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As a new school year kicks off, I find myself thinking about my first year in college. So, based on the things I did and didn’t do (as well as some of the things I wish I had done) here’s my best advice for a college freshman:

1. This Isn’t High School

I mean, duh, right? But no, seriously. THIS ISN’T HIGH SCHOOL! You can skip if you want, but attendance is usually 10% of your grade, so make sure if you’re going to skip that you still do your homework.

You can try to sleep in class, but the Professor will throw a book at you. I’m not kidding! I’ve seen it happen. Profs don’t care! They don’t care if you stayed up all night working on another class, they don’t care that you’re having personal problems, they just don’t care. DON’T SLEEP IN CLASS! In addition, Profs can curse, and they will. Frequently. At first this will seem like a lot of fun because you’ve never heard a teacher talk like that before; but the endless giggles will eventually wear on their nerves, at which point the cursing will be directed at you and you will feel like an idiot. So, pretend you aren’t ten years old and keep your giggling to yourself.

You are going to be given reading and writing assignments at a staggering rate. There will be times where you will literally run out of time to do all your work and sleep. That’s when you get up, brew a cup of coffee (or go get a sample pack of Monster Energy Beverages) and you just keep going. My final finals week before graduation I spent every night in the computer lab working on my projects and studying for exams. It had to happen. It will happen to you. Embrace this time because never again will anything be as important as a finals week.

2. Talk to Girls/Boys

The first week of each semester is critical. If you don’t put yourself out there right away the semester will go on and on and eventually it becomes awkward to ask someone their name, especially if you have been sitting next to them all year long. So, don’t think about how stupid you might sound, just go for it. Trust me: he/she is thinking that same things you are thinking. And if he/she isn’t you’ll get the hint really really quickly and you can move on.

I met my husband in college! It’s worth it. We were both stupid, awkward, and clumsy and we still managed to get married. The clumsier you are, the more adorable the memory will be. So, just get over yourself and do it.

3. Buy Used Books

This might sound like a no-brainer, but this could save you hundreds of dollars. In addition, you will have the advantage of people who were there before you!

What’s highlighted is highlighted for a reason! Read it, re-read it, write it down. It will come in handy later.

Then, when the semester is over: sell your books back. Of course, new books will get you more money back at the end of the semester, but even used books will get you a little something.

If there aren’t used books at your bookstore get online and find the books you need. If it’s not the same edition, maybe one behind, that’s okay. Because, that gives you the chance to refer back to advice #2, and talk to boys/girls with newer editions.

4. Talk to your Professors

Before class, after class, schedule meetings during their office hours.

If you don’t “get it,” your Prof can’t help you unless you ask. They are here to teach you; so no question is a stupid question.

One semester I met with a Prof of mine several times to help me understand what I needed to understand in order to pass the exams. And you know what? I managed to pass the class! It was by the skin of my teeth, but I passed that class! If I hadn’t taken the time to meet with my Prof once a week, I wouldn’t have made it. And not for lack of trying or caring. It was just a tough class. So, talk to them. Make sure they know your name. You never know when you’ll need a letter of recommendation and college Profs will do that for you if they know who you are.

5. If you are getting a Bachelors Degree, take two seconds and apply to get your Associates as well

Chances are likely that if you are getting a Bachelors Degree that the requirements will also cover getting your Associates. So, once you get through all the requirements needed for your Associates, apply to get it.

Not only will having an Associates Degree encourage you, but it gives you that extra bit of accreditation. You don’t have to walk for it, you can just fill out a little piece of paper and when it’s printed they’ll mail it to you. Do you need it if you are going for a Bachelors? Not necessarily. But if you already have all the classes you need to get one you might as well get it, right?

I stopped and got my Associate of Arts. I was half way through college and it helped me feel like I had actually accomplished something.

6. Don’t be afraid to live with your parents

I didn’t move out of my parents house for the first three and a half years of college. Instead of going straight to the main campus, I went to a smaller commuter campus, got my Associates Degree and took every single class I could possibly take while I was there. I saved my parents an insane amount of money and didn’t have to get a food plan.

Sure, living with Mommy and Daddy isn’t as glamorous as living on campus: but really, when you can get a free dinner every night why wouldn’t you take advantage of that?

7. Don’t be afraid to move out of your parents house

Eventually, it’s just time. You can’t live there forever or you’ll never get a boyfriend or girlfriend again. You don’t have to live in the dorms, you don’t have to live on your own, but you do have to get out of your parents house eventually. Get some roommates, find a duplex and go live there.

8. Get a job on campus

So, you move out of your parents house and/or the dorms and you need a way to bring in some cash for rent and utilities. Find a job on campus. Start within your program of study. Not only will it give you the cash flow you need, but experience in the field. This will come in handy when you finally do graduate and need to get a job.

Employers will be looking for new employees that not only have their degree but have a little bit of experience. Flipping burgers or delivering pizza’s doesn’t cut it. Unless, of course, you’re looking for a career in fast food, then by all means.

And with that, I bid you farewell. Have a great weekend, and if you’re in college: STOP PROCRASTINATING AND STUDY!

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