Freshman year of college is a fun and exciting time. Here are some college freshman tips that every incoming freshman should know.
College Freshman Tips
If you are a high school senior (or the parent of one), you’ve probably been anxiously watching your mail or email for notification of admission to different universities. My little brother just found out he got accepted to the school he’s wanted to go to his whole life, and our whole family is so excited! I remember when I got accepted to BYU when I was a senior high school – it was such an exciting moment.
After you get accepted, don’t give up in school! It’s still important to do your best. However, it’s also a great time to start prepping for college. My little brother suggested I write a post about tips for college freshman, so I thought today I’d share some of my “wisdom.” Everyone’s college experience will be different, but hopefully, these tips will be somewhat universal!
College Tips for Freshman
Label your Food
Whether you live in a dorm that has a kitchen (like I did), or just in a room that may or may not have a refrigerator, label your food! Even if it’s not refrigerated (so, a box of cereal or crackers), label it. Otherwise, a lot of people will consider that “free game.” It also makes it easier to figure out what’s yours. When I was a freshman, I lived in an apartment-style dorm with five other girls. We all bought similar types of foods, and it became easy to mix up which carton of milk belong to which person. It will save you a lot of time and money if you label your food. Sure, you may still have roommates that will eat your food regardless, which is annoying. But it at least cuts down the likelihood significantly!
Post You May Enjoy: Dorm Room Checklist
Avoid Early Morning Classes
Okay, there are always exceptions to this – some people really love getting up early and do their thinking best at that time. However, with almost everyone I have met and talked to about tips for freshman, the advice is about 98% unanimous – avoid early morning classes! I had 8:00 and 9:00 AM classes my freshman year, and let me tell you, it was brutal. I had gotten up for an early morning church seminary class most of high school, which started at 6:00 AM, but somehow, I couldn’t get myself up for an 8:00 class. For me, I never again took classes that early after my freshman year. After you get more used to college and learn to manage your time better, you might be able to handle it. But in general, I’d avoid signing up for them (or at least, not every day.)
Shop Around for Textbooks
Textbooks are SO expensive. I always remember looking at the prices for new copies of the books and feeling like it was just robbery! Fortunately, there are a lot of tips and tricks to saving money on textbooks. I actually talk about saving money on textbooks in another post, so be sure to read that, but here are a few basic tips to get you started.
- Shop around – going to the college bookstore is usually not the best place to buy your textbooks. I typically found Amazon to be the best place (especially when you sign up for an Amazon Student account and get free prime shipping. You can get a six month trial for FREE!)
A lot of textbooks are available in digital version, which you can consider. I honestly do a lot better with a physical textbook, though.
This is a LIFESAVER for grammar and editing, especially if you are doing a lot of web-based work. It helps to edit everything you write! There is a free version, which I find adequate for what I do, but if I was still in college, I think I might spring for the paid version. You can even upload your documents from Word or Google Docs to have it edit them. It also has a plagiarism checker so you can make sure you haven’t accidentally copied too much from a source. You can click here to download the free version.
Learn to cook basic things
Okay, if you live in a dorm without a kitchen, you’ll be stuck eating in the cafeteria or other restaurants. However, you probably won’t live in your dorms your entire life, so I think it’s essential to at least know the basics of cooking. Trust me, living on top ramen and hot dogs is not nearly as glamorous as TV makes it out to be ;-). Your body will thank you for it, and if you eat at least semi-balanced meals, you’ll probably feel a lot better, too!
I put together a great list of different easy college recipes awhile back. In fact, it’s one of my most popular posts! You can just pull the recipes up on your phone and easily make something yummy. I always loved having cookbooks, and there are plenty out there geared toward college students. Definitely get one!
You can also consider getting Kids Cook Real Food. It is geared toward children, however, it has A LOT of great advice for basic cooking that I think a lot of college students would benefit from.
Get a Cheap Cell Phone Plan
Some of you may still be on a family plan from high school – if you are still on that, then great! However, if you are like me, you may not have that option. When I started college, no one else in my family had a cell phone, so it was up to me to pay for it if I wanted one (which actually had been the case since I got it when I was 16.) Back then, there weren’t a lot of affordable options. Fortunately, the cell phone plan world has come along way since then, and there are many affordable plans for individual lines.
