Have a Successful First Day of College

Edited by Sarah Maloney, Eng, Alma, Maria Quinney

High school graduation is long gone, your prom dress has been resigned to the back of your closet, summer job uniforms are returned and you've said your goodbyes. The summer has gone fast and September has crept up inaudibly. You've spent months researching campuses, weeks poring over program listings, one very stressful afternoon choosing your schedule and one very exciting moment opening your acceptance letter. The date looms ahead and you find yourself getting energized and jittery as you prepare for your first day of college.

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Whether you've chosen to live on campus, off campus or chose the community college in your region, that first semester can be a trail mix of adjectives that would make any summer horror movie trailer jealous. You will be petrified, panicky, provoked, captivated and intrigued. You will make lifelong friends and have lifelong memories made. There will be a morning at 2 am when you're attempting to write an argumentative essay justifying the immediate need to save the orcas, and then at 9 am writing 3 midterms back to back to back and you may wonder if you've made a horrendous misjudgment of your own capabilities.

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There is a lot of newness and independence in college and that is normally what students struggle with the most. Often it is the first time students are away from home. It's the first time students are wholly responsible for their own success, their failures, their money, cooking their own food, cleaning their own place, living healthy and managing their own time. On that first day just getting around campus can be daunting. How do you find your way through that first day of college and then through an entire first semester? I have been a college professor for a few years and have noticed that a successful first day of college can set students up for a successful first semester.

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The key to success the first day of college is preparedness, time management, participation and interactions with others. With this guide you'll be home at Christmas in a program sweatshirt with your college sports team bumper sticker on your car and a new BFF to meet your family!

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  1. 1
    Arrive early
    Your first class doesn't start until 1:00 pm. Awesome! You think, I don't have to get there until 12:30. You want to get there that first day as early as possible. You've got to navigate your way around the campus and with different departments, a wrinkled campus map in your back pocket and a whole lot of acronyms it always takes longer the first day. It is also very busy the first day of the new semester. All students arrive the first day of school, while throughout the semester classes are more staggered and students are delegated to their own departments. Stay calm, get to your classes and if you do get lost look for college organized orientation members. Don't be afraid to ask people including anyone who works at the college or other students - and remember everyone is disorganized and lost that first day (even the professors)!
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  2. 2
    Bypass the lines for the college bookstore, parking pass, and your I.D
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    These are crowded and crammed the first day and you don't really need them that first week. Try to hit the lines at off times, if you have a later class that ends around 3 pm or 4 pm try them then, they are usually less crowded. Also, make sure you're exploring online options, most colleges offer parking permits and I.D. cards online now and there are many different online textbook suppliers where you can get discounted and even used books.
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  3. 3
    Get to class
    No matter what: Whether you're lost, were in the wrong class for the first ten minutes and very late don't be afraid to get there. Walking in late can be awkward and uncomfortable, but walk with confidence, apologize profusely but quickly and find a seat quietly. The professors will understand the first day and you probably won't be alone. Attending the first day is essential so you can get all your introductory materials including the schedule. You also get to meet your professors and they get to meet you. Answer questions in class, ask questions if you have them, and talk to other people around you in class. You're going to be with these people for the next three months and sometimes the next three years. Take the initiative and make an impression. Remember, it's the first day for everyone (including the professor) and everyone is just as nervous and anxious and excited as you are. Try and put yourself out there and talk to those around you, it will make the day go faster and smoother.
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  4. 4
    Get involved
    The first day there will be an area of the campus (usually near the cafeteria) set up with booths and tables where campus organizations can advertise and recruit new students. Make sure you visit these displays. There are so many organizations and campus clubs and teams you've never thought of that there is absolutely be something for everyone! Do you love camping and fishing? Excellent! Join the Outdoors Club and canoe through Algonquin in the summer. Do you love helping others? Perfect! Consider a student mentor program or social activism club. Do you want to lead and be involved in school event? Fantastic! Student council might be for you. Even if you have a busy schedule try and get involved in one club or team in some way. This involvement gives an impression of accomplishment and involvement on a resume, you get to meet new people and you'd be surprised the campus connections and opportunities that arise from these involvements (scholarships, awards, on-campus jobs). Oh, and there are usually companies from the community giving out free stuff! Make sure you get some goodie bags!
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  5. 5
    Keep perspective
    Your first day of college can be nerve-wracking. It is a lot of excitement and a lot of information. But remember, this is one day and it is an important one but your college career will not be dependent on this first day. If you do it right it could be a fantastic start to a fantastic time in your life. But if the day goes downhill - there is always tomorrow. College might be the last time in your life that you are surrounded by people who have the same interests as you, are filled with the same energy and worries and excitement as you and have the same goals as you.
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Carpe Diem. You will hear this at least once somewhere by someone talking into a microphone on that first day. Seize this day and the next one, and the next one, and the next one. Christmas will be here before you know it.

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  • Stay organized. Make sure you have a binder, calendar, and a backpack to keep everything organized. Start your calendar that first day. Consider a large white board calendar for your room to keep track of assignments and events.
  • Eat enough and stay hydrated. You will be walking a lot that first day. Pack a nutritious and filling lunch or hit up free food events across campus. Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Get a full night's rest. You may be nervous and anxious and if you're in residence there will be a lot of nervous energy. Take part in social events the night before but get to bed sober and early.
  • After the first day, there will be student events in the pub or residence. Make sure you DO attend these. You will get a chance to participate in campus nightlife, meet new people and talk to others about their first day.
  • Don't forget about your family. After that first day take time to call or email your parents, siblings, and friends back home. They will want to hear all about your first day and it's important to keep them involved and for you to stay connected.

If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.


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Article Info

Categories : Communications & Education

Recent edits by: Alma, Eng, Sarah Maloney

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