It’s about that time… and changes can be seen in Targets and Wal-Marts nation wide. Oversized cardboard pencils hang expectantly above a wide array of pens and notebooks. Brightly colored swim suits and flirty dresses reluctantly make way for stiff, pleated khakis and crisp, navy blazers. Lawn chairs and beach towels are suddenly gone, replaced with dry erase boards, twin sheet sets and mega packs of ramen noodles. Summer is almost over; it’s out of the pool and into the dorms.
My first year of college, making the transition from my parents’ home to my dorm room wasn’t rough, but it definitely was a big change. I had to share a room with two other girls, fit my clothes into one teeny tiny dresser, plan my own meals (which apparently I did quite well, as my freshman 15 can attest to), and manage my time when it came to studying. Like most freshmen, I made some mistakes and learned quite a few lessons… so here are seven tips to make adjusting to the college life a little bit easier.
1. Get to know your roommate and neighbors: My freshman year of college, four of my closest friends lived just a few doors down, and I knew almost every girl that lived on my floor. Anytime I was bored, lonely, homesick, or even needed to study, I could always find someone to hang out with. When you’re hanging out in your dorm room alone, prop your door open and don’t be afraid to say hi when someone walks by. The more people you meet, the more activities you will be exposed to and the less likely you’ll be stuck in your dorm room with nothing to do but be homesick and miserable.
2. Skip the Ramen and late night pizza: Eating healthy can be quite the challenge when you are living in the dorms, where the cafeteria is filled with greasy pizza and fries and every freshman seems to have an endless supply of sodium heavy ramen noodles. Instead of the chicken strips or cheeseburger, opt for the salad bar with some protein mixed in or make yourself a sandwich and grab some vegetables. Eating a balanced diet will not only help you avoid the dreaded freshman 15, but you will feel better and have more energy, which means more time for meeting friends and catching up on your schoolwork.
3. Rain or shine, go to class: Take it from someone who learned the hard way, skipping class is not a good idea. Sure, it seems like a great one, you can stay in your bed, watch The Price is Right or take that much needed nap. But pretty soon, it starts to become a pattern and the days when you make it to all your classes are few and far between and your grades begin to rapidly drop. No matter how tired, hungry, or lazy you are, pull on some sweat pants and get yourself to class. Even if you are too tired to take notes, you will be there for attendance, grab any handouts for the day, and hopefully your regular attendance will get you a study partner.
4. Don’t be afraid of the library: Studying in the dorm rooms isn’t the best idea. No matter what night of the week it is, there is usually some social activity people are getting ready for and it’s hard to resist the peer pressure. Take your books to the business school or meet a friend from class in the library. The distractions are minimal and plus you can do some great people watching during your study breaks.
5. Get involved and stay involved: From intramurals to political groups to going Greek, there are countless ways to become active on campus. You aren’t going to make friends sitting alone in your dorm room, so check out the clubs and activities on campus. Try out a wide variety and then stick with a handful that you can really focus on. Not only will they look great on your resume, you’ll have fun at the same time.
6. Don’t forget to phone home: E.T. knew what he was talking about. Homesickness can hit suddenly and it can hit hard. Try to call your parents every couple of days, or send them an e-mail to give them an update of your classes and social life. Keeping regular contact with your family will help keep them a healthy part of your life and help keep homesickness to a minimum.
7. Get yourself organized: Under bed boxes, closet organizers and other space saving storage containers are your friends! You don’t want to be the messy roommate, and it’s much easier to keep your space neat and clean when you can put things in their place. Also, if you have a messy roommate, don’t be afraid to nicely remind them to pick up after themselves, even if it means placing their items on a pile on their bed with a note. They should get the hint and clean up their act.
Your freshman year of college will no doubt be a whirlwind of experiences and emotions and you will learn more about yourself in one year than you did in all four of high school. The most important thing to remember during that year of transition is that in addition to getting an education, you are also at college to get a life. Enjoy the college experience; don’t be afraid to branch out, meet new people, join different activities and have fun!