Attending your first year of college presents a lot of new experiences: living away from home, meeting new people and managing your own time. Prepare for life on campus by figuring out what to bring, how to handle challenging circumstances and what you can do to manage your workload.
When you go away to college for the first time, you want to make sure you’re properly prepared. You may be living on your own for the first time, so there could be some items (that someone else usually takes care of at home) you wouldn’t normally consider. Consult your college acceptance literature for any specific items your college asks you to bring, and then consult our comprehensive Off-to-College Checklist. While everyone’s needs are slightly different, the following checklist covers everything a first-time college student should consider bringing. And remember to touch base with your roommate prior to school, if you’re able to, to make sure you’re not bringing duplicates of large items such as TVs, couches or refrigerators. Having double will just take up space and make for a less comfortable environment.
Rooming with someone during college is most people’s first experience with having a roommate who is not related to them. It’s one that comes with both benefits and challenges. Getting a college roommate you get along with can enhance your college experience. You get an instant friend – someone to confide in and keep you company during your first time away from home. However, since many colleges randomly assign your first roommate, you also run the risk of getting someone you find challenging or don’t relate to right away. Either way, here’s some good advice:
Make your preferences known from the start so you and your roommate are clear on what to do to avoid conflict. Establish what space is whose, when you need quiet time to study, if you can share shampoo, what time you go to bed, if you like to sleep in on weekends and who’s allowed to eat what in the refrigerator. Some residence halls even require roommates to write up a roommate contract containing such rules. Perhaps this is something you and your roommate could do on your own. Make it a fun introductory exercise and hang your contract somewhere in your room as a reminder. This way, if you do find yourselves disagreeing, you have something to help negotiate a solution that works for both of you.
Practicing direct communication will help you in good times and bad. Dorm rooms are close quarters, so even if you get along with your roommate, there is bound to be a conflict or two. Handle such conflicts with open communication. If you get upset or frustrated, communicate it to your roommate right away. You can’t expect him or her to be a mind reader. Be respectful with your tone and choose your words carefully. You’ll find such communication gets better reception and ultimately a better response than if you just attack or criticize. Good communication also comes into play during everyday interactions. Try to engage your roommate. Ask how his or her day was or congratulate him or her on that good essay score. A little praise and interest can go a long way. Also, feel free to share this article so your roommate understands where you are coming from.
Whenever you’re dealing with the wants and needs of two people, you need to compromise. Compromising will ultimately have to come into play when it comes to doing chores around the room, listening to certain kinds of music, watching different TV shows and when someone requests privacy. Remember, if you give a little, your roommate will give a little. Compromising does not mean giving in to all of someone’s requests; it means coming to a mutual agreement. So utilize positive communication as just mentioned, and talk through the things you and your roommate differ on until you can reach a compromise.
Even if you find yourself in a situation where you and your roommate just don’t get along, moving out should be the last resort. Dealing with roommate conflict can be an important lesson, and moving out is a hassle. However, if the situation is burdening you after three months, it may be in both your best interests to consult student housing. You can always talk to your Resident Advisor (RA) and ask for help to resolve conflict.
Greek life is something you will find on most college campuses, and it can be divided into two categories: fraternities for men and sororities for women. Both are organizations of students that come together based on common goals or interests who are very active in their community and school. They also offer a sense of belonging and built-in social network to those who are members. Millions of college students take a part in Greek life to network, build friendships and interact with their community. Millions of college students also choose not to join; it is really just a matter of personal preference. If you think you might be interested in Greek life, find out what percentage of students are "Greek" at your school, and research the organizations available. Every campus is different. Talk to your parents to see if they participated in Greek organizations. Also, consider some things about yourself, such as whether you consider yourself a social person, if you can handle the time commitment a Greek organization requires and what your financial status is. Most Greek organizations require fees, so if you’re on a tight budget you may not be in a good position to join.
In addition to Greek sororities and fraternities, schools often have other interest-based groups. Some students consider Reserve Officer Training Corps, as a “co-ed fraternity.” And some school organizations have additional societies that are major-related, such as the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE). These groups offer the same opportunities for networking and socializing as Greek groups and, again, are a matter of preference.
Most colleges require freshmen to live on campus, but after their first year, many students consider living off campus. Off-campus living can be appealing for a number of reasons: privacy, independence, responsibility, and – in some instances – even cost. But it also comes with its setbacks: isolation, transportation issues and possibly increased cost. So before jumping right into off-campus housing, make sure you take these things into consideration. Remember to also think about your school’s housing program and student body norms. Every college is different, and some support off-campus living more than others.
If, after weighing the pros and cons, you decide you want to live off campus, there are several ways for you to find a good place to live. Check your college’s off-campus housing office, which most schools have, or with local real estate agents. You can also find listings online through various real estate search engines or popular college sites; here are a few suggestions.
A major is a concentration of courses in a specific academic subject or professional field, and it is something many colleges require students to declare at the end of their sophomore year. Some students know what they want to major in before they even leave for college; however, many students are initially unsure. To help decide what major you should choose, consider the following steps:
Think about what you really love and what you’re good at; majoring in something that interests you and that you have a natural knack for will come more easily and be more enjoyable. You should also consider what you want to do with your life, and what will make you happy, not just what career you think would pay you the most. For some students, family, cultural or financial obligations play a big role in choosing what major will fit their desired lifestyle. Talk to family and friends to get their input.
There are several questionnaires and tests that have been developed in order to help you figure out not only which careers you might be good at, but also which you might enjoy most. Usually these tests work by measuring your abilities in a variety of academic areas in addition to asking you questions about your interests.
One of the more popular and thoroughly tested versions of these tests is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). The ASVAB was originally developed to encourage students to increase their awareness of their skills and interests and to understand how those skills and interests could translate into military and civilian occupations. The current version of the ASVAB, however, isn’t just career-focused. It is designed to assist all students, whether they are planning on getting a job right out of high school, joining the Military or going to school at a university, community college or vocational school.
The ASVAB provides you with scores in several different areas that are specifically designed to help you narrow your search for careers (or majors). The results will be provided to you on a summary sheet that not only lets you know how you scored, but also how you compare to other people who took the test. The summary sheet explains each of the scores, what they mean and gives you suggestions on how to proceed.
The ASVAB is only one of the many options available in terms of testing, but – besides being well established and thoroughly tested – the ASVAB is free, which makes it worth looking into. Ask your guidance counselor if the ASVAB is offered at your school.
Helping students decide what major to choose is one of the main reasons why career centers exist, so take advantage of them. Career counselors can give you in-depth information about each major and offer self-assessment tools such as the ASVAB that can help you choose a major. They can also put you in touch with professors or alumni who can give you firsthand evaluations of the coursework and job opportunities for specific majors.
Go ahead and sit in on a few classes of the majors you are seriously considering. Chat with the students in class and probe for their impressions on the major. Also, speak with the professor to ask questions about coursework expectations and major requirements. You may even want to get an internship in a field you are considering. There is no better way to evaluate a field than to get firsthand experience.
For more help choosing a major, you can also visit the following websites:
During your first year of college you will be juggling many new experiences: new friends, new living situation, new activities, new classes and new teachers. While a lot of these new experiences are exciting, they can challenge your time-management skills and academic adjustment. Even if you balanced a full course load and extracurricular activities in high school, in college you alone are responsible for deciding what your schedule will hold and managing your time accordingly. You have to get yourself to class on time. You have to remind yourself to study and do your homework. And you have to practice good time management. Want some tips? Check out our Managing Academics Checklist.
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