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9 things you need to know as you start college

9 things you need to know as you start college

Have you ever talked yourself into jumping into the pool in late summer, before it closes for the season?

You know it’s going to be chilly and uncomfortable at first, but you also know you’ll make it through the initial shock and get used to it.

Starting college can feel like that, too. Here are some tips to help you keep your head above water and eventually get along swimmingly.

1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help—from your resident assistant or the student life staff, from your professors or your new friends. You’re sure to find someone who loves to help new students like you figure out where the writing center is or learn how to access your assignments online.

2. Talk with your professors and get to know them.

They appreciate seeing students show some initiative and take an interest in the material. Chances are they’d be happy to help you after class with any tough concepts you’re struggling to understand. And the better they know you, the better the recommendation letters they can write for you later for internships, jobs or graduate programs.

3. Take good notes.

Write down insightful or funny things your teachers and classmates say. When your friend says, “You were so good at leading our class discussion on Shakespeare, maybe you should be an English teacher,” write it down. When that quirky professor teaches you an obscure math equation and then says, “This will make you popular at parties!” write it down. You may think you’ll always remember these things, but don’t take that chance.

4. Make friends with people who are different from you.

Find people who come from a different background than you do. Forge connections with people who look or act differently than you do. Learn about who they are as individuals. Don’t assume that everyone in their group is exactly like them, but see what you can learn about the diversity within their communities.

5. Take one or two classes in an area that stretches you outside your comfort zone.

Try something you’re not required to take, just for fun—art appreciation, ceramics, botany, creative writing, Italian, photography, film studies, children’s literature, poetry, cooking, ethics, voice or guitar lessons, women’s history, leadership training, fencing, ballroom dancing, Pilates, positive psychology, world religions…

6. Try something new, whether an extracurricular activity or a study abroad trip.

Experiment with things that you may not have the chance to try after you graduate. Go somewhere you’ve never been before and experience the culture there. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and your interests, even if you decide you don’t really like performing in musicals, for example, or going on service trips to rebuild houses. You’ll also meet people you wouldn’t have met otherwise.

7. Find a study spot on campus

Find a study spot on campus where you can enjoy the college’s architecture or a good view of natural scenery. A beautiful environment makes studying more enjoyable.

8. Your college years will be over before you know it.

Yes, papers and finals and relationships and adulting and figuring out what you want to do with your life are all stressful. But savor the time while you can. Once you graduate, you’ll miss those late-night coffee runs and conversations with friends, spring break road trips, impromptu dance parties, quizzo/board game/karaoke nights, free pizza from the student life office, and endless opportunities to meet peers. So enjoy it now!

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