Freshman Year: A Four-Quarter Guide

Freshman Year: A Four-Quarter Guide

New student orientation is a strange ritual. Schools have to have it or they end up looking careless. At best, orientation for incoming freshmen keeps the new arrivals from wandering 

around campus aimlessly. What it doesn't do is prepare new students for the shift in lifestyle they're about to experience. There's a learning curve to the unique social microcosm of college. Here's a quick guide for what you ought to learn and accomplish in the first four quarters of your campus experience.

Quarter #1: Early is Good

No matter what the subject is, the key word for a successful first quarter of freshman year is "early". It applies everywhere. Want to make friends? Introduce yourself to new people as soon as possible. Especially in dormitories (where the majority of freshmen live), social groups tend to solidify early on. A lot of people make the majority of their college friends in the first few weeks of freshman year. This is unnecessary and unfortunate, but it's the way the system tends to work. Being outgoing early on will pay dividends in the long term.

Also, get to know the facilities on campus as early as possible. The better you know your way around, the easier it'll be to get to class on time and generally navigate your new surroundings (even on nights when you're, ahem, lacking full use of your mental faculties). Speaking of getting to class on time, make it a habit to get up early enough to do more than just stumbling to class in your jammies. Attention to personal pride and grooming will serve you for the rest of your life.


Quarter #2: Adulthood is Calling

If you're a freshman you're likely 18 and just out of high school. Try not to act like it. College, contrary to popular belief, is not a period reserved for parties and irresponsibility. It's an introduction to the real world and the basis for what you'll do for the better part of your adult life. Work diligently and pay attention in class. If you choose to use intoxicating substances, learn how to use them responsibly. It doesn't matter how old you are, stumbling around drunk on a bottle of cheap booze is unbecoming. If you choose to have sex, be safe, informed and respectful about it. Your campus likely has a student health center where they have safe sex products and educators. If not, your local Planned Parenthood will.


Quarter #3: Explore

The first semester is good for getting familiar with the limited world of your campus, but that gets old quickly. Explore the area beyond campus, be it a big city, a small town or a lush wilderness. Getting out of your bubble will give you perspective and encourage you to think like a regular member of society. Also, explore new interests. Do things you've never done, seek out learning experiences and don't restrict yourself to a small social group. This is how a personality is formed.


Quarter #4: Kill Bad Habits

Some college students acquire a list of bad habits over the course of their studies they don't end up kicking until after graduation. Don't make that mistake. Try not to go to the same party every weekend. Learn how to cook more than sandwiches and instant noodles. Shower regularly. Being a freshman gives you some leeway, just don't abuse it. You should finish your first year of college with the skills and mindset to enter the world beyond your school. That way, you'll be able to focus on how to apply your studies to a career after graduation.