What I learned in boating school is . . .

I have sought out the sage advice of students who just finished their freshman year of college. They have hopefully by this time learned enough from their experiences to pass on their knowledge to you. Such wisdom is hard to come by, so pay attention. Leave any other questions for my round table in the comments below.

What advice do you have for incoming freshmen?

Bonnie Rischmann, North Central College Class of 2018

Stay on top of your work. Try not to miss class as it’s easier than you think to get behind and read the syllabus!

Josey Carpenter, North Central College Class of 2018

Take every opportunity you can, don’t avoid doing something because you’ve never done it before, that’s the point. Become friends with your RA. AND Don’t overstock in food for your room, you don’t need as much as you think you do. –

Emily Mackesy, North Central College Class of 2018

Go with the flow!!! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen someone panic because something isn’t the way they wanted it or because something is going wrong. Freaking out is ONLY hurting you. Take a step back and examine the problem and find a solution BEFORE having an emotional reaction. You’ll usually find that it wasn’t even a big deal to begin with.

Also, talk to your parents often. They miss you terribly. And even if you don’t think you’ll miss them and being back home, you will.

Bring earplugs, a sleeping mask, and good quality headphones. You’ll definitely need them. Because when freshmen boys get free vuvuzelas, it gets infuriatingly loud.

Monique A Treviño, North Central College Class of 2018

Study guides! Use them!

D.j. Wohead, North Central College Class of 2018

College is what you make it. And yes that sounds cliché but hear me out…. If you go far away to a school with no one you know, clearly a lot is going to change. If you stay close to home but still live on campus, you have options. If you stay home and commute, you may have to work harder to see changes happen. Choose wisely and don’t make money your deciding factor. Work damn hard for scholarships and fight for the education you want for yourself!

Making friends is not easy, but even if you meet one person on the first day, shake their hand, and talk for a bit, you both will be SO relieved. Do not wait to jump on getting to know others. Do not hesitate to ask people if they’d like to go to the dining center with you. While those first few people you talk to might not be your closest friends in the end, you’ll see each other on campus and smile. Remember that you probably went to school with the same group of people most of your life. These are all NEW people and it is so interesting and rewarding getting to know a new class.

If you’re introverted like me, it might take a bit for you to crack your shell, and this is okay! Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. Just don’t hold yourself back because of it. Talk to people on your floor. Join a club or two. Ask your RA for advice. Like Jack said, it’s also okay to cry. And remember that all change happens outside of your comfort zone. Take it from experience that once you break free a little, that’s when college is the most rewarding. 🙂

What is one thing you wish you knew before starting your first year of college?

Morgan Golias, North Central College Class of 2018

It is totally OK to change your major! College is all about learning what you want to do. Don’t force yourself to do something you don’t want to do!

Emily Mackesy, North Central College Class of 2018

I wish I knew to pack lightly!!! Trust me, just bring the basics, especially if you’re out-of-state like I am. You will get more things as the year goes on, and if you have too much stuff, move-out day will be the worst day of your life. (Take it from me, it SUCKS packing too much.)

Josey Carpenter, North Central College Class of 2018

I wish I knew how important it was to have a microwave.

If you could go back to the beginning of freshman year, what is one thing you would do differently?

Josey Carpenter, North Central College Class of 2018

I would get involved in a club or group right away; it’s harder to do after the year gets going.

Emily Mackesy, North Central College Class of 2018

Relax and enjoy the ride instead of worrying so much. Embrace change and embrace who you are. 🙂

Monique A Treviño, North Central College Class of 2018

Stay on campus.

Thank you again to everyone that took the time to respond to these questions. If anyone has any additional tips or advice, leave your thoughts in the comments below. Don’t forget to like and share!

Skills You Should Learn for College

Transitioning from being with family to basically being on your own can be a very rough change for some students. No matter how much you try to prepare, you just can’t predict what challenges you’ll be faced with once you leave the nest. However, there are some basic skills that you would be better off learning sooner than later. Some of these are pretty self-explanatory, like learning to be organized and making appointments for yourself. Others, however, may require a bit of instruction from family or friends. You can’t just depend on WikiHow every time you want to scramble eggs or clean your bathtub. It helps to learn to be independent before you actually have to be.

