The moment you’ve been working toward for years has finally arrived: You’ve started your freshman year of college. You’re full of enthusiasm, excitement, and wonder about this new experience that will help you get on your way to having a great career.
Raymond is a career and leadership coach and the founder and CEO of Innovative Management Consulting, a firm that helps people across the country and career spectrum thrive professionally.“This is a wonderful time of change,” says Tamara S. Raymond, author of Careering: The Pocket Guide to Exploring Your Future Career. “Because it is a time of change you’ll need to temper your enthusiasm for your new experience with the recognition that freshman year will likely present new challenges you’ll need to be ready to face.”
Here are five tips from Raymond to help you survive—and hopefully even thrive—in your first year of college.
Tip #1: Don’t goof off. If you are away at college, it can be easy to get distracted by the new attractions around you, especially if your peers are distracted too. Most young people like to be part of the crowd. It’s OK to join in adventures with the new friends you’re making, but don’t let this monopolize your time. I know of a bright young man who earned a nice scholarship to a prestigious university, only to lose his scholarship because his grades tanked after he goofed off with friends more than he studied. Don’t let that be you.
Tip #2: Don’t overload your class and extracurricular schedule. Sure, in high school you could take a zillion classes, play on the school’s soccer team, mow loans for some extra money, and do a few other things all during the same school year, and you still earned stellar grades. But that was high school. College will be way different, especially if you’re attending a competitive institution. Your classes will be much more difficult than anything you encountered in high school. That said, do not take on a heavy class load. Also, do not participate in a time-consuming extracurricular activity that first semester if you can avoid it. This is the semester where you should get a feel for what classes will be like.
Tip #3: Study in the library. Your college dorm and the local coffeehouse may offer too many distractions. Make a habit of studying in the library or another quiet zone on campus to maximize your study time.
Tip #4: Get help from your professors during their office hours. I kid you not: I know a very smart former student who took a college math class considered so basic that kids had nicknamed it “Math for Trees.” However, the joke was on them, because many of the students received poor grades in the class and some even failed! But this one student, who has always been math challenged, earned one of the class’s handful of A’s. That’s because she sought out the professor during his office hours to receive help on assignments. If you’re struggling in class, follow this student’s example: Get help from the professor.
Tip #5: Limit your time on social media. I know, I know, this is a hard one for all of you who’ve grown up in the Digital Age. Spending even one minute away from your phone can feel like torture to you. But to get the most out of your study time, I urge you to ignore your phone. You’ve got to impose some discipline on your social media habits to get the most out of your college experience. College is where you sit now; it’s not out there in the cyberworld on your phone or other digital device. To do well, focus on now.
Says Raymond, “To get on your way to your dream career field, you have to do well in school, whether that’s a traditional academic or trade institution. It’s all part of careering!”