Start Fresh: How to Succeed in Your First Weeks of College

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably made the decision to star a brand new post-secondary education. Congratulations! Entering college or university is a great step towards building a solid future and investing in yourself. However, college is not only where you receive an education – it’s a chance for you to meet friends and colleagues that share your interests and aspirations.

There are so many programs to help you get settled on your first day that it’s often hard to figure out what you should do first. Luckily, we’re here to help with a series of tried and true tips that will have you feeling at home in no time.

Decorate Your Dorm Room

If you’re staying on campus, one of the first things to do is decorate your dorm room. It doesn’t have to be fancy – this is one time when you may want to stay off Pinterest. Sure, you can make your dorm room look like it’s been ripped straight out of the pages of Vogue, but really, it just needs to be functional and comfortable. Decorate it to fit your taste.

Many schools have poster sales, so if you’re feeling uninspired, head over there to pick up a few cool new wall decorations.

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Get to Know People on Your Floor

Another way that you’ll start to feel at home in your new environment is if you know the people on your floor. Many colleges have resident advisors (RAs) whose job it is to help facilitate this. The RAs are usually older students who get paid a small stipend to look after the students on their floor.

RAs will usually organize gatherings for people to get to know each other in the first few weeks of school. You should definitely attend these, but make a point to get to know people in smaller groups, too.

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Visit a Club Fair and Get Some Info

College is such an exciting time because it’s often the first time that you get the chance to be around people with the same interests as you. Chances are, even if you live in a big city, you’ve spent over a decade with the same friends, together from kindergarten all the way to 12th grade.

These friends won’t disappear, but it can be exciting to meet people for the first time who are truly interested in the same things that you are. Many schools host a fair for all the societies and clubs, so make sure you hit that up. It’ll be the easiest way to find out what kind of groups the school has running.

Image via Northeastern University

Attend Your First Classes  

The next, and undoubtedly most important, thing to do once you’ve moved in to your dorm and settled in is to start attending classes. Most schools require you to pick your classes well in advance, so you probably already know what’s coming.

You should always go to your first day of class. Even if the professor doesn’t start teaching the material, it’s a great chance to get to know their lecture style, and to get a sense of whether the class will actually interest you.

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Evaluate Your Classes After the First Day

Many colleges and universities have a trial period at the beginning of the semester – usually the first two weeks – when students can drop in and out of classes with no repercussions. It gives you a chance to attend a few classes before you settle on your final schedule.

During this time, do everything you can to figure out whether you want to stay in the class. Ask older students what their experience was, or even check websites like RateMyProfessors for a collection of reviews from fellow students.

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Speak to an Advisor to Check That You’re on The Right Track

The next step after you’ve determined which classes you’re interested in is to connect with an academic advisor to make sure that you’re on the right track. Depending on your school, this may be mandatory.

Many schools use a complicated system of pre-requisites to determine admission into higher-level classes. You need to start tracking this early, otherwise you may find yourself taking extra courses later on down the road. At your appointment, you’ll be able to go over your course schedule, and your advisor can help you determine whether you’re on the right path.

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Write Down Your Weekly Schedule

Once you’ve locked your class schedule in, the next thing to do is write out your weekly schedule so you can see what the next few months of your life will look like. Scheduling all of your academic commitments makes it a lot easier to see when you have free time, so you can start filling it in with the fun stuff!

Don’t forget that a lot of classes require tutorials or labs, which may vary from week to week. Add in any meetings for clubs or societies you may want to join, and you’ll probably find that your week is starting to look pretty packed.

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Figure Out Your Organizational Plan

Once you’ve got a weekly schedule set, figure out what your plan is for organizing your life. Many people thrive using a paper calendar, but others need reminders sent to their devices, preferring to use a Google calendar or another online tool. The best option is whatever works for you.

During this time, figure out how you’ll take notes in class and think of a system for organizing those notes now, so don’t have to worry about it when the time comes to cram. Set up your desk and study area just how you like it. Figuring out these systems now will pay off huge later on.

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Explore Your New Neighborhood

A great way to start feeling more at home at your new school is to explore the neighborhoods. Get out and walk to a new area of campus that you haven’t been to yet. Find a new building and look around. Or just get off campus entirely!

Getting to know your local neighborhood can make a world of difference when it feels like school will never end. Find an awesome new grocery store, or do some window shopping along a neighboring street. Being around students all the time can be exhausting. Find a local park where you can be among families and people of other ages, and you’ll definitely feel refreshed.

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Figure Out a Way to Eat Healthy in the Cafeteria

The first few weeks of school are all about survival – you’re either in class, studying, or partying. That combination doesn’t make for great choices when it comes to healthy eating. Whether you’re on a meal plan or having to cook for yourself, cut yourself some slack for the first few days, and eat whatever you want – comfort food all the way!

Once you’ve settled in a bit, start checking out the healthier options. Figure out how to make better choices in the cafeteria or grocery store – your body will thank you.

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Don’t Overindulge Too Much in the First Week

Drinking and partying is a fact of life in many colleges and universities. Even if you’re not able or don’t wish to drink alcohol, staying out late night after night will definitely take a toll on your health and overall well-being.

Many people feel the pressure to say yes to every invitation in the first week, but this can take a toll fast. Don’t feel bad about taking an evening off for self-care!

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Get to Know Lots of New People

The first week of college is one of the most exciting times in a person’s life. There’s so many new things to do, and new friends to meet!

Some people feel pressure to get to know as many people as possible. While this is a great impulse, it can be emotionally exhausting if you’re looking at every new person you meet as a potential best friend. Most friendships in college deepen and mature with time – you probably won’t find your friend-soulmate right away.

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Exercise! 

If you’re settled in, you’re making friends, and your studying game is on point, the last thing to do is get some exercise!

Moving and challenging your body is necessary after hours of sedentary classwork and library time. Find some of your new friends and suggest a run, a swim in a local pool, or a try a cool new yoga class together.

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