Here is a list of some skills you should really work on. Before it’s time to move out, you should work on:

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Feeding yourself. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many college students will graduate without ever having learned how to cook. You can’t live off of sandwiches alone. Try to master two dishes for each meal. For breakfast, maybe learn a couple of ways to make eggs, and try your hand at pancakes. For lunch, vegetable stew from scratch. Dinner, learn how to cook meat properly so you can make dozens of different dishes. As a freshman you may not have access to a kitchen, but as you move up in credits, you’ll probably earn the option to have your own kitchenette to share with your roommates. Imagine their surprise when they wake up to the smell of bacon on a sunday. Whether you realize it now or not, you will be tasked with entertaining guests at some point, and it’s a lot nicer (and cheaper) to have a home cooked meal than to go out to eat again. (Yes, you really will get tired of eating out, I promise.)

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Cleaning. Sure, you probably would have thought of vacuuming and washing the dishes, but you need to really dig in deep with this one. College students are nasty. They don’t bother to clean up after themselves because they aren’t used to it. Take some time to learn how to properly clean the bathroom and the dos and don’ts of bleach. Have you ever cleaned blood out of the carpet, or puke? Of course it isn’t a pleasant idea, but sh*t happens. Familiarize yourself with disinfectants and stain removers so that you can quickly move on from whatever happened in the first place.

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Sewing. Listen up, boys! Not just grandmothers need to know how to use a needle and thread. No one is asking you to become a master dress-maker, but you really should be able to mend small holes in clothing or fix a broken strap on your bookbag. Maybe familiarize yourself with hemming too, as your body can continue to grow throughout college. Learning to let out the waist of your pants could also be helpful, as the Freshman Fifteen definitely exists.

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Watching your health. This is a big one for students. With the stress of classes and sleepless nights of cramming for tests, it’s easy to forget to take a little time to take care of yourself. Add in bad eating habits and an increase in risky behavior, and you’re looking at a disaster waiting to happen. It’s imperative to think proactively about your health, putting aside set amounts of time for sleep and exercise, as well as watching what you eat and making sure to get proper nutrition in your diet. You also need to make sure you’re taking the time to relax, because stress can be physically, mentally and emotionally crippling. In the event that you do become sick or too stressed out, go to the doctor. Don’t make the mistake of putting off a trip to the Wellness Center, because you really can work yourself to death.

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Doing the laundry. Let’s face it; your mom can’t come to college with you. This means that, after the first two weeks, the lack of clean underwear should (hopefully) force you to tackle the mountain of dirty clothes and towels and sheets that has been spilling out of your hamper for quite some time now. And guess what? Using the campus machines is expensive. While I can’t help you with that part, I do have the solution to the rest of your laundry woes. HowToCollege presents: How To Laundry. Follow my sage advice and your clothes will be dirty no more!

These are just a few basic skills you should really get the hang of before moving out. Can you think of anything else? Comment below and share the most important skill you had to learn for college.

Tips for Scheduling Your Freshman Year of College

I was talking with a high school graduate currently signing up for her first college classes, and I gathered some tips for her that I thought could be useful to others as well, so here is some wisdom I’ve acquired over my first year of college:

  • Take difficult classes in the fall, and leave the winter/spring term lighter. Seasonally Affected Depression is a real thing, and you’ll feel like garbage if you overload your winter schedule. If possible, take an interim course over Christmas break to knock out full credits in a month! Also, spring is when everything is happening on campus and with friends, so it sucks to have a full schedule.
  • Even if your freshman classes seem easy, work hard and don’t blow them off. Take the opportunity to build your GPA. High GPA = unexpected scholarships.
  • If you have a light term of classes, maybe schedule them all on the same days to give yourself days off in the middle of the week. I know people who only have classes MWF or TTH and don’t go to class the other days.
  • Conversely, if you have a heavy term of classes, space them out over the week, one or two a day. This gives you more time to get things done.
  • If you’re a morning person, knock out all your classes at 8:00 or 9:00 in the morning so that you’re free by noon. This gives you more social time and time to work if you want a job.
  • If you’re a night owl, take afternoon classes or even evening classes. This leaves your whole day free to sleep, eat, do homework, sleep, work, and sleep. Did I mention you could sleep in?
  • Take a variety of classes your freshman year, maybe one or two classes that don’t sound like your usual type of thing but could be different in a good way. The average college student changes their major three times in their four years. There’s no guarantee you won’t discover the greatest thing in the world by taking a random class.

