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What to Expect in Your First Year of College

curly haired male college student smiling and sitting on steps outside

If you’re headed to college soon, then you might be feeling a little nervous, excited, or even scared about being on your own and adjusting to university life. That’s totally normal! It’s only natural to wonder what’s going to happen when you actually get to college and jump into your new life.

Like anything else, the experience is what you make of it. If you go into your first year at school with an open mind and an attitude of growth, you’ll do just fine. However, it doesn’t hurt to learn as much as you can from those who have come before you to set yourself up for success. Here’s what you need to know about your crucial freshman year.

It’s Going to Be Hard, but You Can Do It

Going off to college is a huge change. It’s tough to leave home and to learn how to take care of yourself, especially if you’re used to having a lot of structure in your life. Plus, you’re probably going to have to make new friends while learning to cope with increased academic demands. All that pressure can lead to problems like anxiety and depression if you don’t take steps to prioritize your mental health.

It would be surprising if you didn’t struggle at least a little with all those changes, so give yourself a break! Remember that even though it’s going to be hard, you can do it. It’s important to take care of your mental and physical health in order to manage the transition.

First, it’s important to establish a schedule. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and making healthy choices at the dining hall. Regular exercise can also help you manage your health and make it easier to focus on schoolwork. It can be tempting to skimp on these self-care habits, but they’re essential for your health and well-being.

It’s also important to find stress-busting techniques that work for you, whether that’s meditating, taking walks, or just sitting down with a cup of tea and doing breathing exercises. Experiment a little now so that when you’re super-stressed later, you have some coping tools that you know will work.

Even in College, Money Matters

It can be easy to forget that college debt is real since you don’t have to pay it back until you leave school. That kind of thinking can get you in trouble, though. With the average American college student holding $30,000 worth of student debt, it’s important to minimize your expenses while you’re in school to set yourself up for a healthy financial future. Before you panic, however, there are several resources out there to help you manage student debt.

Start off on the right foot by saving money in any way you can. Think about renting your books instead of buying them, buying a cheaper meal plan and cooking some meals yourself, and asking about student discounts everywhere you go. You never know who will cut you a deal, and every dollar saved will help.

You should also create a budget to ensure that you don’t overspend. With your newfound freedom, it’s all too easy to let your spending get out of control. It can be a good idea to have your family help you make a budget if you’re not sure what’s realistic. These simple steps can save you a lot of anxiety later on.

Should You Worry About Hazing?

Hazing is an issue on campuses all over the country. While it’s most common within varsity sports teams, fraternities, and sororities, it can occur in almost any kind of student organization. It’s a dangerous practice that has led to over 200 deaths since the 1800s. You should be on the lookout for any kind of hazing behavior, especially if you’ll be joining student groups, teams, or organizations of any kind.

But what should you do if older students are pressuring you to do something unsafe or humiliating? It can be difficult to resist peer pressure when you’re trying to fit in. However, you should never give in to hazing rituals or participate in hazing other students.

It’s a good idea to do some research in advance so that you know how to react if you or a friend is being hazed. Understand what constitutes hazing and make sure you know the membership requirements of any student groups you join before you attend. If an organization has a reputation for hazing, that’s not an organization you should consider joining!

Remember to Enjoy Yourself

You’ll have a lot to manage when you make the transition to college, but if and when you succeed, you’ll find that surviving college is well worth it – especially if you become a first-generation graduate.

Remember to enjoy the ride and to check in back home if you’re feeling scared, lonely, or insecure. Your school should have lots of resources if you need someone to talk to or you’re having trouble balancing your responsibilities. Get to know other students right away—you’ll want friends you can lean on as you learn to become an independent, confident student!

For more great college tips, check out the other blogs on College Basics!