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12 Tips for a Strong First-year Experience

Congratulations! You’re about to start an exciting chapter in your life. College is an awesome experience that will present a world full of opportunities and knowledge. Knowing how to make wise choices is critical to your success in college. From time management to campus involvement and surviving on your own, these tips—straight from college students themselves—will help set you up for a strong first-year experience.

Go to class—Makes sense, right? Sure, but sleeping in and skipping that early class might be tempting sometimes. Avoid the temptation and go to class. This will show professors that you care about their class (which is good because they’re the ones grading you) and will keep you from missing important information. If you’re simply not a morning person, do your best to schedule classes after 10 a.m.

Choose the right major for you—Consider your personal interests when choosing your major. Don't choose a major just because your parents want you to—you’ll be the one stuck with it. Choose a program that aligns with your passions and that you will enjoy studying and eventually working in someday.

Build relationships with professors—Your professors are there to assist you during your learning experience in college. Building relationships with them can help you succeed in your classes and lead you to more opportunities in your major, so take them up on offers to meet outside of class once in a while.

Plan your career—Once you’ve settled on a major, you’ll want to regularly visit your school’s career center. The guidance counselors are there to help you work on your resume and job interviewing skills and ultimately help you get a job. Invest in your career by attending career fairs and seeking summer internships. It's never too early to start planning your future.

Work hard, play hard—Without your parents there to push you, your academic experience is all in your hands. It’s important to take responsibility for your academic career by striving for the best and seizing every opportunity to learn. If you work hard, you can play hard.

Get involved—Whether it is an honor society or an intramural team, get involved on campus. You'll make new friends, learn new skills and feel more connected to your school. (Link to campus involvement article)

Network—It’s all about who you know. Make sure to expand your professional networks by building relationships with other students, campus faculty and staff, and meeting professionals at career fairs. A strong professional network can lead to personal growth and career opportunities before you’ve even graduated.

Take risks—College is a great time to learn more about the world and yourself. Branch out and take risks. Try something new. Meet new people. Do things that are outside of your comfort zone.

Explore your world—As our world becomes more and more connected, it’s important to gain a global perspective. Most colleges offer some type of study abroad program. Get to know the requirements for these programs early on so you can plan accordingly.

Manage your time—With a lot of activities and commitments in college, it’s easy to get distracted. Great time management skills will help you balance your busy schedule, get your work done and relieve stress. Avoid procrastinating, set priorities, use a calendar or planner and stay away from time wasters.

Manage your money—In college you’ll find a million ways to spend your cash. But it’s super important to avoid temptation, keep track of your finances and develop good spending habits early on. You don’t want to leave college with more debt than you have to, so check out some more money management tips (Link to money management article).

Embrace your experience—College is one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, academically and socially. Embrace the highs, the lows, and get what you want out of it. All the work, sweat and tears you put into it will pay off.