Now, do you need a cell phone in college? Some will say no. However, I was always glad to have my smart phone for looking things up when I didn’t have my laptop, and it was nice to have a convenient number to give people. When Forrest started college, he didn’t have one, and he always felt weird having to give his apartment landline…since he wasn’t even there that often.
Take a Fun Class
I realized early on that when I took purely academic classes, it drove me crazy. So I started making room for a “fun” class each semester. Sometimes this was an exercise class, other times it was something like a cooking class. Either way, it helped me destress from my more academically vigorous courses, and I learned some great things!
Take a Career Exploration Class
Forrest and I took a career exploration class during our senior year. I needed an extra credit, and Forrest just took it because I didn’t want to take it myself (it was at night, during the winter, and I was pregnant. Ha!) It was honestly one of the most enlightening courses I took, and I wish I had taken it way earlier on. It opened to my eyes to all sorts of careers and majors I never even heard of. I was obviously about to graduate, so there was no way I was about to change my major then. However, this is something I’ve started telling everyone to take, because it was so valuable.
Download College Apps
Most universities probably have an app that they’ve developed for students. It will likely have a map, information on classes, and even events and news about the university. I know BYU had an app that made it easy to even find a vending machine. I think these are handy apps to have, since they are specifically designed for your university.
In addition, there are tons of great apps that any college student can use. Be sure to check out this post I wrote about the best apps for college students.
Use a Calendar
Find a calendering/schedule system that works for you, and use it. There are SO many deadlines in college, and it can be easy to miss them. I personally think Google Calendar is the best since it can sync with your phone. But a paper planner works, too.
This is an important skill to learn, especially as you learn to live with your roommates. Even if you are BFFs with your roommates, you might run into conflict at times. You need to realize they are people to and that maybe you do annoying things as well. Learn how to communicate and live with people who aren’t the exact same as you!
Here are some great tips for living with roommates.
Study on Campus
If you can study in the library, that’s the best place you can go – especially if you can go somewhere that doesn’t have phone signal. The library at BYU where I attended had lower levels that didn’t have cell coverage, and it made it so much easier to concentrate.
Studying in your bedroom really doesn’t work unless you have a lot of willpower and control to avoid all distractions. You need to set aside study time, too. Just schedule it in and accept it as a part of life.
Ear Plugs and Face Mask
If you have trouble sleeping with any noise or light, make sure you get these two items! College life can be crazy, and you don’t always have control over your roommates. You may have one that stays up until 2 am studying (or just hanging out) every night. If you are someone who likes to sleep peacefully, make sure you have the resources to make that happen.
Get Enough Sleep
I know it can be tempting to stay up until 3 AM every morning, but it will catch up with you. Sure it’s fun to stay up every once in a while, but you don’t need to stay up EVERY night that late. Especially if you are just doing something like watching all of the episodes of 24 (which I did during my freshman year. Oops!).
Work the Registration System
Most of the time, freshman are at the bottom end of the totem pole when it comes to registering for classes. You may not always get the classes you want, but it IS possible to get most of them. Make sure you know when registration is, how to register, and how to waitlist I almost always got the classes I needed by being on a wait list.
I registered classes for my brother earlier this year while he was serving a mission for our church, and BYU had a great system where you could auto register. It made it so I didn’t have to stay up until midnight to register him – as soon as the clock hit midnight, it registered him in the classes where they had available sports. Easy peasy.
Reconsider Early Classes
Unless you are truly a morning person, I’d be careful about signing up for that 8 AM class (or in my case, any class before 10 AM). Even if you got up for school at 7:25 every morning for high school, it is a whole new ballgame in college. Some people can handle early classes really well, but I did so much better when I scheduled my classes for later in the day.
Learn to Budget & Be Careful with Credit Cards
When I was a freshman, I got into a decent amount of credit card debt. While some of that was for things I definitely needed, and I definitely spent more than I needed to. After my first semester, I really realized that I needed to budget and get my spending under control. At that time, I also got a job, which made it a little easier. But from that point on, I never used my credit card unless I had the money to pay it off, and believe me, it’s been worth it. I believe in credit cards – I have used it smartly ever since that first semester – and my credit score is really good because of that. But if you aren’t careful, you’ll
The budget I used in college wasn’t anything fancy. I basically started with the “necessities” that I had to pay (rent, food, gas, etc.), and made sure I had enough money for that. Then, if I had extra, I would budget out a little for fun, and then the rest went into savings. I believe you can build a savings, no matter how much money you have. But I promise, being careful with your money in college is so important – not being careful, buying a ton of things on credit (when you don’t have the cash to pay it off right away), etc. will only come back to haunt you!
