Your freshman year of college can be one of the most confusing times in your life. You’ve moved away from home. You don’t know anyone. You have no idea what you’re doing. It’s like a bad scene from a movie. Well, no fear, I’ve got you covered. Lucky for you, I’ve literally grown up on a college campus. I even took my first steps at a college basketball game. I’ve been going to class with my mom, the college professor, since I was still in the womb. The best advice my mom ever gave me was that you’re stronger than you may think. I know that college can be a plethora of unknowns, so I hope these “Top 10 Tips for College Freshman from the Daughter of a College Professor,” can make it a little easier.
- Read the Book
Now, I know this quite literally may seem like a “novel” concept (pun intended), but hear me out here. You would be amazed at the amount of material on my mom’s homework, quizzes, and exams that come STRAIGHT out of the book. It’s almost like cheating if you buy one. You’ll also seem super smart to your professor in comparison to your peers who don’t even know what the title of the book is. Additional life hack: check Amazon, Chegg, and the bookstore to find the best deal on your texts. Trust me, that it’ll be worth it in the long run, guaranteed!
- Get Involved
It may seem pretty tempting to come to college and just attend class and then go home every day, especially if you don’t live on campus. But, some of the most fun happens outside of the classroom! If you were, or weren’t, super involved in high school, now’s the perfect time! Getting involved in an on-campus job, club, Greek life, or a sport is a sure-fire way to make sure you’re getting the most out of your college time. It’s basically getting friends for free. Plus, a lot of professors, like my mom, oversee these groups, so you can schmooze up to them outside of class!
- Talk to Professors
It’s honestly not as scary as it may seem. Feel free to stop by and say hello to your professors any time their doors are open. You can ask for clarification on an upcoming assignment or talk about your grade (asking what you can do to improve it) or ask about their research if they do it! Professors will remember you if you go to their office hours! My mom loves when students come and visit her. It can’t hurt! They may even start to like you.
- Read the Syllabus
You get this random stapled packet of paper of the first day of class. “What is this?” you may ask. This is the key to your future class success; that’s what it is. The syllabus has everything you would ever want to know about the course wrapped up inside a few white sheets. Learning objectives, book information, professor contact information, class schedule, and a grading scale are all typically included. Study these pages; they are your best friends. Plus, there’s nothing a professor hates more than being asked a question that was clearly stated on the syllabus they took long hours to create. One of my mom’s pet peeves, no doubt!
- Go to Class
This may be obvious, but it’s not. College will happen. You don’t have someone waking you up every day or putting you on the bus to go to school. It’s up to you to walk or drive to class. This is absolutely terrifying. It would be so much easier to lay in bed all day, wouldn’t it? NO! The simplest way to ensure you’re pretty much going to succeed in most courses is to just go to class. A lot of professors, like my mom, even give you points just for going! Yay! Free points! Professors say some pretty important stuff in those classes, so I’ve heard.
- Ask Questions/Go to Tutoring
I know you’ve probably heard this a time or two, but there are no stupid questions (unless the answer can be found on the syllabus). Chances are, the question you have is in the head of about 10 other students who are just too afraid to say so. My mom sometimes has to answer the same question five times in a row, so make sure you’re paying attention. Being as clear as crystal on something is much better than being as clear as mud. If you are too scared to ask a question in class, tutoring is a great vessel where you can get the help you need. One important thing I learned coming to college was that going to tutoring doesn’t make you dumb; it makes you smart!
- Study Abroad
Belize! Spain! Italy! Mexico! Germany! Japan! Costa Rica! Oh, my! One thing to take advantage of when coming to college is studying abroad. I know a lot of you may have never traveled on the plane or out of the country before, and that can be daunting. Most colleges have an office for study abroad and scholarship/grant opportunities to make it easy to go any place you choose! You even get credits for the classes you take when you go. When I went to Germany with my mom and her class, it was the most fun I’ve ever had. Some professors, like my mom, even offer classes in the states that have a trip at the end! She loves showing students her favorite countries. Stop saying, “No,” and start saying, “Bon Voyage!”
- Don’t Waste Your Summer/Do Research
It’s my mom’s worst nightmare when she hears of a student just sitting at home all summer doing nothing. Don’t get me wrong, you can still have plenty of time to lay by the pool or go on family vacation, but it’s important to not waste these precious months while you have them. Do something! Potential employers later will notice how you spent your summers. Try to get a job or internship that’s somehow relevant to the field you want to go into. You can also spend some time volunteering. Another great alternative is to conduct research. It can be extremely rewarding, and it’ll make you a stand out for grad school or a job! The research I’ve done in the past helped me get the amazing internship I have now.
- Don’t Put Off Public Speaking
Public speaking is the single most important course of your college career (according to my mom). Most students are petrified of taking public speaking. They can think of nothing worse in the whole wide world. My mom is one of the lucky professors who teaches public speaking. The worst mistake you can make is to put off taking the class until the last semester before you graduate. Take it the first semester you can! It isn’t nearly as awful as it may seem, and you can apply the skills you learn to presentations that you’ll have to make in other classes.
- Make a Resume and a LinkedIn
Freshman year may seem like too early to create a resume, but it’s not. My mom teaches a class to seniors where they have to make a resume, so why not get a head start now? Resumes are those things that just don’t go away. In the back of your mind, you should always think of more items that you could add to it (going back to getting involved and not wasting your summer). Each line gets you one step closer to landing your dream job one day! You can translate all the stuff on your resume directly to a LinkedIn profile. You can make connections, look for jobs, and be recruited on LinkedIn. It’s super user friendly, and it’s the future of the job market. You can make connections with students in your classes and professors you have. Build your network today!