10 Steps to Surviving Freshman Year

by Haley Geiger

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If there’s one thing that comes to mind when you think of the wonderful young ladies that compete in Distinguished Young Women, it’s intelligence. From Ivy League scholars to published authors, Distinguished Young Women fosters some of the best and brightest ladies in the country, However, regardless whether you end up at Harvard, the University of Alabama, or anywhere in between, one thing all incoming freshman have in common is not knowing exactly what college is going to be like. Hearing stories passed down for years from a family member and you’re being tossed into a brand-new environment completely on your own, oftentimes knowing very few people and not knowing what the next nine months will be like. Going into West Virginia University, I was constantly wondering what my new life would be like and if I would be able to find my place among the 30,000 students I share Morgantown with. Speaking from experience, your freshman year is not nearly as scary as it seems, and hopefully the following things I’ve learned from my first semester will help prepare you for one of the biggest steps of your life!

  1. Get to know your roommate!

Oftentimes, your roommate will be the first person you meet once you make your debut on campus, so make sure to pal around with them! Getting their contact information before move-in day to get to know each other and talk about schedules, lifestyles, or anything involving your shared dorm can really help to clear the air and help you to mesh together before school even starts! You’ll be spending a majority of your time with one another, so getting off on the right foot with one another is super important!

  1. Get involved!

A part of the Be Your Best Self creed every Distinguished Young Woman is very familiar with, being involved on campus is one of the most effective ways to find your niche and get to know people with similar interests. West Virginia University has proven to be an excellent place for me to pursue this, as we have over 400 student organizations and clubs along with a university-sanctioned community service portal that makes giving back to the citizens of Morgantown a breeze! Another excellent way to get to know your fellow students is by rushing a sorority! I’ve seen many girls from Distinguished Young Women take advantage of sorority recruitment at their campuses, and joining a sorority is one of the best ways to find girls that share similar interests and traits, ensuring that you always have a group of sisters to have fun and relax with!

  1. Take schoolwork seriously…

No matter what you might be led to believe, you aren’t in College to go to parties or have the best social life ever. You are here for one reason and one reason alone: to learn. The entire purpose of College is to obtain higher education and gain knowledge to help you as you enter the workforce later in life, so don’t squander the next four years by ignoring the main reason you’re here! Read your syllabi thoroughly and know the assignment due dates and exam days by heart. Spend plenty of time doing your homework and set aside specific study hours to ensure you are regularly refreshing yourself with your curriculum. Remember that education ALWAYS comes first no matter what, so work hard and let your grades set the base for the rest of your college experience!

  1. … But don’t be afraid to have fun!

Don’t let my last step scare you off, there can be plenty of time to enjoy yourself between your studies! If you’ve set the groundwork for your good grades, set aside time to step away from your work and have fun! Spend time with your friends, explore the campus, or even try a club or activity you’ve never tried before. And who says that classes all must be serious and boring? There are dozens of fun classes to be taken on campus, so spend an elective or two on a class you find interesting, it helps you relax and even look forward to class in the long run. Your studies are very important, but so is getting out and enjoying yourself!

  1. Make friends with your classmates!

When you walk into your classes for the very first time, make it a point to sit next to somebody that seems nice and start talking to them. Everyone is new and likely doesn’t know anyone, just like you, so making friends in classes isn’t hard at all. Through this, you can make connections in class to consult if you have questions on the lectures, assignments, or someone to get notes from if you can’t come to class one day. Plus, you can never have too many friends, and you may come to find the girl you sit next to in Geology is your new best friend!

  1. Make time to be active and make healthy choices!

Surely everyone’s heard of the dreaded Freshman 15, but it really is easier to stave off than you think! Going to school in the Mountain State has helped to keep me active whether I like it or not! Taking time to work out between studying can (surprisingly) be very refreshing, giving you some time to forget about your studies and release endorphins that help release stress after a long day of classes. As for snacks, don’t abuse your meal plan and dining halls, and keep healthy snacks in your dorm for late night study sessions or for those times where you just need a snack like you need air in your lungs. Staying healthy in College isn’t an impossible feat, just make smart choices and stick to them!

  1. Study, Study, Study!

I won’t lie, this one isn’t necessarily fun. Sometimes, it can even be stressful, overwhelming, and downright terrifying! Even so, studying is a pivotal part of maintaining high grades in College. If you could go through high school skating through classes and barely studying while getting As, get ready for the shock of your life! With adult privileges come adult responsibilities, and keeping your grades up in college won’t be nearly as easy as it was in high school! As a rule of thumb, you should generally put in two hours’ worth of studying for each hour of class, varying based on the difficulty of the class. Grab a textbook, make some flashcards, and set aside some time every day to refresh yourself on key points of your lectures. It may not be the most enjoyable experience, but it will really help in the long run.

  1. Stay in touch with family and friends off-campus!

Getting swept off in the College environment can be exciting and fun, but don’t abandon your old life just because you’re caught up in your new one! Keeping in contact with your family and friends from home can keep you grounded and even calm you down when you’re stressed beyond belief. If it’s possible for you, going home every so often can help you to relax and recharge in a setting far away from the responsibilities of your classes and studies.  Plus, your friends and family undoubtedly miss you, so setting aside time to catch back up with them can be something the both of you need. Just because you’re excited to start this whole new portion of your life doesn’t mean you need to abandon your old life, so make sure you take some time to stay in touch with the people you were closest to back home.

  1. Strive for Greatness!

Just because you got accepted to the college of your dreams doesn’t mean you get to relax, now you need to be working harder than ever to solidify your aspirations! Spend these next four years doing as much as possible to build your portfolio. Apply for internships, join scholastic organizations and competitive groups, gain experience through job-shadowing trips, and keep your GPA as high as possible. Though college is fun and a great place to meet new people and discover who you are, the entire reason you’re in college is to learn. Make sure you make the most of these next four years so that, when the time comes to apply for graduate school or jump into the job market, you’ve built yourself a truly remarkable resume that will help you get the job of your dreams!

  1. Enjoy Yourself!

Last but certainly not least, have fun! College can be some of the best years of your life, and you don’t want to watch them pass by without ever getting to fully enjoy them. You’re getting your first taste of being an independent adult and living on your own, and the freedom can feel overwhelming at first! College is a lot to take in, but at the end of the day, there’s a place on campus for every single student to be who they really are and it’s up to you to find your own place! Now sit back and get ready for the next four years of your life, you’re going to love them!

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