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10 Tip to Make Your First Year in College a Little Easier

Posted On: July 19th, 2018

It’s hard to believe, but school will be back in session soon. Move-in day for your college freshman will be here even sooner! Starting college can be a daunting task, especially if your child is going to an out-of-town or out-of-state institution. He or she may start out not knowing anyone or even what to expect, but eventually everything usually falls into place. I know my first few months in college were a big eye opener for me. It was completely different from high school. While my little one has a while to go before she is ready for college, I have a niece who is going through this process now. She will be moving out on her own in just a few short weeks to attend Florida State University, and to say she is nervous would be an understatement. I thought it would be beneficial to share some things to make freshman year and those first few weeks/months a little easier—for you and your favorite college student.

1.       Attend the welcome events: Sure they can be cheesy and even a bit uncomfortable, but chances are that most people are in the same situation you are. Events like these are a good way to get acquainted with your classmates and learn about different on-campus opportunities, both of which go a long way toward taking those first steps to creating a social network of sorts. Plus, you can practice your networking skills, which will come in handy as you begin your career after graduation.

2.       Be open minded: You may be going into college thinking you know what you are going to do for the rest of your life or you may not have a clue. Be open to trying new classes. I changed my major three times throughout my college career. (Fun fact: I spent a year and a half in Chemical Engineering.) You may surprise yourself and find a new passion!

3.       Go to class: I know, I know. It seems obvious to go to class, but there are going to be times when skipping class sounds really good. Trust me when I say, it isn’t worth it. I had to take several classes over because I skipped class and missed vital test information.

4.       Your GPA isn’t everything: College is an experience. Yes, you should work hard, study and get good grades but make sure you take time to have fun, too. Your future employers aren’t going to base their hiring decisions solely on your GPA. Don’t slack off too much during the first semester, though; often times it is hard to recover.

5.       Ask for help: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You will only hinder yourself if you don’t. This took me a while to learn, especially while majoring as an engineer. It is okay to reach out to your professors outside of class for help; they really do want to see their students succeed.

6.       Don’t buy your books: Unless you have a lab manual you absolutely have to buy, don’t waste your money on a book you will use for one, maybe two semesters. There are plenty of sites that allow you to rent your books for a fraction of the cost of buying them. My favorite was Chegg. If you want to buy, make sure you shop around. Often times you can find the same book cheaper than the college bookstore has it.

7.       Keep track of your finances: Make sure you have a budget and try to stick to it. Starting to keep track of your finances early on will help you later in life when you have more financial obligations.

8.       Make payments on your student loans: Student loans are no joke, trust me on that. I never had anyone tell me that I could make payments on my loan while I was in school. Paying a small amount each month helps cut down on the interest accrued while you are in school, meaning your payment will be lower when it comes time for repayment. Student loan debt can be a terrifying thing.

9.       Continue to look for aid: You can continue to look for financial aid well past your freshman year. By continuing to actively apply for scholarships and grants while you are in school, you can reduce the amount of student loans you need to take out. Every little bit counts.

10.   It’s OK to miss home: Being homesick is normal. If you want to go home for the weekend, go. I am sure your parents and friends will be thrilled. Just don’t go every weekend. If you do, you will miss out on the fun college has to offer.

Going off to college can be overwhelming for everyone involved. Understand it is OK to not have every detail of the future planned out. I certainly didn’t. It will get easier, I promise. If you have tips that made your transition to college a little easier, I would love to hear them. Send them to me at Val@rivervalleycu.org. For more posts visit my blog at https://www.rivervalleycu.org/val-makes-cents