As a new college freshman, there are things that take a little longer to learn than others. For example, there are better ways to carry your keys than a lanyard around your neck. But some tips are most easily picked up with age, and as someone who’s halfway through her time at Ohio State, I want to offer up some tidbits I wish I’d learned sooner.
1. Don’t lose what you did in high school
In high school, I ran just about every day. Cross country and track were major parts of my life from seventh grade through senior year. One of my biggest regrets in college is not keeping up with it, because now running more than a couple miles seems impossible, when seven mile days used to be enjoyable.
Whatever it is you loved before you came to college, try to find a way to continue it here so you don’t feel like you’re losing a piece of yourself. On a campus with thousands of students and hundreds of ways to get involved, you’re going to find someone who loves what you love too.
2. Form good habits early
This ranges from eating right to learning how to study. In high school, many students don’t need to study a ton to earn good grades. Learning how to study early on can help save you from a trap many college freshmen fall into: a rough first semester. College is more work, and it takes some adjusting, so the quicker you figure out how you learn best, the better off you’ll be.
When it comes to on-campus meal plans, eating right can be tricky, especially since you have more options and more say over what you eat. If you’re unsure which places have options that are both delicious and somewhat healthy, look up the nutrition facts on OSU Dining Services’ website. Oxley’s and the RPAC have some of the best food on central campus, but let yourself splurge on a Mirror Lake cheeseburger every once in a while to keep yourself sane.
3. Schedule an advising appointment
This is crucial to staying on track with your classes. Many majors’ requirements change over time, so check in with your adviser to make sure you’re on the right track and to make sure you understand your GEC requirements.
Advisers are especially helpful for undecided students who need a little direction. Two years ago, I was in the exploration program, and my excellent adviser helped me find journalism. Advisers aren’t “one size fits all” either. If you don’t click with yours, ask if it would be possible to see someone else when scheduling your appointment. You can find someone who’s helpful for you.
4. Surprise yourself
Sometimes the best experiences in college are the ones you never thought you’d have. Greek life is something I never considered because I didn’t think I was the “sorority girl” type. However, when a friend talked me into going through recruitment, I found out that there isn’t really a “type” of woman who join sororities. I ended up choosing a sorority I absolutely love with women who are all amazing in completely different ways.
Sometimes your best fit can come from a place you never imagined putting yourself. So if something intrigues you, reach out or go to a meeting. People who are involved on campus love to talk about their involvement, so don’t hesitate to ask someone at an event why they love what they do — their passion might be contagious.
5. Talk to strangers
Bouncing off the point of getting involved, talking to people you don’t know will enhance your college experience in ways you can’t even imagine. In high school, your friends are pretty much chosen for you based on where you grew up, what sports you play or what classes you take. In college — especially at one with nearly 60,000 students — you’re going to meet people you have nothing in common with everywhere. Talk to them, because there is so much they can teach you.
Some people will be easy to talk to, like your roommates, but with others you’ll have to work a little more. If you meet someone in your classes you seem to click with, ask if they’d want to study together or grab a coffee before your next class. Don’t be afraid to branch out because you never know where you’ll meet your next best friend.
6. Ask questions
Whether it’s because you’re lost on campus or lost on a homework problem, if you have questions about something, never be afraid to ask. Your professors aren’t going to blow you off if you meet with them after class or come to their office hours — they are there to help. Many classes, from statistics to economics, have tutoring sessions that can be super helpful. Just ask your professors about them.
Campus won’t make sense to you right away. If you’re frantically searching for a building five minutes before class, don’t be afraid to ask someone where it is. We’ve all been there, and most people are happy to help. When it comes to tougher problems, seek out help from a professional from OSU’s Counseling and Consultation Service. They can help with anything from stress, to homesickness, to depression.
7. Know your numbers
In unfamiliar territory where you spend more time on your own than probably ever before, you might find yourself needing help. To put this help at your fingertips, program important phone numbers in your phone now. Really, do it now. You should have the phone number of your RA, the campus police (no, it’s not 911), your advising office and Student Safety’s escort service programmed into your phone.
The escort service is great if you have a job on campus at night or burn the midnight oil at the library and need a safe ride home. They’ll come pick you up on and around campus in the evenings, so just check their website for hours and the service area boundaries.
8. Call your family
For most freshmen, college is their first time living away from home. While this is harder for some than others, you might feel homesickness at some point or another. Your parents are likely missing you too. Keep them updated with what’s going on in your life, because they’re probably curious about the new experiences you’re having and want to hear about them.
This is a great time in life to learn the importance of family. It’s easy to become wrapped up in what’s going on at school, but when it comes down to it, your family is your first support system. Tell them you love them and appreciate their support, because it will mean everything.
9. Don’t be embarrassed to be a freshman
Let me guess, you or your floormates have traveled in a pack of 10 to 12 freshmen sometime since move-in day? That automatically brands you as freshmen, but that’s OK. It’s also OK to get lost on your way to class or on your way home from a party. And it’s OK to wear a skintight dress to a house party. We’ve all done these things, and upperclassmen can make fun of them now.
That’s just part of the process though. If you’re never young and dumb you can’t reminisce when you grow up. So embrace your freshman self and look forward to laughing about it later. But please, take this tip to heart: don’t change out of your game day clothes to go out on Saturdays. Just don’t.
10. Pay it forward
You won’t be a freshman forever. Once you learn the ropes a little better, pass along your wisdom and advice. It makes your great university even better.