Top 10 Tips for Incoming College Students

So, you are a high school senior that just got accepted into an amazing college! Congratulations!! I’m sure you’ve heard all the cliché advice before. If you are looking for some honest advice that you might not hear anywhere else, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s jump right into the top ten tips I wish I knew before going to college!

1. Don’t overpack/overbuy.

Dorm rooms are super tiny. If you overpack, you are going to feel so crowded and disorganized in your room. Buy the essentials such as a mattress topper, a fan, a Brita pitcher, shower shoes, bed risers (for more storage). Realistically, you probably don’t need three different kinds of denim jackets, five pillows and thirty pairs of shoes. Be realistic with yourself about what you will actually use, and pack accordingly. The best trick is to pack seasonally. If you are able to go home each season and switch your wardrobe, that will save you a lot of space.

2. Keep an open mind and don’t be afraid to try new things.

College is all about exploring your interests and finding your passions! Join clubs that interest you and don’t be afraid to check them out alone. It is ok to go to a club meeting without a friend in tow to “support” you. Maybe all your life you’ve wanted to try archery, and your school has an archery club. Give it a try! Even if your freshman roommate doesn’t want to check it out with you, still push yourself to do new things for yourself. You might end up stumbling upon a passion that you didn’t know you had. You also might end up meeting your best friends! The more you push yourself out of your comfort zone the more you will grow and see the best returns.

3. Learn to budget.

This is a big one. Now that you are living on your own, you need to set a budget for yourself. It may be tempting to Postmates food to your dorm five days a week, get Starbucks every day and online shop for cute clothes, but spending money like this is an easy way to become a broke college student fast. To combat this, set weekly or monthly spending limits, take advantage of your school’s dining plan, and look into getting a job if you are worried about your finances. There also tons of apps you can download that help you set and stick to your budget, like the Mint app.

4. Find friends beyond your freshman hall.

From personal experience, it is super easy to rely on your freshman hall friends. These are the first people you meet; you guys get food together, go out together, hang out in each other’s rooms on the weekends, etc. Although these people may be great first friends, they don’t have to be your only friends. It is so important to find other people to connect with. There are so many easy ways to make new friends in college. You can join a club, talk to people in class or even rush a sorority!

5. Actually go to class.

I know– you’re living on your own away from your parents for probably the first time and it’s so much fun to go out with friends. But you need to maintain a strong work ethic in order to succeed. Focus on your studies even though it’s so tempting to put more energy into your social life. Finding a balance is key. Remember, you are paying a lot of money to be receiving an education, not just hang out with friends. Find a balance between academics and having fun, and you’ll be living the best of both worlds!

6. Invest in essentials like a good backpack, rain boots, and rain jacket.

Obviously, the weather in each state is a little different, so research what the weather is usually like at your college first. But generally, it will probably be raining on campus sometimes. Unfortunately, you still need to walk ten minutes across campus in the rain to get to class. Investing in good rain boots, a waterproof and spacious backpack and a nice rain jacket will make your life so much easier and comfortable. No one wants to be sitting through hours of class with soaking wet socks, and no one wants their laptop getting wet in their backpack! I know your $30 backpack from Kohls is super cute, but you’ll thank me later. Get a good backpack that will last your four years of college and beyond. I recommend Dakine, North Face, and Jansport.

7. Use Chegg or Thriftbooks for textbooks!!

One of the harshest realities about college is how expensive textbooks are. Lucky for you, you don’t need to spend $100 at your campus bookstore for just one textbook. Use Chegg or Thriftbooks to order cheaper textbooks, or look for textbook PDFs online. Try renting your textbooks instead of buying them, if you will only need them for the semester. This is a great way to save money and ensure an expensive book won’t sit on your shelf for years after only a semester of use.

8. Seek help from professors and other campus resources.

Think about all the money you spend on your college education. You better get your money’s worth! Go to office hours if you have a question! Send your TA or professor an email if you need to! Your professors are experts in their fields and it is their job to help you and teach you.

Also, almost every campus has a tutoring center for students. If you need some extra individualized help or even someone to read over an essay for you, look into your campus’s academic resources. These are so helpful and can help you achieve better grades, and a better understanding of the material. Don’t be afraid to seek out these resources and take advantage of everything your college has to offer.

9. No one knows what they’re doing the first semester.

Freshman year is a learning experience for everyone. You are finally learning your place in a new setting and are going to grow into the person you are meant to be! You are adjusting to living life a completely different way, and so is everyone else. It’s normal to make mistakes and mess up. Everyone you meet at college has been in your position before and understands how fresh and crazy freshman year is. So don’t stress out too much!

10. Have fun and make memories!

These four years of college are going to be such a special time in your life. Don’t forget to look around every once in a while, and remember how fortunate you are to be there. Have fun!

Dianna Cacace

Dianna Cacace is in the class of 2022 at the University of Rochester, where she is studying bioethics with minors in legal studies and psychology. She is originally from Hillsborough, New Jersey. She is a member of the Theta Kappa chapter of Alpha Phi. She is also currently serving as VP of recruitment for her College Panhellenic.

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