Everything a College Freshman Needs to Know

College freshmen can quickly become overwhelmed with the transition to learning and living on a university campus. Acclimating to the rhythm of college life can be challenging. Those students who are pursuing college after some time away may also encounter difficulties when they become first-time university students. Regardless of your age, here are five key things that every college freshman needs to know before he or she begins his or her first semester of school. These are:

  • Budgeting your finances
  • Staying healthy
  • Building a circle of new friends on campus
  • Getting to know your professors
  • Utilizing your college academic advising resources

Mind your money — budget for college tuition and related expenses

You are likely well aware of the immediate costs of college, such as tuition, room and board, and your meal plan. However, have you considered the hidden expenses of attending a university? Many freshmen will quickly realize that other expenses—including textbooks and school supplies—mount rapidly. Monitor your costs by creating and maintaining a budget in which you track your spending. Also, look for money-saving opportunities on campus. Consider renting or purchasing used textbooks instead of buying them new, and apply for grants or scholarships. 

Stay healthy physically and mentally to improve your college academics

Balancing a full class schedule, extra-curricular activities, a job, and sports—as well as a social life—can be exceptionally demanding during your first year of college. It is critical that you do not overextend yourself to the point where you are continually stressed, which will make you both unhappy and unhealthy. Enroll in a reasonable number of courses so you will feel confident and comfortable with your academic workload, and sign up for just one or two extra-curricular activities that are most important to you. Seek academic assistance if you feel you would benefit. Finding a tutor you work well with could greatly help you! If you work, make it clear to your employer that university comes first; it is usually best to opt for several flexible hours per week. Remember to eat well, to sleep for a full evening, and to exercise regularly—all of which will contribute positively to your health and stress management. Campus counseling is also typically available if you require it.


Be social—not shy, get to know other students

Whether you plan to attend a small private college or a large public university, making new friends can seem daunting. Believe it or not, most other college freshmen feel nervous about meeting new people, too. If you live on campus, start by getting to know your roommates and other students in your dorm. Joining clubs, participating in campus politics or Greek life, and simply chatting with your fellow students after class are also great ways to be social. Here are some great tips on how to make the most of college extracurriculars. Consider utilizing online resources. In today’s technology-driven age, it is very easy to “meet” others attending your school with similar interests via social media. This can help you make friends before your first semester even begins!

Establish positive relationships with your professors

Your professors exist to assist you. It is advantageous for you to introduce yourself, participate regularly in class, and attend office hours. Nothing pleases a professor more than to see a student put a sincere effort into his or her studies and follow along in class. If you try hard to do well, and you maintain a positive relationship with your professors, they will remember your name—no matter how many students are enrolled in their classes. Ultimately, such relationships can be immensely beneficial. Immediately, your professors can help you excel academically, but they can also serve as excellent references for jobs and internships that you may apply to in the future. These are some great tips on how to make a good impression on your college professor.

Visit your college academic adviser

A mistake that the average college freshman often makes is not meeting with his or her academic adviser. Though your school will likely provide you with a catalog detailing courses offered, as well as the academic requirements for each major and minor, it can be overwhelming to understand and retain this information. Excellent planning is a critical factor in ensuring you meet your requirements and make the most of the time you spend in college. Schedule an appointment with your adviser before you register for classes so that you can review your academic requirements together and determine the best schedule for you. A smart way to stay on top of your academic plan is to meet with your adviser at least once before your enrollment appointment each semester.  

Here are example questions college freshmen should ask their academic advisers:

  1. What courses am I required to take to complete my major?
  2. What is the average time to graduation for my major?
  3. How soon should I start applying for summer internships?
  4. What special programs are offered that relate to my major? For example, study abroad programs and internships.
  5. When should I start registering for next semester's courses?


Here is an at-a-glance table highlighting what all freshmen college students need to know:

College Freshmen Essential Knowledge Example Actions


Financial Health


Budget for tuition, room and board, supplies, discretionary spending


Academic Life

Know what courses are required for your major, which professors teaches them, when the courses are offered


Social Life

Explore different student clubs and organizations, establish study groups


Physical And Mental Health

Find activities to maintain your physical and mental health - college can be a demanding experience

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