Last summer, I was exactly where you are right now — scavenging the Internet to find any sort of advice as to how to make my transition into my first year of college less stressful. I had heard a bunch of advice from older friends and family, but I really wanted to know the few things that would get me through my first year. What I would come to learn was that no article I had come across would teach me all the lessons I learned myself as I began on my freshman year. Fortunately for you, I kept track of the top 10 things that not only helped me survive but also helped me succeed during my first year of college, and I am here to share them with you — the things they don’t tell you, the most surprising aspects, and the best lessons I’ve learned.

  1. You might actually hate your roommate…but that’s okay. – So, in all honesty, I did not have the best roommate experience (if you’re reading this, roommate, sorry). I initially thought I had hit the jackpot when I met my first roommate, Cheyenne, over Facebook. We stayed together during orientation and made a group of friends that we would carry over into our first weeks of  college. However, when we got assigned the tiniest and most run-down dorm on campus, things went downhill. Due to my claustrophobia, I did not see myself being able to spend a year in a room so small; I asked the university if they would change our room but because I was the only one with the health issue, they could only switch me. As sad as I was to leave a roommate who felt like a soulmate, I decided to go with the room change for my health. And I bad could a random roommate be? Well… she wasn’t terrible is the thing; she is a very nice girl we just didn’t live the same lives. Because of this we never got close and the place that was supposed to feel like home did not entirely. I stayed at my other friends’ dorms until the last shuttle ran and I did almost all my homework on campus, but at the end of the day rooming with this girl taught me a lot about myself and how I live with other people. The year flew by quickly, but truthfully having a roommate who I wasn’t best friends with wasn’t terrible and taught me a lot about myself, as a roommate and a person. I learned I need alone time more than I thought, and that I hate watching Netflix with headphones in. I also learned how to be patient and communicate with others that I did not have a close relationship to. Overall, I have an immense appreciation for my roommate experience.
    1. (inspo: my friend Morgan Harper (@The Ohio State University), “You don’t have to be best friends with your roommate so don’t force it.”)
  2. Join the Facebook group. – There is ALWAYS going to be a Facebook group. Whether it’s for your entire graduating class, for your greek house, or for your club, there will be a group. This group will be the place where you can ask any and all questions, where you can make friends, and where you can find almost all the information for that specific group that you would need to know. The ‘University of Oregon 2021’ Facebook group is where I would meet my roommate and how I was able to stay in touch with many of my orientation friends.
  3. Going to class will help you learn a lot about yourself. – Okay I know this one makes it sound like I’m really lame and secretly a professor who is trying to brainwash you into not having fun but I promise I’m not. And highkey this actually is really fun and cool…All of my classes were taught in different styles so I had to learn a lot about myself so I could keep up with them. This included how I take notes, where I sit in the classroom, how to study outside of class, how to study for a multiple choice exam vs. a written one, etc. The list goes on. Skipping class is not worth it for obvious reasons like you are missing out on vital material and you are wasting a couple thousand dollars, but also because of the personal lessons that will be given along with them. It’s simply not worth it, just go to class.
  4. Culture shock is weird but will teach you a lot (so don’t be scared). – I think one of the most surprising things about leaving home and living somewhere else was the culture change. In my personal experience, I come from a very liberal bubble, but I had heard that where I was going was also very liberal. I felt prepared and safe going to a place that sounded a lot like where I grew up, but was surprised to learn that where I was going wasn’t like home at all. Not to downplay my school at all; I LOVE where I go to school and where I live and feel very lucky to be in such an accepting place, but moving away from home taught me a lot about the rest of my country without even visiting every other state. It taught me a lot about what my political status meant to me versus others, it taught me how I need to be using my power and voice in this world. It also taught me how to respectfully disagree with opinions that are different from mine, a tool I know I will need going into my future profession and I am so grateful to learn this already in my first year.
  5. Learn your style of note taking. – Everyone is different; some people are better at writing notes and some are better at typing. Some need to be in the middle and front of the class and others off to the side. Not only do people have different styles, but one person could have a different style for different classes (for example: math versus history). Regardless of whichever style fits you best, learn it quickly. The sooner you know what works best for you the better!
  6. Learn your stress relievers. – This one is KEY. Not to freak you out or anything, but college is a lot more stressful than I thought it would be. Simple things that calmed me down in high school were either no longer an option or didn’t work as well. As soon as I learned that iced water, a few deep breaths, and a 30-minute (max) distraction was what I needed to keep hustling, my freshman year got a whole lot easier. Remember that you are stronger than the stress, take care of yourself and continue to move forward.
  7. Plan out your day by the hour/use a planner. – Along with the stress of my classes, having busy days all around campus added to my anxiety. Because of this, every single night I would write in the notes on my phone AND in my planner what I was doing every hour the next day. This included notes as detailed as, “8:00 am: wake up (drink water). 8:30: shower. 9:15: leave for bus at 9:30 (grab breakfast downstairs),” and so on. Knowing exactly what I had to do when I had to do it was a huge help to my mental health throughout the year.
  8. DO NOT BUY YOUR TEXTBOOKS! – Let me explain before your parents make you unsubscribe to us…Of course you need your textbooks (well, most of them) but RENT THEM! If I knew this going in, I would have saved my grandmother a lot of money. Your bookstore will most likely have a section where you can go and check out used books that you will return at the end of the year for a fraction of the price of a new book. If it isn’t in your school’s bookstore, check Amazon! I guarantee they will have almost everything you’re looking for and for a used-price. And if you’re someone who needs to write in your textbook…sticky-notes are your new best friend.
  9. There is always another party. – I feel like this seems sorta cliché but it has to be said. College is SUPPOSED TO BE really wild. I mean we’ve all seen the movies, we’ve all heard the stories, we’ve all seen the snapchats…let’s be real it’s supposed to be the time of our lives. The reason I stressed “supposed to be” is because the things I just listed – movies, stories, snapchats – are publicized to make everyone believe that going out is the most important part of college. Big news flash for ya: its not. I’m not a mom. I’m not someone who hates partying; I am a 19 year old girl who loves making memories as much as the next person, but I also love staying in my bed and finishing New Girl for the 12th time. And I loved getting my homework done so I could spend the next day at the river with my friends. Especially in college, there is a party every weekend so do not waste your time going to every single one. Spend time on your studies and building friendships and keeping up your health, and then celebrate with a party or two later on when that is all in check.
  10. Biggest lesson learned – be kind to yourself. – This kind of goes with the point above, but needs to be stressed on its own. College is hard. Like….really hard. In my first year I learned that the toughest part isn’t remembering everything in class or dealing with whatever went down the night before. It’s dealing with both of those things and the money you owe for the term, and the FAFSA update, and calling your grandma back, and getting tickets for your favorite artist coming to town whose concert also happens to land on the day before your toughest final, alllll at once. It’s calling your mom because you don’t know “how to adult” yet but also going to your friend’s Nasty 19 because you’re still only that young. At the end of it all, remember one thing: you are human. We all make mistakes, we’ve all slept in once or twice, we’ve all forgotten our iClickers, we’ve all pulled all-nighters. This college thing is hard, but as long as you are kind to yourself, you’re going to kill it.

As I said in the beginning, my friends and I learned all of this from experience. And although these are the hacks I would consider most important, you will learn many on the way and in your own personal experience! Remember to stay open minded and excited, this new chapter in your life is going to be one you’ll never forget.



Madison Otey (Meredith College)
Morgan Harper (The Ohio State University)
Nathalie Mitchell (The Ohio State University)

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