Campus Life

Getting A Fresh(man) Start

Be it hereby known to all Politically Correct (PC) Policemen … In this article, I will refer to a first-year college student as a “freshman” or, as a group, “freshmen,” regardless of their gender. I’ll leave the terms “freshperson,” “freshwoman,” or even “freshwomyn” to others more socially astute than I am. I’ve even heard PC addicts propose “fresh carbon-based unit” to further nullify gender bias, but I’ll save that jewel for a future opus.Now that we have disclaimers out of the way, let’s get to the point of offering some advice to all of you about-to-be college freshmen out there. Your life is about to change in significant ways and you may need some tips on adjusting your behaviors and thinking in order to negotiate the major changes you’re about to experience.

In surveying the Web for inspiration on the the topic of getting off on the right college-freshman foot, I came across a solid roundup article on U.S. News10 Tips College Freshmen Should Know.


Let’s take a look at some of these. I may even add a few comments of my own.

– Maintain a College Budget

While students and parents are aware of the upfront costs of college, they should also be cognizant of hidden costs. Keeping a record of all expenditures will force students to be accountable for extracurricular spending, including clothes shopping and nights out with friends.

Dave says: This is where credit cards are both a help and a danger. The help aspect comes from the monthly statement that itemizes all your purchases, sometimes even by category. That’s the record-keeping plus of credit cards. The danger, of course, is the psychological trap that allows us to think, mistakenly, that we’re not really spending money when we make credit card purchases, simply because no actual currency changes hands. Don’t fall into that mindset.

– Less Is More When Packing for College

Having to choose what to bring to college can be stressful. Freshmen should remember they are moving into a small space with little storage, advises a College Admissions Q&As post. Students should pack items they can share with roommates and also bring storage boxes that can be stored under beds and in closets.

Dave says: I’ve written about packing for college a number of times here. Check this out, for example. The key is to coordinate with your roommate(s) before hauling all that stuff to your dorm. Working together, you can each bring shared items, such as TVs, stereos, and even some furniture. That will then greatly reduce the load that you and your parents will have to lug to campus. It will also give your dorm room or suite (for those of you blessed to have such upscale accommodations) much more free space to pack in additional attendees at those inevitable wee-hours bull sessions.

– Fight the Freshman 15

For many students, college is the first time they’ve been responsible for their own meals, and college dining halls often offer buffet options. Freshmen who want to fight the bulge should consider counting calories—and many schools have made this easier to do by sharing calorie information.

Dave says: There’s always light beer. College (“buffet”) meal plans aren’t the only threat. Eating out with your pals can also be a threat to both your waistline and your wallet. Skipping meals that are part of your meal plan is also not very good value. In most cases, you’ll be paying for those skipped meals while adding the higher per-calorie cost of restaurant food (don’t forget about gratuities). Bottom line about college food: Don’t let your perimeter get bigger while your purse gets smaller.

– Consider Greek Life

Freshmen who are worried about making friends on campus could consider joining a fraternity or sorority. Greek life exposes students to formal dances, intramural sports, and philanthropic projects, to name a few. But before joining, students should consider the pros and cons of Greek life.

Dave says: The best training film to acquaint you with the details of freshmen pledging a fraternity is Animal House. Caution: If your parents have not seen the film, then don’t let them view it. Greek life can be a double-edged sword. Sure, you can make lots of friends with your frat brothers or sorority sisters, but you can also get derailed from your studies. After all, isn’t getting an education the reason you wanted to go to college? Don’t answer that!

– Dealing With a Bad Grade in College

Receiving a bad grade can be frustrating, but it can also be a learning experience. Students who have questions about their grade should set up a meeting with the professor, which can be beneficial in numerous ways: the student learns from the experience and the professor gets to know the student.

Dave says: I remember the first bad grade I got in college. I thought that I was a pretty good writer, but that “D” on my first English paper sobered me up pretty darn fast. The lesson I learned was to pay closer attention to the assignment, read the instructions for the task more carefully in order to meet the professor’s requirements. Meeting with your professor can do two things for you: (1) It can make you appear to be serious about doing well in your course (even if you’re not), and (2) you can get to know your professor better and perhaps intuit little insights that will help you work with him or her better.

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That’s just a sampling of the ten tips. Check them all to get a broader picture of how to make your freshman year a great one.

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Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles on College Confidential.