21 Tips For First-Year Students

Initially, I had Americanized the title to read, “21 Tips for College Freshmen” but deep down in my maple syrup filled heart, I couldn’t let myself go through with it. So you all get, “First-Year Students”. Learn to love it.

I feel like everyone gives the same advice to students before they enter a post-secondary institution. Join a club, meet new people, don’t procrastinate, get enough sleep, sit in the front row, ask questions if you don’t understand, don’t eat chicken fingers and fries for every meal.

Honestly, all of that advice can be daunting, especially if you’re an introvert being thrown into the deep end of a new environment, who just so happens to enjoy chicken fingers and fries.

This is where I come in. Here are some real non-traditional tips to anyone beginning college/university this year. Heck, even returning students might find these useful.

I put “real” in bold and italics so you know that I mean serious business.

1. Don’t be the reason why the fire alarm goes off at 2AM and your entire residence building has to evacuate to the parking lot in the middle of a nippy November night, only to be allowed back in the building and find puke in the stairwell. Be smarter than that.

2. Go to class. I know, this one is cliché. You caught me. But I’d like to think you’d rather not spend thousands of dollars, just so you can sleep in and rely on scribbled notes from a friend, who doesn’t know which version of “there” to use. Hotels are cheaper, you can pay them if you want to sleep.

3. Become friends with the cafeteria staff. You’re going to see them multiple times a day. Thank them. Talk to them. Let your conversations be an escape from the assignments and essays waiting for you in your room.

4. Don’t wear a lanyard with your student card around your neck. I know, it’s handy and you feel cool being able to swipe into buildings. But everyone else is laughing at you. If you don’t take this advice, you’ll eventually come to this conclusion yourself after three weeks. I’M TRYING TO HELP YOU.

5. If you’re living in residence, bring a doorstop. This is especially important if you’re a bit shy and aren’t the type to “go to the crowd”. I get it. Let the crowd come to you, especially in the first week. Keep your door open, people will say “hi”, or see something on your wall, or notice your gaming system and invite themselves in and BAM YOU JUST BECAME BEST FRIENDS.

6. The Freshman Fifteen is just a fancy alliteration. I lost 22 pounds, so be like me, I guess. Take the stairs, walk across campus a million times a day, and go for two dinners on pasta night.

7. Don’t take the stairs in your first two weeks in residence. Take the elevator. You’ll slowly meet people from other floors, as well as people from your own. That small exchange of, “Oh, you also live on this floor?” when you both get off, could lead to a friendship…or you’ll never hear from them again.

8. Naps are your friend. It doesn’t matter when you sleep, as long as you do sleep. If you know an all-nighter is in your immediate future, find some time after lunch or dinner to take a snooze.

9. Time your trips to the cafeteria so you arrive before classes let out. At my school, the lunch items were put out at 11:30AM. Classes let out at 11:50AM. If I wasn’t in a class, that’s my 20-minute window to get my lunch and grab a table/take it back to my room. You do not want to arrive when everyone else does. Hungry people are your enemy.

10. Explore every inch of campus. It’s yours to discover. Find the places you like and go there often. At my school, people always complained that there were no microwaves. Well, if they had made their way over to the International Building, like I had, they would’ve realized there were six microwaves in there. SIX. It was like Hollywood Squares, minus a row.

11. You didn’t get stupid overnight. When your first essay mark comes back and it’s about 25% lower than what you got in high school, don’t panic. It’s the wake up call you need. See #12 for more.

12. Take an outline of your essay to your Professor/TA during office hours. I’m not saying you have to start writing your essay a week or two in advance. God knows I didn’t. Just bring a sheet of paper, with a few bullet points that outline your main arguments, to your Professor/TA and let them green light it. Then you can go play video games, knowing you’re on the right path.

13. Trust yourself. You’re going to be in a lot of group projects, which means you’re going to work with people who will make you wonder how they even got accepted into university. If you know you’re a good writer and editor, can put a finished product together, and make it look nice, DO IT. Take that responsibility. Don’t trust “Johnny What’s a Comma?” to do it.

14. Make memories. Yeah, you’re there for school, but not really. Your diploma is the smallest thing you’ll take home with you on graduation day. The biggest thing is the years of memories and stories you’ll be able to laugh about forever.

15. Don’t be homesick. Suck it up; bring a photograph. There’s plenty of time to live back at home. You’ve already done it your whole life. Stay the weekend in residence. Build those friendships with your floor-mates. Your family isn’t going anywhere. Your school family, however, will disperse at the end of the year.

16. Avoid the passive-aggressive post-it notes in the bathroom, telling your roommate it’s their turn to clean. They’re just going to show their friends your notes, turn people against you, and vote you off the island. Just talk to them! Better yet, clean it yourself if it bothers you that much!

17. Embrace the challenge. Got a wall calendar next to your desk, telling you that you have two midterms, four assignments – one of them with a group, a seminar presentation, and a few other minor things to do in a week? Embrace it! No matter what, it’ll all be over by Friday night. Plan a pizza and video game night with your roommate as something you can look forward to.

