Tips for Students Starting College or University

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File:Vet Student Wisc 2005.jpgAcross the country, university and college faculty, students and staff are gearing up for the first day of class.

If you are freshman just beginning your postsecondary journey, you may be experiencing a range of sensations, from excitement and curiosity to fear. You are not alone, as probably many first year students are also feeling a ball of emotions, whether they show it or not.

Here are some basic tips to guide you as you begin this new educational, social and experiential chapter in your life.

Develop Balance: This is something that most people have difficulty with from first year students to successful CEOs. But it is important for you to strive for balance to get the most out of your post secondary experience. Some freshmen focus more on partying and social activities rather than school work, while others seem to spend all their time in the library. If possible, find out what the expected workload for your program is before school starts. For example, Aims Community College expects its criminal justice degree students to spend approximately 25 to 30 hours outside of class time to study and work on assignments. Once you know how much time academics will take, make sure to allocate time to do social activities or for leisure and relaxation. If you are planning on holding down a job at the same time, it may be wise to take fewer classes throughout the week.

Get Involved: For some, getting involved on campus, whether it is in residence or in an extracurricular activity, will be easy. But for more shy people, this may involve pushing themselves out of their comfort zones. The great thing about college and university is there is such a diversity of people and it is often less cliquey than public school. Try to find a group, club or events that match with your interests. If you’re taking a journalism degree, you could volunteer for the school paper or campus radio. It doesn’t necessarily have to relate to your degree however. The Criminal Justice Club at Iowa State University, for instance, is open to students taking any major. There are also non academic clubs, like intramurals, music groups, open mics, residence organizations and spirit clubs. Do some investigating around campus to find group(s) that you’ll thoroughly enjoy.

Ask for Help: Since as a freshman you will be faced with so many new experiences, it may seem overwhelming at times. Do not be afraid to ask for help – in fact it is encouraged. Your college or university will have academic advisors and support staff to help you deal with course selection, emotional issues and how to navigate all the services the school has to offer. Be proactive and find out who these staff members are. If you live in residence, your RA was once in your shoes and he or she took on this role to help you deal with freshman jitters. It’s also a good idea to talk to some of your professors. Sure some may seem a little daunting, but work up the nerve to chat with them after class if you are having trouble understanding an assignment, want some feedback on how to improve or are looking for leads on job experience options.

If You Fumble, Get Back Up: The majority of freshmen make mistakes during their first year – this is natural and expected since it is a completely new experience. If you’re just coming out of high school, this may be your first “taste of freedom”. You may find that you’re caught up in the excitement of it all and end up missing a lot of morning classes from partying the night before. Or if you’ve been out of school for a long time, you may be out of practice from writing tests or essays. Instead of beating yourself up when you make a mistake, learn from the experience. You can always make a comeback!

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