Your first week of college will probably be a whirlwind of emotions, experiences, and names. Although freshman orientation is pretty well planned out at most schools, there are bound to be moments of awkwardness where you’re really just not sure what to do.
Here are 10 tips that will help you survive that first week of college.
It’s all in the name...unless you forget it
You will meet so many new people your first week of college you should probably walk around with a pen and paper to document them all because you’ll never remember them. (Please don’t. Now that would be awkward.)
Accept that you will forget the names of most of the people you meet that first week. It’s OK. People will forget your name, too. It’s all good. The key is to be honest about it the next time you see somebody familiar in the hall or on campus. Don’t be afraid to say, “Hey, I know we met that first week, but I’m terrible with names. What’s your name again?“ Then after you’ve chatted for a bit, as you’re walking away, envision their face and repeat their name in your head several times so it “sticks.”
Make new friends, but keep the old
Out of all those people you’ll meet your first week, there’s a very real possibility that you won’t become and stay friends with all of them.
All freshmen will be looking to make friends and will probably be very friendly. I met tons of people during my first week and thought I would become friends with all of them. I didn’t. I stayed friends with about two of them.
Don’t worry if everybody you meet isn’t your BFF. You just need to find those two or three people you can go to the dining hall with and hang out with on weekends. Unlike high school, college isn’t a popularity contest. It’s about growing, learning, maturing, and meeting some cool people along the way to share the experience with.
Class materials are not cheap!
You probably have already heard about how expensive textbooks are. What you probably don’t hear about are the additional items you need to purchase. For example, last semester I had to purchase an online supplement for my textbook, an iClicker, a coursepack, a Top Hat account, a financial calculator, and case studies from Harvard Business School. Can you say...cha ching?!
Once you know what classes you’re taking and what books and materials are required, start looking around for cheaper alternatives. Start with past students, rent the books at your bookstore instead of buying, or check online sellers like Amazon.com, Textbooks.com, or Chegg.com.
No two classes are alike
Be prepared to experience some very different requirements for each of the classes you take. Some classes require constant homework, presentations, and papers. Other classes just have a midterm and a final exam.
No matter what the requirements, I would advise getting a planner (or your cell phone calendar) and writing down all the important due dates as soon as you get them so you can stay organized and don’t overlook or forget anything. You can even put alerts on your phone to beep as an extra measure so nothing falls through the cracks.
There’s no place like home
Of course this won’t necessarily happen to everyone, but don’t be surprised if you get hit with a sudden wave of homesickness sometime during your first week.
For most, it happens right after their parents leave and for others it might be later on once the initial excitement settles down.
When you’re packing for college, don’t forget to pack some pictures from home to stick on your wall or put on your desk. And, make sure you have all the emails and phone numbers of your family and friends loaded in your phone in case you feel the sudden urge to text, email, or heaven forbid...call.
Find your quiet place
Most of the time you’ll be surrounded by other people. There’s your roommate(s), people next door, or people on other floors, and there will almost always be other people in the campus center or dining halls. With lots of people usually comes lots of noise. Not a good thing, if you need your space.
Take some time that first week to seek out a quiet place you can escape to to clear your head, unwind, or just breathe. Maybe it’s a single study room in the library, a park near campus, or just going for a walk. And if all else fails, invest in a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones to block out the distractions.
Exploration should be a college requirement
It’s crazy how much more free time you have in college compared to high school. The problem is, a lot of college kids don’t know what to do with it. They waste it sitting around playing video games or watching Netflix all day.
Don’t just sit around when you have free time. Use it wisely. And by wisely, I mean...go exploring. Explore the campus, checkout the surrounding area, join a club, go to a sporting event, try a new restaurant. These next four years are going to go fast. Make them count.
Can’t get there from here
No matter what size your campus is, it can be super easy to get lost when you’re trying to find your classes for the first time (or second or third, if you're like me).
Do a “dry run” before your classes start. Make sure you know where all of the rooms are and how long it will take for you to get between classes. So when classes do start, you’ll know where you’re going and won’t look like a lost freshman!
Variety is the spice of life
In most cases, dining hall food can’t even compare to home-cooked meals. It might seem exciting at first to have all these ready-made options available to you, but that quickly fades.
It won’t be long before you start getting sick of the repetitiveness and mediocre food.
Be adventurous. Most meal plans include whatever you can find in the dining hall. Take the opportunity to try new things. You might surprise yourself and actually like it. And if you don’t...well either share it with a friend or throw it out. Many dorms also have kitchens. If you’re longing for a home-cooked meal, get a few friends together and cook up a meal. And of course you can try out different restaurants off-campus as well.
Cleanliness is all a matter of opinion
A (usually) inevitable part of your college experience: having to share a bathroom. If, like me, you’re one of the unlucky ones, be prepared for the bathrooms to get gross fast.
Be prepared to lower your standards when it comes to the cleanliness of your dorm bathroom and bathrooms around campus. And, when you go home for breaks and enjoy a hot 20 minute shower and a clean toilet... remember to thank whoever cleans the bathroom.