Do's and Don'ts to Start College Strong

Thursday, August 10, 2017

That awkward moment when you don't graduate the same year as your freshman class

Going back to school in the fall was always a challenge for me. I got so nervous every year because I hadn't done college in so many months, I forgot what it was like. Getting the syllabus a few days before classes started terrified me because every single class seemed impossibly hard based on those few pages. It's overwhelming to see five months of work on day zero. 

Over the years, the first day of school got easier and wasn't so daunting because I figured out how to conquer it and what to expect. The first day still made me nervous, but I felt more confident and prepared when I knew what I was doing so I'm sharing a few tips to make the first day easier for you and help you start the school year off strong. 


Do map your classes out in advance.

If you're on campus, take a walk to all of the buildings you'll have class in and get a feel for the best paths to take. If you commute, pull up a map online and get a good understanding of where your classes are and how you can get to them. Research the bus routes and download the bus app if your school has one. Definitely show up early to each class on the first day so you can find the room. 

Don't order your textbooks in advance.

This is super risky and I questioned myself every single semester, but wait until you've been to one class before you order your books. There's almost always a copy on reserve in the library that you can use if you do need the book right away but that's unlikely. You should wait until you're positive you're staying in the class and that the book is actually necessary. A lot of times it says required, but you don't actually need it. Don't automatically buy your books from the bookstore either, look for better prices online.


Do bring paper, pencils, and your notebooks.

Believe it or not some professors start teaching on the first day! Don't be that student who assumes you won't do anything and has to borrow everything from the stranger beside them. Be prepared. I liked having my dedicated class notebook so that when we started taking actual class notes that first day, I was writing them in my notebook where I wanted them and wouldn't have to transfer them later.

Don't bring your textbooks.

If you went ahead and ordered your textbooks even though I said not to, don't bring them to class on the first day! You aren't going to use it! There's no point in carrying around a heavy textbook - especially multiple heavy textbooks for all your classes. You truly can't be expected to do any serious learning or work on the first day because there are plenty of people adding the class late. Textbooks are rarely used in class anyways.


Do make a friend on the first day.

Something that was so important to me every first day was making a friend in each class and getting their number because I always had questions. You really need someone who you can text about the class. Even if this person isn't your forever friend and you find some new friends over the next few weeks, make that initial connection. 

Don't make a drop decision on the first day.

If you're going to drop a class, you can usually tell right away on the first day that it isn't for you. Even so, you should go to the class one more day and be absolutely sure of your decision. The first day is really just the syllabus (overwhelming, like I said) and maybe some introduction notes. You can't always get a good feel for the class that day and a second day will confirm your decision. Basically, give the class a chance.


Do write down the syllabus in your planner the first week.

I know this isn't ideal because the syllabus will always change and you probably wrote in pen, but it's better to mark something out than risk missing any assignments. If you only write down the first few weeks, you might forget to fill in the rest later and not have an idea of what's going on. Write down everything important for the semester as soon as possible.

Don't visit anyone's office for no real reason in the first week.

This is definitely up to you, but if you want to go to office hours just to introduce yourself and create that relationship - wait until the second week. Let people who truly have questions and problems going on go to office hours and get all that figured out. I definitely recommend office hours, but I know this is a stressful time for professors and advisors so they may not give you their full attention during that first week. Go when you have course material to discuss so you definitely have a topic of conversation.


Do try to have a good time before the real work starts.

The first week is usually the least busy when it comes to in-class work, homework, and assignments! Enjoy the calm before the storm and use that free time to make sure you're prepared with all necessary supplies, you've mapped out your semester plan, and all of your student information has been taken care of. Once the second week starts, it's usually non-stop work from there so make sure you take advantage of the prep time in the first week.

Don't worry too much!

Everything is going to work out okay, even if the syllabus looks impossible. Take the class one week at a time and create a plan for getting work done, studying, and visiting office hours. You don't have to go into the first week super stressed because it won't be that bad! Know that the first week is like a trial period when professors have to be flexible about people dropping or adding the class along with hundreds of students registering for online homework and getting textbooks so there's going to be some lenience during this time. Have a great semester!

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