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Surviving Freshman Year

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It may seem big and scary, but it's not that bad!Being a college freshman isn't the easiest thing in the world. As a college student, you now have to deal with longer papers, tougher exams, and the occasional insane professor. The upshot is that a whole new level of freedom is afforded to you. Class schedules, deadlines, and whether to even attend class at all is at your discretion. However, it's vital that you realize that these freedoms come with a cost also. For the first time in your life, your grades will be permanently bound to you and will play a factor in your success for the rest of your life.

To help ease the transition to the college classroom, here are six tips to help you survive and thrive in your freshman year!

1. Why Am I Here Again? 

This is the single most important a student can ask themselves. The answer shouldn't be what career you are interested in, but rather what you envision to achieve in college. Are you at college to succeed academically? Trying to figure out what your interests are? Or maybe you're just there to for the heck of it and plan on drifting through undergrad without a tangible goal. Once you decide what why you're bothering with college, you can decide how much effort you should put in depending on high (or low) your motivation level.

2. Get Organized

Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Wrong. College is a world away from high school where our teachers tended to lead us through all the homework and due dates. College classes operate on a much different note; professors usually post the due dates for the full semester and expect you to take the initiative and write them down. It would be wise to invest in a good planner, wall calendar, PDA, or whatever you find works for you. No matter what you buy to keep track of your assignments, the bottom line is to remember to use it! That planner isn't going to be of much use if it's at the bottom of the paper pile on your desk.

3. Use Every Opportunity

Another orientation or campus tour to attend? Do it, because the faster you learn your way around campus, the better it is for you. Study groups? Yes, yes, yes! As long as they are efficient and remotely useful, study groups can help you make important connections on campus. Joining a student organization can have some redeeming value since you become integrated into the campus community quicker and meet those interesting and slightly neurotic people you'll remain friends with 20 years down the line.

4. Take That Extra Class

Take a deep breath and trust me on this one. Long gone are the days where you could get that bachelor's degree in four years. Instead, 53 percent of undergrads take six years to complete their degrees. Most students are slowed down by tedious prerequisites and general electives that don't concern their major. Adding an extra class or two each semester can help save you a full extra year of studying. You could also add an extra minor or two. According to the Law of Forced Efficiency, if you add more things to your plate, you will still find time to complete them all within the same amount of time.

5. Go To Class

This is the most basic thing a student can do to succeed, and yet, as you will undoubtedly see for yourself, many students skip class too often. If you are serious about your education, then make sure you go to class, every day, unless you have a very good reason not to. From experience, there have been several times where my grade was a borderline A- and the professor gave me an A because I hadn't missed a single class all term. More importantly, attending class keeps you in the know about upcoming exams, changes in due dates, and other important announcements your professor may have.

6. Watch What You Eat

Heard the jokes about the campus food? If not, you soon will. Between essays and exams, who has time to track their eating too? Just as you schedule your classes, set up a healthy meal plan that you will stick to. Those campus vending machines are not your friend and are laced with highly inflated junk food, with an emphasis on the junk part. If you do decide to venture into the campus cafeteria, think before you reach for the fatty or oily foods. These days it's becoming much more common for campus dining halls to offer a "healthy bar" (read: salad bar). Packing your own snacks before class also helps in avoiding a complete breakdown of your will-power next to the vending machines. For more information on eating well at college, check out this article by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Author of this article: Huda Jawad
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