Starting college is exciting! Most people have been planning and dreaming about the best college for years. But when it’s finally time to move onto campus and start a college career, some students are surprised to feel overwhelmed or adrift. Don’t fret – it is normal to have a few hiccups in the beginning, and we’ve gathered some tips on how to adjust to college life!
Here is some advice to help you get your feet under you. We’ve arranged these tips for adjusting to college life in four crucial spheres — studies, social life, extracurricular activities, and health. Follow some of these tips to smoothen your transition to college! If you’re hit by mid-semester slump and lack of motivation, check our helpful tips in this article.
1. Think carefully about your class schedule, especially for your first semester.
Factor in the possibility that it might take some time to adjust to the rigors of college life. Don’t stack your schedule with the most difficult classes all at once. Although organic chemistry and anatomy might both be required courses for your chosen major, that doesn’t mean you have to take them at the same time, or during your first semester.
Look into less demanding electives that you might enjoy and mix those with more challenging classes. Your academic advisor should be able to help you navigate balance in your schedule each semester, especially your first semester.
When setting up your schedule, don’t make yourself miserable. Are you a night owl that loves to sleep until noon? That’s unlikely to change just because you’re in college. If you can avoid it, don’t register for an 8 AM class that meets three days a week. If you’re an early riser that tends to crash in the afternoons, then go for those early classes! College is great because you can often tailor your schedule to suit your preferences — unlike with most real-life buy textbooks world adult jobs.
2. Read the syllabi for your classes.
It’s tempting to gloss over them but don’t. They are full of important information like how much each assignment is worth, due dates for projects, the attendance policy, and dates of exams. It’s smart to go through and add these things to your calendar so you won’t be caught off guard by something like a major project due the same week you have exams in two other classes!
3. Get yourself to class.
It’s always tempting to skip that 8 AM seminar or that long lab, but resist the urge. Academic success is closely tied to regular class attendance. Even though you might not usually think about it in these terms, you’re paying a lot of money for these classes. Get everything you can out of them!
4. Maintain your ties with friends and family back home.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of your new surroundings, but keeping in touch can help you feel grounded and more secure as you bravely try new things.
5. Make new friends!
It might sound cheesy, but it’s extremely important! Social support is so important as you navigate the joys and struggles of college life. Make sure you have a great crew to see you through all of that!
One of the great things about college is that, whether you’re a first-year or a transfer student, there is a whole group of people who are also starting out and in need of good friends. You can make friends through a school club, organization, work-study job, sports team, intramurals, or even in a class.
6. Don’t party too hard.
I know this might sound like advice your mom or dad would give, but there are good reasons to keep the partying in check. Go out and have fun, but don’t make risky choices that could jeopardize your future. For instance, drinking heavily and often will interfere with your ability to study and to make it to class. Have a good time, but remember to prioritize your education. If you make good choices, you can have a fun four years. Bad choices might cut your college education short, especially if you burn out.
7. Be a good roommate
It’s likely that you’ll have roommates while attending college. You can save yourself a lot of stress by being a courteous roommate. Try to communicate with your roommates about expectations such as who does the cleaning and when there should be peace and quiet.
8. Try new things.
College is a time to open your mind and learn. One of the best ways to learn is to be open to new experiences. For instance, if you see flyers hanging around for a campus event where everyone will practice mindfulness meditation and your first instinct is to roll your eyes, challenge yourself by attending the event!
Maybe you’ll hate it, but you will definitely learn something. And you’ll get to practice keeping an open mind — an important real-world skill!
9. Don’t give up on your hobbies
While being open to new experiences, set aside time for the things you’ve always enjoyed. If you’ve always loved hiking, don’t give it up just because you’re busy in college. Seek out opportunities that will allow you to keep doing the things you love. As an added bonus, you’ll have the chance to connect with others who enjoy the same things you do!
10. Choose an extracurricular.
It may sound counterintuitive to pile another thing onto your already full schedule, but it will help you make social connections outside of your classes and will keep you connected to campus life. Look for extracurriculars that align with your existing interests or career goals. These may help you connect with professionals in your field or build your resume.
If you’ve always loved hiking, try joining your school’s Outdoors Club. If you’re planning to major in Political Science, get involved with the campus political club or your choice (most campuses have both College Democrats and College Republicans).
11. Take care of yourself.
College may be the first time you’ve lived on your own. With all that freedom, plus access to endless amounts of junk food and people to socialize with, you might find your diet dominated by pizza and your bedtime sliding into the wee hours of the morning.
You’ll be less stressed if you maintain a healthy diet, exercise, and sleep on a fairly regular schedule. Sure, eat the pizza…but squeeze in some veggies too!
12. Adjust when it’s needed.
If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to make changes. You should ask the question “How to adjust to college life” not only when entering the campus for the first time, but throughout the whole period of your studies. You should see for yourself what are the changes that you need right now, but you can try, for example, to cut back on your hours at work, or drop a class if that’s what you need to do. It might feel like a big deal at the time, but your mental health comes first. If you’ve taken on too much, you can always eliminate something.
Most colleges also offer counseling services. Reach out if you need someone to talk too, even if it feels like a small thing that is bothering you. Having someone to talk with about our problems, even the small ones, is a healthy practice for life.