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Freshman Year | Advice from a Grad | August 2012

Freshman Year: 10 Things I Wish I Had Known

By Jayne Seward | For StudentAdvisor.com

With colleges across the country starting move-in and classes this week, recent Bentley University grad Jayne Seward wanted to share her advice for first-year students:

1. Work hard, Play hard.

Freshman Year: 10 Things I Wish I Had KnownIt’s all about finding a balance. If you decide to go out on a Tuesday night, you better be prepared to study all day Wednesday to make up for lost time, while dealing with a nasty hang over. If you work hard, you can easily maintain good grades while still finding the time to have a blast. My suggestion to any college student is to focus and apply yourself while in class, because the more you learn in class, the less time you have to study, and the more time you have to play.

2. Tests come in 3’s

Have you ever heard the saying, “the best things in life come in 3’s”? Well in the life of an undergrad, this saying does not apply. I have found that when one professor schedules the next big exam, there always seem to be two more that pop up within the same week, whether you are prepared for them or not. The hours and hours of studying you will spend to ensure a passing grade can sometimes become so overwhelming that you’ll lose track of how to efficiently manage your stress. The best way to combat this is simply to plan ahead and prioritize your work, even if that means studying for one of these tests a week in advance.

3. Do an internship during the semester

Being a college student is a difficult job on its own. Between tests, papers, boyfriends/girlfriends, volunteering, extracurriculars, and whatever else you are doing, you’re constantly going full speed ahead, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, there’s one other commitment you might want to consider throwing into the mix: an internship. If your resume needs beefing up, having an internship during the semester could be the time to do it. Not only can an internship give you the leg up you need on the other students who are your competition for the jobs you’ll eventually want, but it will also teach you amazing time management that will take you far even after your college graduation. 

4. Laundry is not as easy as it looks

I will be the first one to admit that my parents did my laundry from the time I was born until the day I left for college; it is sad, but true. My first experience with a laundry machine during my freshman year was as entertaining for those around me, as it was frustrating for me.  Make sure you know the basics before you leave home for your first year at school, so that you don’t have to learn the hard way that your favorite white shorts will turn pink when you wash them with a red shirt. Separate your clothes into three separate loads by color, use the warm/cold temperature setting for whites and light colors, and dry your delicate’s on low (or hand dry, if desired). Your clothes will thank you.

5. Save your easy classes for last

As a senior, I regret saving many of my challenging courses for my final year of college. Instead of taking classes that truly interest me, I am stuck sitting in hours of biology labs and macroeconomics lectures. If your schedule allows it, get your ‘gen-eds’ out of the way early so that when it get down to the final countdown to graduation, you will have the flexibility to enroll in the classes that not only interest you, but classes that are also relevant to the career direction and personal goals.

6. Learn how to cook real food

And no, I am not referring to Top Ramen or Kraft Mac & Cheese. “The Freshman 15”, a term coined to describe the extra pounds that many college students pack on in their first year away from home, is not just a myth. Yes, eating healthy in college can be tough as students are usually in a rush and have little time to sit down and enjoy a real meal, but learning how to cook will definitely benefit you in the long run. My advice? Stock up on food over the weekend and make yourself a hearty dinner Sunday night so that you can enjoy the leftovers throughout your busy week.

7. Learn how to be financially responsible

If you are like me, you probably find yourself using your credit card to buy that two dollar morning coffee on a regular basis. I had to learn the hard way that you can’t spend more money than you make, but for many, there is still hope! Living cheap is living smart in college and there are ways to pinch every penny. From purchasing a Brita Filter to eating at the cafeteria for as long as possible, there are a number of ways to avoid having to depend on spare change to get you through the day.

8. Study abroad

Studying abroad may not be a viable option, whether that is due to finances, athletic responsibilities, or other reasons, but for those who can afford to go, you must! Having had the opportunity to study abroad in Australia, I know firsthand the amazing and life-changing value study abroad programs can bring to your college experience. It is an adventure of a lifetime. From Madrid to London, to Rome, or even to Hong Kong - the possibilities are endless. Don’t be afraid, don’t hesitate, just do it. I promise you will not be sorry.

9. Don’t commit to a major too early

Instead, learn about the subjects for which you have a passion. When I was little I wanted to be a princess, a professional soccer player, and even a world-renowned chef. The beauty of college is that you don’t have to know what you want to do with the rest of your life. College is the time to explore who you are as a person, so sign up for classes that spark your interest and take the time to seriously consider what it is you are passion is in life. You have four years to explore, and even if you haven’t figured out who or what you want to be by your senior year, who cares! Don’t rush into anything, and take the time to figure out what path is right for you.

10. Being a teacher’s pet isn’t a bad thing

If you want to get an A in a course, you will soon find that attending your professor’s office hours is one of the most effective ways of getting the grade. Here, you finally have the time to ask the professor questions and discuss any problems you are having in the class. Also, don’t hesitate to raise your hand and participate in class; when a professor knows you by name, your participation grade will shoot through the roof. So, sit in the front row, attend every class, and make sure that professor notices you. Believe me, it will without a doubt, make a difference.

What would you tell your freshman year self if you had the chance? Let us know on Twitter and Facebook.

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