8 Tips for Students Starting College

Smart choices your first few months can lead to an easier year

Teacher assisting African American student during lecture in amphitheatre.
Knowing when to ask for help could make things much easier down the road. skynesher/Getty Images

With so many options available for college students, knowing how to make wise choices becomes critical for success. These eight tips can help set you up for a strong first-year experience.

1. Go to Class

This is number one for a reason. College is an amazing experience, but you can't stay if you fail your courses. Missing class is one of the worst things you can do. Remember: your goal is to graduate. How are you going to do that if you can't even make it to class regularly?​

2. Participate in Events Early on—Especially During Orientation

Let's be honest: not all events aimed at first-year students are super exciting. Tours of the library and silly-sounding mixers may not be your thing. But they connect you to the campus, help you meet people, and prepare you for academic success. So roll your eyes if you must, but go.​

3. Don't Go Home Every Weekend

This can be especially tempting if you have a boyfriend or girlfriend at home or if you live close to your school. But going home every weekend prevents you from connecting with other students, getting comfortable with your campus, and making it your new home.​

4. Take Risks

Do things that are outside of your comfort zone. Never been to a program that explored a certain religion? Never tried a kind of food that's available in the cafeteria? Never introduced yourself to someone from a certain country? Step outside of your comfort zone and take some risks. You went to college to learn new stuff, right?​

5. Sign Up for a Class You Know Nothing About

Just because you're pre-med doesn't mean you can't take a course in astronomy. Expand your horizons and take a subject you never even considered.​

6. Learn How to Say "No"

This may be one of the most challenging skills to learn when you're first in school. But saying "yes" to everything that sounds fun, interesting, and exciting will lead you to trouble. Your academics will suffer, your time management will be horrible, and you'll burn yourself out.​

7. Ask for Help Before It's Too Late

Colleges are generally pretty good places; no one there wants to see you do poorly. If you're struggling in a class, ask your professor for help or go to a tutoring center. If you're having a hard time adjusting, talk to someone in the counseling center. Fixing a smaller problem is almost always easier than fixing a big one.​

8. Stay on Top of Your Finances and Financial Aid

It can be easy to forget that appointment with the Financial Aid Office or that deadline by which you had to submit a simple form. If you let your finances slip, however, you can quickly find yourself in a lot of trouble. Make sure you're sticking with ​your budget throughout the semester and that you always know the status of your financial aid package.

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Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "8 Tips for Students Starting College." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/tips-for-students-starting-college-793430. Lucier, Kelci Lynn. (2020, August 27). 8 Tips for Students Starting College. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/tips-for-students-starting-college-793430 Lucier, Kelci Lynn. "8 Tips for Students Starting College." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/tips-for-students-starting-college-793430 (accessed March 25, 2023).