Written by Katie Dwyer for HackCollege.
Moving to college is a stressful moment—a full transition from life at home to a new academic, social, geographic, and personal reality. For many of us who set out on the stereotypical dorm life college reality, freshman year involves packing up and moving out, in a single moment becoming both a college student and someone who no longer lives at home with the folks.
This is understandably stressful.
There’s lots to do and think about during this time—books to buy, a room to decorate, new friends to make… but there’s also a few things you should do your best not to do during freshman year.
Do Not Make Bad Drug and Alcohol-Related Decisions
Most college students end up drinking before they reach a legal age to do so. Perhaps that’s in your future, and for most students a little underage drinking will not result in any lasting harm (academic, legal, health, or otherwise). However, there is no reason at all to start drinking during your first year.
Play it cool. Make some friends and find a community. Settle in. Socially awkward and alone among strangers is a terrible time to start a drinking habit. If you don’t drink that first week, you’ll be one among many, many other students.
Do Not Spend Too Much Time Alone
Even if you’re a bit of an introvert, this first week is a time when everyone is trying to make friends and establish themselves. Put yourself out there, even if it means you’re outside your comfort zone.
Meet a bunch of people and establish a baseline community. Don’t eat alone—go up to people, say, “Do you mind if I join you? I haven’t met many people in the dorms yet.” Ditto for classes, clubs, dorm activities, sports, whatever.
Don’t Assume the First People You Meet Will Be Your Best Friends
As you’re meeting people, take some pressure off yourself in thinking you have to find a new best friend in the first week. You’ll meet a ton of interesting people during your college years, and you’ll also run across a few you don’t click with.
In a perfect world, this first week is about getting to know the people you’ll see regularly, and establish some casual patterns of interactions. You’ll find your college best friends in due course. Don’t worry.
Don’t Skip Any Classes
Seriously, show up for every class. You’ll have plenty of days for sleeping in and playing video games.
Don’t Fall Behind
Do your homework. Read your syllabus. Ask for help if you need it. Even with all the effort of settling in and meeting people and getting used to college life, that’s no reason to fall behind in the first week.
Don’t stress out about coursework too much in the first week—you’ll establish rhythms and get used to the new college academic expectations. But the way you get settled academically is by doing the work. Don’t use the first week as an excuse to fall behind.
Don’t Call Home Too Much
Keep in touch with your family and friends, but try to build a bit of distance during freshman year. Put a bit of pressure on yourself to focus on the new things in your life, rather than looking back at where you’ve been. Last year, we advised you call home about once a week.
Don’t Antagonize Your Roommate
There will almost certainly be ups and downs in your roommate relationship. Try to start off on a good foot!
Don’t Dwell On Your Future
This advice is necessarily vague. But there’s a reason for that. Freshmen (or anyone in an entirely new place) often suffer from an unformed and existential dread. Try not to worry. You have four years of great experiences, relationships, learning, and adventure ahead of you.
You will figure out the hard stuff and find great ways to take advantage of the best stuff. There is almost certainly nothing going on that can’t be figured out.
So make steady progress on your social life and schoolwork, take a deep breath, and make this first week happen. It’s the start of a rockin’ college career.