18. You’re an adult, Harry. (I’m a what?). Act like one. As much as everyone wanted to call you an adult while you were in high school, you weren’t. That’ll become crystal clear when you go back to “visit” and pick up your yearbook. Don’t bring your childish antics, like congregating in the middle of the hallway, to university.

19. The only acceptable TV options in the cafeteria at 11AM are: The Price is Right, and sports highlights. Unless there is impending doom, don’t you dare get up and change the channel to the news without asking permission. Can you tell this one happened to me? I’m still livid about it. LIVID.

20. If you’re writing a final exam in the gym, at an individual desk, check the desk to see if it wobbles, before sitting down. If it does, choose another desk. Also, check the chair and be prepared to discreetly switch it out for one that doesn’t wobble. Then, don’t make eye contact with the person who sits down in your former wobbly chair. You don’t want them to know what you’ve done.

21. It’s never too late for McDonald’s. Eating a Big Mac meal at 2AM is like Winnie The Pooh hugging his pot of honey. It just feels good.

And those are my tips! Results may vary, but probably not. If you follow everything I said, your success is guaranteed.

Do you have any non-traditional tips to add to my list? Let me know in the comments below.

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About Paul

I think of my blog as an all-you-can-read buffet. There's something for everyone and complimentary mints at the door as you leave.
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20 Responses to 21 Tips For First-Year Students

  1. These are great tips, Paul! And I am so glad that you didn’t put the word “freshman” in your title. *Canadian high-five* But almost all these tips apply to residence students, what about the off-campus ones? Do you have advice for them?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      Woops, I seem to have forgotten about them lol. I think my tips for them would be to find places on campus where they can spend time between classes and make friends with people in residence, so there’s always someone on campus you can hang out with.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah for def! That between classes time sucked if it was long enough. I’d have like 2 hour breaks sometimes.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Paul says:

        When I made my schedule in first year, I didn’t know how back to back classes would work, like if I’d have time to get to the next class, so I always had breaks between classes. Soo many walks back and forth from my dorm to classes (on the other side of campus). I swear I showed up sweating sometimes lol

        Liked by 2 people

      • I had a 45 min bus ride from home to campus so once I was there, I was there for the whole day. Sometimes if I knew I’d had a car (one of my parents) I’d go home around 2 or 3ish and drive back for a 7-10 lecture. But mostly just had to stay there.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I don’t know. The tip about not eating chicken nuggets and fries for every meal would have helped me out big time.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Aahhh yeess, the perks of living off campus, I remember them well. But because when I was a first year student, I was 32 years old, lol.

    The only thing I can say about all this is, you’ll know when you have to work with a group on assignments, that by your 2nd year, you’ll know when to walk away and find another group. I said it, I did, learn to love it as Paul would say, lol.

    Great post Mr. Paul, very informative, especially about the cafeteria thing. 😎👍

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      When I was in first year (wooo you learned to love it!), there was a guy who was 25 who lived on my floor and we all thought it was weird that he was so much older and didn’t live off campus.

      Ah, see by 2nd year everyone had their friend group established so group projects were, by default, with the same people.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I love these, very spot on. I remember telling my son number five about leaving his door open and it worked like a charm to draw kids in!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. peckapalooza says:

    I like “First-Year.” “Freshman” just sounds juvenile.
    5. This is literally how I met one of my best friends, who is still one of my best friends to this day. During my junior (or third) year, my roommate and I had a policy of keeping our door open during open house hours. That way anyone could stop in and hang out. Once open house hours ended, we closed the door and either kept hanging out or got ready for the sleep. Once, the aforementioned best friend, Mark, was hanging out with us when it was time to close the door. The way he tells the story, he started to leave as we were closing the door, but we said he could stay and keep hanging out. That’s how he knew he’d made it at Bluefield College.
    19. They didn’t start providing TVs in our cafeteria until after 9/11 happened. Of course, that day, everyone was glued to the television, so they made sure to bring the big screen in from the student center. The next week, we had flat screens in every corner of the cafeteria. Always on CNN, though.
    This list is great. Makes me almost wish I was back in college.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Paul says:

      “First-Year” sounds more professional for some reason. Thanks for sharing that story about meeting one of your best friends. We called it Quiet Hours at my school instead of Open House Hours. The mark of a true friendship was when the doors had to close, but the people didn’t have to leave.
      19. That makes sense. Watching the coverage is probably the only thing anyone wanted to do. My first year was also the first year they installed TVs so I lucked out with that.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Bex says:

    I was a commuter student and one semester I had a 2 hour break between classes and watching Price Is Right in the food court was my everything. I would complain to anyone who would listen if it wasn’t on. I made a friend who was also complaining one day about the lack of excitement in the form of cheesy game show on tv… she asked if I wanted to see something and showed me her hedgehog. Best distraction/surprise ever!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. mydangblog says:

    This should be in all student handbooks! I will add to #20 though: Be sure you use the bathroom right before the exam. There’s nothing worse than being escorted out in front of 200 people who ALL know where you’re going!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Joshua Tipton says:

    Tip #20. Check to see if the desk wobbles… OMG this is perfect. I can’t even begin.

    Liked by 1 person

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