Here are a few tips on attending college on a budget.
Avoid Too Many Credits
Sometimes I feel like I should write a book, “Do the Opposite of What I Did in College to Succeed.” Because I really made a lot of mistakes – especially my freshman year.
I signed up for 18 credits for the first semester. This was a HUGE mistake. I got totally burnt out, and I did not do so well that first semester. I wouldn’t sluff off and take super easy courses that don’t benefit you at all, but I also wouldn’t overload your schedule too much. I went through high school without hardly studying for anything, and when I got to college, I was not prepared for the workload.
I didn’t have the luxury of not having to work my freshman year, but I stumbled into a job that was wonderful as a receptionist for a therapy clinic on campus. I was able to do homework during downtime, which helped a lot.
I do think it’s important to get a job during your college career, though if you can avoid it for at least your first semester, you will be better off in my opinion. If you do need to get a job, do your best to get one that is somewhat related to your intended major or one where you can do homework.
I know this isn’t always popular, as on-campus jobs are in high demand…especially the ones where you can do homework. Work your connections as best as you can. And if you have to work in the cafeteria or doing janitorial work, that’s okay, too.
If you are living on campus, you probably don’t need a car. Look into your school’s public transit system and see how good it is. It may be able to get you everywhere you ever need to go! I had a car when I lived off campus, which I did find helpful. But honestly, I didn’t have one my freshman year, and I was just fine.
Live on Campus
I think that living in the on-campus residence halls is a rite of passage. Although I loved living off campus, there are many perks to being so close to campus during your freshman year.
Don’t Declare your Major
I declared my major about five times when I was in college. I kept changing my mind and being “sure” that I knew what I wanted to major in. Let me tell you, it’s more difficult to change from one major to another, than to just declare it once. So, don’t feel like you have to decide your first semester. Some majors, such as nursing, will often require you doing pre-requisties from the get go, so it can be important to have an idea of what you want to do. But don’t feel like you have to declare something before you are sure.
Be Considerate with Laundry
Whether you have a washer and dryer in your apartment or you have to use a laundromat, be considerate! Don’t use every single washer available and don’t leave your clothes in the washer longer than they need to be.
Use Google Drive
Google Drive has everything you need for writing essays, making powerpoints, spreadsheets, etc. I started using it toward the end of my college career, and it makes LIFE so much easier. You can work on assignments anywhere – so if you are in the library and didn’t bring your laptop, all you need to do is pull up your Google account. It makes collaborating with classmates on group projects so much easier, too. You don’t have to worry about losing your work, either, because it autosaves every few seconds.
Go to Class
This may seem like a dumb tip, but many freshmen don’t even go to class! I fell into this trap with a few classes where they didn’t take attendance, and I definitely paid for it!
You are paying to go to college – so actually go. You’ll get more value from listening to the lectures, may get extra credit occasionally, and it’s just important to actually go.
Try New Things and Have Fun
I know some of these tips probably make it seem like college can’t be fun – but it can and should be! It’s important to balance that with making sure you actually do well and go to class…but this is such an exciting time in your life! Enjoy it. It’s truly one of the only times in your life where you can focus on yourself. Join clubs, make new friends, and push yourself out of your comfort zone. There are many things I regret about my college experience that I wish I could go back and redo – don’t have that be you!
Other Popular Posts for College Students
I’ve written a lot of posts for college students. Above I have referenced quite a few, but here is a list of all of them!
The Ultimate List of College Student Discounts
50+ Easy College Recipes
Must-have Products for College Students
Best Apps for College Students
How to Save Money on Textbooks
Helpful Websites for College Students
Attending College with a Baby
Posted March 2015; Updated July 2018
Katie is a Colorado-native, BYU graduated, and most importantly, wife to one and mother to three beautiful boys. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others – especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She is currently training to be a Certified Lactation Educator. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life.