Surviving The First Year Of College

University life doesn't have to be a royal pain in the butt - even if you ARE an incoming freshman. Here are survival tips from people who've been there, done that, and survived it.

Saying good-bye to the 'rents, the pets, and the home city/town seems exciting on the surface, especially if you're packing in to attend university. You're finally out on your own, making new friends, trying new things, and earning a degree.

Oh, and you're incurring massive student loan debt, most likely - and you're probably going to have at least one minor argument with your roommate before the end of the school year.

But don't let that stop you. Here are some survival tips for the transition.

BEFORE YOU LEAVE:

* Get all your paperwork into the appropriate departments and offices before the deadlines. This includes your housing and meal plan contract, application for admission, and registration for classes. Be VERY sure that you keep copies of EVERYTHING you submit, especially contracts.

The best way to submit paperwork is in person: that way, nobody can claim it never reached the office, and the papers can't get lost in the mail. Ask for receipts where necessary, and get names of the people with whom you speak, just in case something goes wrong.

* Deal with financial aid as soon as humanly possible. Unexpected delays in applications (especially for PELL grants and student loans) could result in late charges. Be sure everything is done and ready to go at the first opportunity.

The best part of doing it early is that, if all goes well, you have plenty of time to relax and enjoy the rest of the time you have with your family and friends before you leave.

* Meet with advisers as soon as possible. If you're an incoming freshman, you probably can't declare a major just yet - but you CAN talk with an adviser to figure out the best plan of action. You'll work out what classes to take, when to schedule free time (don't forget that you have to eat lunch at some point), and how many hours to take that semester.

NOTE: don't take too many hours your first semester. In most cases, taking 12 hours puts you at full-time status, while giving you plenty of time to make new friends and adjust to your new environment. You can always increase the workload your second semester.



* Make contact with your roommates before move-in day. Most schools give mailing addresses; some give phone numbers or e-mail addresses. Introduce yourself as soon as possible so that you'll feel more comfortable on move-in day. You'll know your roommate's name and a few things about him or her that will help jump-start the conversation - and you'll know who's in charge of bringing the microwave, DVDs and mini-fridge.

* Get contact information from friends and family before you leave. There's nothing worse than wanting to call one of your friends from high school, only to find that you don't have his or her number. Make sure all the important info is programmed into your phone AND written down in a secure place (address book).

WHEN YOU'RE PACKING:

* Know what you can and cannot take. If you're living on-campus, your room contract should spell out the terms. For example: most schools won't let you have candles, so double-check before you put them into your suitcase.

* Only take what you need (and a few of the things that you really-really-really want to have around). Your room is only going to be so large. Unless you want to trip over your rarely-used hockey gear every time you get out of bed, you might want to consider leaving it at home with Mom and Dad.

* Plan for the seasons. If you're packing in August for the Fall semester, remember that you may not be able to get back home before Thanksgiving break. Pack your jacket and other winter clothes.

* Consider your mode(s) of transportation. If you're starting at a community college, you probably don't really need to invest in, say, a bicycle. However, if you're going to a large university, it might be a wise investment. Check with the school before you buy, though, to be sure that you're familiar with the rules for owning and riding them on the campus.

AFTER YOU GET THERE:

* Take the time to settle in. Most schools give students at least two to three days to adjust before classes start. Take this time to unpack your bags, arrange your room the way you want it, and hang out with your roommate.

* Walk around the campus and study the maps/directories to find out where your classes will be on the first and second day of school. (It's always good to know ahead of time, just in case you oversleep the first day.)

* Make new friends. Check with the Student Activities office to find out about upcoming events, most of which are free (or very cheap) for students. If you live on-campus, your residence hall might have "get-acquainted" programs happening the first few days.

Whatever the case, enjoy your life as a student, and study hard - this is only for the next few years of your life, so get as much out of it as you possibly can.

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