I was a confused freshman who struggled to locate the entrance of a bathroom stall.
3. Ask syllabus questions.
Try to skim through your class syllabi within the first week to understand your professors’ expectations. Don’t feel obligated to ask questions if you don’t have any (if the answer is on the syllabus they might wonder why you didn’t read it), but if there’s anything you’re unsure about, don’t hesitate to ask. It’s good to get your questions cleared up early on to avoid any misunderstandings in the future.
4. Sit in the front row.
I recommend sitting in one of the front rows of your classes for a few reasons. First, there’s the obvious benefit of being able to read the board if you’re trying to take notes. Second, if you’re in any classes that grade participation, sitting towards the front is an easy way to catch your professor’s attention and appear more engaged in the class. Most importantly, I feel like I focus better when my teachers notice me, so if you learn in a similar way, you may end up retaining material better from sitting closer to the front.
5. Go to office hours.
During my freshman year I wish I went to office hours more often, but whenever I made time for it, I found office hours really useful. Towards the end of the semester way more students tend to go to office hours, so attending office hours early on is a good way to get help before everyone is scrambling. Even if you only have a couple things you want to clarify, it’s easier to take care of those issues before more questions pile up.
6. Purchase course materials (after the first class).
Some classes list textbooks you don’t actually need, so I suggest waiting to buy materials until you’re confident you need them. After the first class, you’ll probably have a better idea of which items to purchase—one of my professor explicitly said the book wasn’t necessary on the first day—so try to save money by ignoring extra materials you’ll never use.
7. Attend classes you’re curious about.
Whether you’re curious about a class you plan to take in the future or you’re on the fence about registering in something, check when that class is held during the upcoming semester. If it doesn’t conflict with your current schedule, you may want to drop by a lecture or two to see what the class is like. With larger classes you could probably do this in the middle of the year without being noticed, but it’s much easier to go in the beginning of the semester when your schedule won’t be as hectic. Since the add and drop period at most schools usually lasts for the first few weeks of the semester, plenty of students switch around their schedules, so professors probably won’t mind (or in some cases even realize) if you stop by their classes out of curiosity.
Maintaining good habits throughout the school year can be difficult, but by making an effort to start off the year well, you’ve already made progress towards having a good year. Whether it’s your first year of college or your last, best of luck on your semester!
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