Secrets to Freshman Year

For my friends heading off to college, here are a few secrets:
I originally wrote this as an email to my cousin. When he was in town last we were talking about college and beginnings and I was sharing with him all my little tips. It may be a few weeks in for some of you, but I hope these little secrets will help make your life a little easier.  
-Friends are like dating. You have to ask people to lunch or to watch a football game with you. Become friends or at least decent acquaintances with someone in every class so that you can study with them, or, more importantly, borrow their notes when you can’t make it. On campus, it’s a simple walk to the cafe/coffee shop/game. Simply ask someone if they want to go to dinner with you, or the game, or a late night food run, or maybe a nearby coffee shop to study after class. (Use the word “class” when describing school, makes you sound older. Also, people will ask you what “year” you are, not grade.)
– Also, get their number. That is always the goal (again, like dating).
– College is all about networking. It’s all about making friends. That’s why I put it first. Friends know people who know people or they are the people who will ask you to hang out with them, help you on homework, get you a job. It never hurts to make a friend.
-Find a community. Get plugged in. It will make you want to come to school and you will do better. Communities strengthen retention rates, which colleges are ALL about. So colleges want to help you find people to connect with so that you stay. No one is working against you but yourself. Go to that really stupid freshman function thing. If no one is there, then leave. If people are there, maybe you can make a new friend and you both can complain together about how corny the event is. Here’s a corny analogy for you: College is the real estate of your career, so if the golden rule of real estate is location, location, location, the golden rule of college is connect, connect, connect. 
– If you live in the dorms, keep your door opened when you’re just hanging out in your room, people will wander in and it’s the most organic way to meet friends. 
Annecdote: Freshman year, me and my roommate got a fish. We wrote on the marker board on our door “Help us name our fish!” and that brought in a lot of people. 

Don’t buy books until you go to class and the professor talks you through the syllabus. Your freshman friends will freak out that you’re “unprepared” but I see it as you are solidifying your responsibilities. Also, you can just get fast shipping, or tell your prof your book isn’t in yet and you bought it online to save money (how economical you are!) and you can just make a friend by sharing a book with your neighbor for a week. But don’t overstay your welcome.

For specialized classes you may have to buy a book, but it depends. 
For gen eds, only buy the book if it’s a class that will be in your major (i.e. may be a good idea to buy the chem book if you’re a chem major because it may come in handy later). If not, then rent. And rent CHEAP. Ask the prof (or hopefully/usually they will say in class) what the earliest edition you can get is) or better yet, save by borrowing books from the library, splitting a book with a friend, or just using that great thing called the internet. DO buy books you know you will need in the future. For example, as an english major, most of my classes use the Norton Anthology, so it’s a good idea for me to just go ahead and buy that if I see it on a syllabus. And it’s a worthwhile investment because I’ll read those again.  
For best book buys : 
– Alibris, Amazon Prime Student (free shipping),, ebay, chegg (great for renting), craig’s list in a pinch. 
The really great thing about our generation is the limitless access we have to knowledge via the internet. Learning how to research online is a very useful skill, so start now by trying to find some of your materials online for free. You can print them off for class or bookmark them in your reading list (for macs) and pull it up in class if you’re allowed to bring a computer. 
For online reference: 
– Khan Academy (math, some business math, science. super helpful tutorials)
– Wolfram Alpha (math mostly, but be careful with this one bc it will solve problems all the way through without showing you how and you could get wrong answers. It’s only an algorithm)
– Sparknotes (for saving your quiz grade and when you didn’t quite finish that book for comp 1. Although I still recommend finishing it before the final)
– Project Gutenberg (so that you don’t have to buy that random two page text for a history or english class. Lots of old FREE books on here.)
– MOOCS (massive open online courses available at any major university, and free, and online). 
– Evernote (for notetaking. Syncs up your notes to all of your electronic devices that it is downloaded onto.)
– GoogleDocs ^^ same thing, but easier to share with people. Like a google doc for notetaking. But don’t use Googledocs on tests. that’s cheating. 
– if all else fails, do check out your local used book store or off campus university book store. The people there can run your schedule and classes and find all the books you need. Definitely worth it in a pinch, or if you need the book tomorrow. 
There are local stores or online sites where you can sell back your books at the end of the year. Usually they rip you off, but it’s better than nothing. You can also see it as though you were renting the books, since you are returning them/selling them back. BUT, if you just buy them for dirt cheap to begin with, then anything’s a profit. 
I recommend running through the books you need from your syllabi and seeing if you can find them online for free, then copy and paste the link in your syllabus for later reference. 
– a planner. Or find some efficient, fool proof way to know what is due and when it’s due. I’m an organizational freak, so I have a paper planner and my computer (which syncs to my phone). On my computer or in my planner, I spend some extra time at the beginning of the semester writing down everything that is due for class/reading/tests in my calendar so that I have it and can look on my phone (which it syncs up to) and see what is due in class tomorrow if I haven’t written in down in my planner. 
– Moleskine planners are the best and usually found at Barnes & Noble. 
– an extra computer charger. Ebay. Also a portable phone charger. If you’re really busy all the time. Great for commuting. 
– a notebook. some profs don’t like computers. 
– The most important thing I learned in college is time management. Treat your studies like a job. Give yourself organized time to study. I highly recommend doing this during the day because you’ve already spent the last 8 years of your life studying and learning during the day, and most people are going to want to do something fun after dinner. 
– For me, this means breaks in between classes to soak up what I just learned and to get some reading done before the next class. I also treat my schooling like a job and try to get work done before 3pm. That’s just me. May work differently for you. 
– at the beginning/end of the week, look ahead in your calendar to see what needs to get done for the next week, that way nothing sneaks up on you. Assignments will sneak up on you, but it’s better that you’re prepared for it than not. 
Another secret: Black coffee is the best and cheapest coffee to buy. Americanos are awesome and only $2 most places. IF you’re a coffeeaholic like me 🙂 
xoxoxoxoxo love you and proud of you. You’ll do great! 

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