There is a reason that the phenomenon of the “Freshman 15” has gained such traction. Students do change their first year of college in profound ways. Rather than focus on the expansion of the waistline, itself an important topic, I wanted to offer a new freshman 15. If you focus on these changes and opportunities your first year, it will certainly help you prepare for success in college and life.
1. Set meaningful goals. In order to be successful, you must first define what success will look like for you. Write down short, medium and long-term goals that will allow you to assess you progress. This helps you to define what is important to you now and into the future.
2. Find a way to be involved. College can be an incredibly isolating experience if you allow it to be. Being surrounded by thousands of peers gives you the opportunity to connect with those who have similar passions. Begin developing your success network and find community on campus.
3. Attend at least one campus event. Colleges and universities do an excellent job in offering a variety of these each semester. You’ll find notices for events (speakers, concerts, films, intramural sports, etc.) posted throughout campus or on websites dedicated to campus life and activities. Attend one and see if you like it. After all, some of your student activity fees went to pay for it.
4. Don’t be “too cool” to try something new. It is okay to be excited and interested about your new collegiate life—that is what you are supposed to be. Too many students, especially their first year, fall into the trap of pretending like they aren’t fazed by college. Allow yourself to embrace your new surroundings.
5. Develop at least one new friendship. Even if you come to campus with the maximum number of connections you can possibly imagine, stretch yourself to add one person to your circle. Your success network is something that will always need expansion.
6. Embrace diversity. You will interact with those of different backgrounds from yours on campus in ways that you haven’t previously. Instead of rejecting diversity, find opportunities to embrace and learn from it. This applies to all students.
7. Have a meaningful conversation with someone you don’t know. Go beyond the superficial topics of the day and look to connect with someone new in a meaningful way. Talking to those who you don’t already know will open you to ideas and perspectives. (It also might allow you to achieve #5!)
8. Visit your Professor’s office hours. Some may call this a “secret” to success, but it really makes all the difference. Make sure that you visit before you need something (extra credit, an extension, etc.)
9. Talk to an advisor before you register again. What was true the last time you registered might not be any longer. Schedule a “check-up” appointment (similar to a doctor’s appointment) to simply make sure that everything is in good shape. You don’t want to wake up your senior year and realize you missed an important graduation requirement.
10. Engage in a campus tradition. Institutions have a life of their own. For it to exist and be handed down to the next generation of students, you have to do your part. Whether it is something big like Homecoming or small like painting a spirit rock, find a way to contribute to your part of the campus legacy.
11. Find a way to give back. You have been given a fantastic opportunity to learn and grow as a student. Make sure to honor that opportunity by donating time or effort to your local community. Most colleges have departments of service learning or civic engagement if you need ideas on how to do this.
12. Visit the library…at least once. Yes, you can find almost everything that you may want on your phone or computer, but your campus library is a place that you should learn about before it’s too late. Few successful students graduate without having to spend hours there researching for a paper or project. Familiarize yourself now, before it is necessary.
13. Seek help. Colleges dedicate tremendous effort and resources into building supportive programs for students. If you feel that you need assistance, personally or academically, you should find them. It isn’t a sign of weakness to ask for help, it is a sign of ignorance not to.
14. Find something that inspires you. Whether it is on campus or external to your college, you should find one thing that will provide you with frequent and meaningful inspiration. There will be days in which you need the extra push to help you meet your goals!
15. Avoid the “real” Freshman 15. Caring for your health is essential to success—carve out some time each week, preferably 45 minutes 2-3 times, to exercise. Make sure you are eating and sleeping as best as possible. These might seem like luxuries now, but failure to attend to them will matter in the long run.
Is there something that isn’t on the list that you think should be? Make sure to comment below to add to the discussion.