Coming Soon

How To College is currently more for undergrads than for high school students, which is all fine and well, but what actually inspired me to create this blog in the first place was the lack of help I received when I was applying for college. I had to figure everything out on my own, make lots of guesses, and do actual research – ugh! This is why I’m excited to announce that How To College will soon be providing high school seniors with an honest guide on how to choose, apply to, and prepare for college. This help will come in the form of a separate page just for the kiddies, so that you big bad college students won’t have to see irrelevant stuff popping up in your feed.

I’m also toying with the idea of creating an entirely separate page for tips on campus living. I know how hopeless it can feel when you move into your dorm and see this:

Your thoughts quickly go from first-day excitement to “How will I survive this?”

Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. You can do this, I promise. And I’m here to help you along every step of the way.

Reinvent Yourself

In college it’s easy to get swept up in the fun and forget about why you’re here. It’s important to have a good time and make friends, but at the end of the day, you have to remember that you’re in college to get an education and eventually a job. You have to keep this in mind when you’re out partying Saturday night and come Sunday morning your drunk a$$ is all over Facebook and tagged in about twenty pictures.

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Pictures like this create an image that you probably wouldn’t want future employers to see. You want to present your best self on publicly visible social media. In the online world, we tend to present different versions of ourselves than we do in the real world. This can be pretty misleading sometimes, like in the case of catfishing. However, it’s pretty great when you’re kind of a mess in real life and you want to look nice and professional on your public profiles. You’re not always human garbage, just when you’re wasted. The rest of the time you’re a Good Noodle.

Just be aware of which self you’re presenting on your Facebook and Twitter accounts, because more and more recruiters are searching their applicants’ profiles for unsavory public behavior.

The Realistic Guide to What to Bring to College

Before I came to college, I scoured the internet for the ULTIMATE COLLEGE PACK LIST so that I wouldn’t come to college unprepared. This resulted in a lot of wasted money and returns, and overall a ton of extra clutter that I don’t really use. I also needed to go out and find things later that no one had bothered to mention. So, I figured I’d create an honest list with things that I either own or wish I did. Check it out on Pinterest.

Why are you even here?

Hey you. Yeah, you. Person reading this. Why are you here? Could it be because you find my writing style entertaining and want me to amuse you? Or could it be that you actually appreciate the message I’m trying to give? Or, maybe you’re just here because you have to be. Maybe you’re just reading my posts for class and you’re rolling your eyes every time you get an email that How to College has posted another article. If that is it, believe me, I get it. I’m not the first, second, third, sixtieth, or thousandth person to create an account on some sort of social media and post various “college hacks” that may or may not work for you. But you know what? I’m not like the others. I don’t just read something someone somewhere wrote and repost it for the millionth time like those other sites do. I don’t read a headline of an article, then just link to it without reading it. I don’t post the same tip on microwaving ramen that you’ve seen at least twelve times this week. No, what I do is different. I am here to provide you with actual material that will equip you in your battle with college. You have to slay the beast alone, yes, but not without armor. My articles explain concepts that are commonly misunderstood, teach new ways of thinking, and remind you of what’s really important in life. I don’t just tell you “Learn how to do laundry before you start college because lots of people have trouble with that.” I break it down for you step by step into a For Dummies guide, leaving little to no room for error. I don’t just say “Wait to buy your books.” I explain the whole system for buying textbooks and why it doesn’t have to be so hard. I am here to help you. I am extending my imperfect nail-bitten hand to you as an offer of what wisdom I’ve picked up along my journey, keeping in mind that I am still on it. If you want the same inapplicable fun facts, go follow one of the several hundred twitter accounts dubbed “CollegeHacks” or something along those lines. If you want honest advice from someone who knows what college students need to be told, stick around. It’ll benefit you in the long run.