What I Wish I'd Known About My First Days on Campus

Tips for College Freshmen

By Ari Finkelstein And Ben Shestakofsky

For most people, going to college means adapting to a whole new way of life. The most exciting new experiences—living alongside your peers, escaping your parents’ watchful eyes, leaving your lifelong friends and making new ones—can also be the most terrifying. Given all those changes, it’s probably a good idea to come to campus at least moderately prepared for the personal and social adjustments that lay ahead. Here’s some lifestyle advice from students who’ve been there and learned those lessons firsthand.

Will you be my buddy?: “The most important thing to know about college life is that it’s easiest to meet new people during the first month and a half, and after that it becomes significantly harder once people start forming groups. If you don’t like your floor or your orientation group, you should join some extracurriculars and make serious plans to hang out with that girl you thought might be halfway cool, because otherwise you’re going to be stuck with the people you currently know until you muster the effort it will take to break out from there.” – Alex, Bowdoin College

It only takes one: “If the idea of going to some random group meeting is too terrifying, try just introducing yourself to one person in each of your classes. It’s pretty easy to start up small talk with the person sitting next to you and they’ll probably be grateful that you’re extending a friendly hand first so that they don’t have to make the first move.” – Sarah, OSU

Clean slate: “Were you the class clown who no one took seriously? How about the all-star athlete who everyone thought was an imbecile? The quiet girl who sat in the back of every class? Once you step foot on campus, it does not matter. Forget the last four years of your life, whether it was good or bad, because your next four are completely different and completely up to you.” – David, Colorado State University

Accepting the freshman fifteen: “Face it. You're going to gain ten pounds: buffet-style dining halls + substantial amounts of beer on weekends + free food handed out during club meetings and socials + late night binge eating while writing a paper + drunk munchies pizza that you always regret in the morning + napping, studying, or playing video games instead of heading to the gym = unavoidable weight gain. Just give up. Or join the crew team.” – Amanda, Brown University

Greek hype: “Greek life is overrated. Going into college, I thought that you had to be a Greek in order to have friends. That’s a joke. Some of the Greek life people are good, but others are bad. You don’t have to be in a frat in order to have friends/be cool/have your own niche.” – Darren, Syracuse University

Alcohol: “Drinking is overrated: It’s basically an American rite of passage to spend a good chunk of your freshman year getting so drunk you can’t remember anything. If you’ve done it once, you’ve done it a million times, and considering all the harm that can be done, it isn’t worth the few seconds you’ll actually remember.” – Anna, Sarah Lawrence

Awkwardness: “Most look forward to the beginning of college as a glorious time of independence and partying. What they don’t realize is that the first semester of your freshman year of college is by far the most awkward time of your life. Extraordinarily awkward. You have hundreds of kids trying their best to make friends and be as cool as possible on a 24/7 basis, leading to some astoundingly odd situations. Be ready for nonstop name games, casual smiles, phone number collecting, and bad decisions while intoxicated.” – Kathleen, Colorado College

Hooking up: “Hookups are always public. Unless you are super sneaky (and therefore sketchy), people are going to find out about it. Try to consider the aftermath of decisions, especially when it’s not going to be a long-term thing. Hard as it may be to fathom five or ten drinks deep, people are obviously going to judge you, and reputations carry quickly in college. Also, the older you get, the less okay drunken dance floor hookups become, so if that's your thing, get it out of your system freshmen year.” – Ben, Wash U

Sleep when you can...: “Get as much sleep as you can on the weekends, because you're not gonna get it during the week. There is something going on every night—whether it's friends going out, movie-watching, sports, or schoolwork—and it's hard to find time to sleep in during the week, so get it while you can on the weekends.” – Sara, RIT

...or nap strategically: “One fantastic thing about college is that it’s probably the only time in your semi-adult life that you will ever have the freedom to take naps on a daily basis. Go ahead, screw up your sleep schedule to the point that there’s no possible chance of ever fixing it. You won’t need to! You’ve got naps! There’s something glorious about preparing for a night out by sleeping from seven to nine, then getting up to get ready. Unless you’re endlessly busy, enjoy the late night, early-to-mid-morning-nap-necessary lifestyle.” – Jessica, University of Nebraska

Take care of yourself...: “Eating healthily, staying fit, cleaning your living space and maintaining hygiene—all of these things sound basic, but they seem less and less important as the semester wears on. It is very easy to lose sight of these basic principles of life inside the college bubble. Do not forget the responsibility you have to yourself to maintain a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle.”
– Tiffany, USC

...and eat your vegetables: “It’s hard to be a picky eater. The dining halls do not serve mom’s cooking.  It has its good days, it has its disappointing days, and it has its downright disgusting days. The key is to drink lots of water and always try to have veggies with every meal, even if you aren’t in the mood. Don’t become lazy by eating what is easy! Your body will be thanking you when summer comes.” – Rachel, Connecticut College

You can’t do everything: “As soon as I entered freshman year, I scheduled the maximum amount of classes, I pulled down every flier that looked interesting, I attended about 10 different organizations’ meetings, I tried out for three different dance teams, was on the swimming team, decided to try out every social outlet, and watch all the movies I wanted with my friends all night without a curfew. Life was great, until I realized I actually had to put effort into all of these things, and find the time for them all. Spend time doing the things you love, and strengthen these passions and talents. If you double-book your schedule, there will not be enough time to actually enjoy and learn.” – Chelsea, Syracuse University