10 Tips for College Freshmen

LaJoie Ward and James Lex put together a nice list of 50 Dos and Don’ts for college students (primarily prospective/current freshmen) — I had some thoughts of my own on the topic, so I have compiled my little list of advice.

Although it was two years ago, I remember well the sense of insecurity that loomed in the weeks preceding my first taste of college.

Most of the anxiety died after the first couple days of class, but there was still much unfamiliarity with the system that kept my caution index high. Thanks in particular to a dear friend and a double-portion of God’s grace, I have managed to survive both my freshman and sophomore years.

So, what have I learned from these past four semesters? Arc length, line integrals (curve more like), basic quantum mechanics, why electromagnetic waves propagate at the speed of light, the role of quantized energy states and the Schrodinger equation in preventing the collapse of the atom, why the capitalistic model is efficient, how not to cite an email conversation, …

How about some useful advice?

You mean you really weren’t interested in integration over a vector field? Too bad. I fear my tips are less witty than LaJoie and James’ compilation, but I shan’t go so far as to say it is less useful. So here they are: my top ten snippets of useful advice.

  1. Find/form a Christian peer group (friends, other church family, etc.) and try to setup consistent weekly times and locations to socialize — it will help and encourage an otherwise dull week.

  2. Always double check your tests if you have remaining time — we all make careless errors. Double checking has consistently saved me as much as 30% on test grades!

  3. Try to get on a friendly name basis with your professor, especially if they are difficult or have attitude problems — they will give you much more respect and take notice of the effort you exert; believe me it’s not as hard as it sounds! Just be extra cautious in how you address the professor (tone plays a critical role) and make it a point to say hello if you meet him/her outside of class — this enforces familiarity on the professor’s part, so if you have an unusual name, this tip is also for you!

  4. Get a hobby (if you don’t already have one); it’s invaluable to have something you can enjoy to take your mind off school when you’re needlessly fretting or stressed. A word of caution: don’t let the hobby swallow up school time!

  5. Go to bed on time! I had morning classes everyday at 8 AM, so losing sleep every night builds up…you will feel more miserable every morning (and start nodding off in that dreaded 3–4:45 class).

  6. Get some exercise by walking/jogging across campus as much as possible (without being late of course) — your endurance will increase exponentially the larger the campus.

  7. Don’t carry a lot of books — you can cause back and shoulder damage, and your posture will suffer. If you have a locker, use it! Stuff every book you don’t need for the next class in there. If your car is available, store non-valuable items in the trunk (out of view is the most important part). If you carry around few enough materials, consider a messenger bag: they’re light, useful outside school, and easier to swap materials in and out of.

  8. Do your lab partner(s) a favor and come to class showered and presentably dressed — you just might make a friend if you don’t scare them off with unpleasant odors…

  9. Hold on to those award letters — most car insurance companies will lower your rates if you have proof of exceptional grades!

  10. Request an official copy of your transcript every semester before tossing all of your homework/graded tests. The school can make mistakes and ruin your grades, so keep tangible, official proof of your grades…then toss all the tests.

Another fifty anyone?

This was certainly a partial list, but should get you off to a good start if you’re just getting ready to jump into the college workflow. Be sure to check out 50 Dos and Don’ts for a more lighthearted (but nonetheless invaluable) bag of tips!