How to Adjust to College Life: 4 Tips for Incoming Freshmen

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How to adjust to college life

Going away to college for the first time is both exciting and scary, so it helps to have an idea of what to expect before you head off to school. I’m heading into my fourth year of university this fall, but I still remember how it felt to go away to a new city and new school, with new people, and new experiences. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event, so being prepared will definitely help you take it all in.

Here are four tips to help you adjust to college life as a new freshman, and seamlessly make the transition from former high school student to successful collegiette.

1. Expect the Unexpected

No matter what your older sister, your mom, or your best friend tells you about their freshman year, yours will undoubtedly be different. Some elements may be the same (like the abundance of alcohol in college dorms, or the lackluster cafeteria food) but your experience is going to be unique because it’s yours.

Also, don’t let your own expectations get in the way of letting your year unfold the way it naturally should. You may not get into the sorority you’ve had your heart set on since middle school, but that could easily open the door for you to join one that is right for you. Maybe you won’t get an A on your very first paper, but it might be a good reality check to help you buckle down and succeed for the rest of the year.

Never let your knowledge of other people’s experiences create unrealistic expectations for your own. Be prepared for anything and enjoy all the surprises your freshman year will offer you.

2. There’s Room for Everyone

Unlike high school, where cliques form quickly and people often feel segregated, colleges are big enough for everyone to find their niche.

During my freshman year, I was more or less shunned by the people on my dorm floor because I didn’t like to party (my course-load was very demanding) and because I chose to stay with my long-distance boyfriend rather than breaking up with him at Thanksgiving like everyone else. However, after awhile I found friends who understood me, and who liked to hang out casually, and were always supportive of my academic drive. It just took time.

So even if the first people you meet on campus aren’t the right friends for you, don’t stop looking. Between classes, clubs, and dorms, you’re going to meet tons of people, and you’re guaranteed to find a few that you’ll love to spend time with.

3. You Will Make Mistakes

It’s inevitable; I’m sorry – mistakes are part of college life. Which mistakes and how many you’ll make may vary, but whether it’s skipping an important class, getting too drunk and vomiting, or hooking up with a guy you really don’t like, every freshman makes at least one mistake or two.

When you inevitably mess up, don’t beat yourself up about it. Take it as part of a learning experience and use it to grow and make better decisions in the future. College isn’t just for learning about advanced chemistry or 19th century literature, it’s for learning about life, and how to become a mature, responsible young adult. Accepting that you’ll make a few mistakes along the way will help you move forward that much faster and become a better person even sooner.

4. You Might Even Change

The person you are when your parents drop you off at college will probably be worlds apart from the one you’ll be when you leave. Change is an inevitable part of the college experience.

Sometimes the change is something you intentionally work on, whether you’re trying to eat healthier and be more active, or working to become more environmentally conscious, or maybe even just taking fashion risks in an effort to be more stylish. Other times, we change whether we intend to or not. It could be through something sad, like a breakup, or something positive, like a chance to study abroad.

The changes we make and experience in college allow us to develop into the people we’re meant to be, but remember two things: who you are on the inside never really changes (at least the good stuff), and there’s always time to keep changing, even (*gasp*) after college. So embrace change as the wonderful blessing that it is, whether it feels like it at the time, or not. Everything will always work out for the best.

What Do You Think?

What was your freshman year like? What was the biggest lesson you learned? What advice do you have for incoming freshmen? Leave a comment and share with us!

21 thoughts on “How to Adjust to College Life: 4 Tips for Incoming Freshmen”

  1. You will definitely change, even if you still live at home and see your high school friends all the time (like me) you will change. College really does open up a whole new world, you will meet all kinds of people and you will have opportunities that you never considered before.

  2. i love number 4- i am a complete different person to the girl i was at 18 starting uni. I feel completely different now- for the better!! You will really find out what your priorities are, and you will really feel like you know who you are.
    This is also great advice for me as even though I’ve been at uni for 2 years I’m starting on my year abroad in two weeks so I need to do this all over again!!
    Great advice :]]

    Charlotte xxx

  3. Yay some canadian writers ! 🙂

    Great post and agree about learning from mistakes (lots of things I did that most people would regret but I try not to regret things just move on and learn)

  4. I know its normal to feel excited and nervous, but I am really a shy, introvert person and though I know I have to change, I cannot help but feel nervous that people won’t like me or talk to me or that I’ll make a mega fool of myself. Can anybody help me?

  5. Im starting university in two months
    and this totally makes me feel better

    and im in the same position as you
    so thank you so much for posting this ! <3

    all the best xo

  6. I know that it says you are from Canada but is that school University of North Texas in Denton Tx?
    Im going there and I SWEAR that its looks just like it. Green banners on the poles and all lol

  7. I just started college a few weeks ago, and … I am kind of disillusioned by everything. The way of studying and learning is different, the way people interact is different … I was determined to do things the “right” way, and I headed to the library to find books on the “right” way of being a college student.

    Surprisingly, there weren’t any. (Or maybe that library isnt well-stocked enough). But it pointed out one thing to me: there is no “right” way. Everyone is different. Everything is different. Just be yourself, and adapt if necessary. Time will help.


  8. its ok to change study majors if you dont like the one that you first choose. I did this three times and i am happy with the current one!

  9. Hey Tara! Congrats on getting into Western! I would say there’s as much partying at Western as at any college, but since it is such a large school, it might seem like more partying. That said, since it is such a big school there is more than enough room for all kinds of groups, including those who don’t drink! (I only drink rarely, but I still have a blast going to UWO). You will love it! Good luck 🙂

  10. My sister is leaving for college in 15 days!!!! I cannot agree more, no matter what I tell her, her experience will be totally different. My college experience was totally different and wild and totally worth it!!!!

  11. Hey ECP, I actually wrote a post on tips for enjoying parties/clubs/and other drinking events at college when you don’t drink. However, I would also suggest seeking out some friends who also don’t drink. Sometimes it’s nice to know you have friends who will be up for anything and won’t expect you to get wasted to have fun.

    Thanks for the nice comments, girls!

  12. Thank you so much for this article! I’m going to be a freshmen and am nervous. But reading this reminded me that i don’t need to be perfect and it’s ok to make mistakes. I’m a work in progress! 😀

  13. the one thing i learned from my freshmen year was you need to open yourself to meet new people. if you are anti-social or like to be by yourself, please don’t be. open yourself to find new people, if you find a person who stands out in one your classes fall semester, try to talk to the person because they could be in the same position you are in and could become your friend the 4 years you are in college.


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