Ten years ago I was finishing up my first semester in college. I still remember how I felt that first semester – excited to be entering this new stage in my life and anxious to get to know new people and try new things but at the same time super nervous and full of questions. I’ve been in college ever since, either as a student or an employee, and have picked up a few tips that I wish I knew that first semester. Here I pass them on in the hopes that they will be helpful and prevent others from making some of the same mistakes I did!

Tip #1: Tour the Campus

I had never seen any classrooms or the residence hall that I was to live in for a year at Colorado State University before I moved in and I have always regretted not taking a tour. Not only would I have felt more comfortable with the campus, I could have learned about some valuable resources that could have helped me my first year in college. I didn’t know I had access to services like tutoring and career planning or that there were programs that I could attend for free just because I was a student. I felt lost and now know that my transition to college would have been much smoother if I had gone to tour the college before I started. This is something I always recommend for new students!

Tip #2: Use the Library

I think I might have stepped into the library once during my first year in college. Little did I know how helpful of a resource it could be! By my third year, I finally realized all the library and the librarians can do for you and was there almost every day. Libraries give students access to multiple databases that contain scholarly research in any topic that you can use for the many papers you end up writing in college.

In addition, databases can show you how to cite your sources correctly – a necessity when creating your reference page. If you don’t know how to use them, librarians can help you learn. I also found out that librarians can help you research! If you go to them with a topic, they can show you tips and tricks on how to find the best sources and access the most information. It’s awesome!

Tip #3: Yes, You Need to Buy Your Books

Though some instructors designate some of their books as “optional,” you need to buy any book that is required for class. Oftentimes you’ll be given readings as homework and you are responsible for knowing that material for tests even if it isn’t covered during class time. Don’t find this out the hard way!

If you are not buying your books through the campus bookstore, make sure to have the correct ISBN number so you can have the correct edition and purchase any supplemental materials that might come separately. Also, if you are purchasing your books online, make sure you notice when the “estimated arrival date” is. I made the mistake once of ordering my books too late and one arrived after I was supposed to be done reading it. I actually had to purchase that book twice because I needed it for the class!

Tip #4: Go to Class, After All, You’re Paying for It

Paying for class is not the only reason to attend. I always found going to class super helpful because so much information was covered that I needed for tests and papers. It also gave me a chance to build rapport with instructors and fellow classmates. Sometimes I found that information covered during class and the class discussions weren’t in any of our books so there wasn’t any other way I would get that knowledge. I truly believe that going to class improves your success in the class. If this is not enough to convince you, know that some colleges drop you from your classes if you don’t show up. If you get dropped, you’ll have to take that class a future semester!

Tip #5: Meet Up With Your Instructor

Take time to visit your instructor’s office hours. They schedule them for a reason – to help students! Meeting with an instructor also gives you an opportunity for them to get to know you as well. This can be beneficial in the long run of the class.

Tip #6: When in Doubt, Ask!

I’ve always been a big question asker but for some reason when I got to college I felt like I should know the answers already even though I didn’t. It took me a while to learn to ask for help. On each college campus there are a whole range of staff members ready and willing to assist you in all sorts of matters. All you need to do is ask!

I learned so many good life lessons in college that I could probably go on and on, but I will leave it at this for now. What tips do you have based on your experience?


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