If you’re about to start College or University, then you’re at a very exciting time in your life. For many, life as a student can be very fun and memorable, but it’s not always easy. This is a crucial time where you’ll decide the trajectory of the rest of your life.
Because of this, we at Charlie Academy want to give you some tips and suggestions that will help as you adjust to this new phase of life.
I’ll be covering the most important aspects of adjusting to student life including:
- Adjusting to a new routine
- Building study habits
- Making friends
- Embracing opportunities for personal growth
- Paying for school
- Balancing study, work and social time
Adjusting to Life As A Student Life:
Whenever you experience a change in your life there is always an important adjustment period that you have to give yourself. At first you may feel overwhelmed, lonely, and stressed. This leads to the desire to give up and go home. This is a natural feeling that comes to many first year college students, including me.
When I first got to college I had moved from out of state and was a long way from my parents and any family. I felt like I had the ability to make friends but was still very lonely. In the time before classes started I spent a majority of my time in my cramped dorm room. To make matters worse, my roommate ended up with different living arrangements so I was completely alone.
As hard as it was, I simply needed to give myself time to adjust to my new circumstances, schedule, and responsibilities. It took me about two weeks to start getting the hang of things, but even longer until I felt entirely comfortable.
Whatever you do, don’t give up before you’ve given this new opportunity a real chance! It can be extremely tempting to pack up your bags and go home, but until you’ve actually adjusted to University life, don’t even entertain that thought.
If you’ve genuinely given it a chance, and don’t feel that getting a College degree is the right path for you, then that’s ok! There are plenty of other options, including trade school. Here is a great article that lists other options: 22 Realistic Alternatives to College | Global Citizen Year
Now let’s talk about helpful resources available to you. Obviously, every college or university is different, but most of these are available at every university.
Many campuses will have first year mentors for incoming students. These mentors are there to help you navigate your new experiences. Similarly many colleges have a whole department dedicated to helping first year students. If you have a student resource and activity building on campus, you are likely to find help there.
Such a resource center can provide information on everything you need. Consider asking them about the following tools:
- Professor office hours
- Teaching assistants
- Library resources, often including free or discounted access to hundreds of databases and services that are often expensive to pay for yourself
- Writing center (they can help you with those pesky essays)
- Math Lab (for help with those pesky math assignments)
College and university courses require self-discipline, independent thinking, and time management. Take advantage of orientation programs and workshops designed to help you transition successfully.
Building Study Habits:
Successful student life requires effective study habits. Everyone learns differently and your circumstances are going to be different than everyone else’s, so establish study habits and routines that fit your needs.
Here are some general rules to help you out:
1 – Allocate dedicated study time.
My freshman year, a mentor told me that I should treat my studies like a 9:00-5:00 job. That meant that no matter when my classes started I was on campus at 9:00 am and stayed until 5:00 pm in order to attend classes, finish assignments and study for tests.
That was a good option while I wasn’t working, but now that I do, that schedule doesn’t quite fit. Whatever you choose, make sure you stick to a dedicated schedule that keeps you accountable.
2 – Create a conducive workspace.
As much fun as it may seem to study with all of your friends, that typically leads everyone to being distracted. Either way, a conducive workspace has as few distractions as possible, but also allows you immediate access to things you need.
I like to snack while I work, so I always keep something close by. Other things you may need are water, non-distracting music, a comfortable chair, desk, your laptop, and other study tools. Make sure your space is set up before you start so that you don’t interrupt your work to find the things you need.
3 – Use tools such as planners or digital apps to stay organized.
There are several relevant study tools and apps that can help you stay focused and organized. A planner, notecards, and a calculator are very basic resources but can be very helpful. Additionally, here is an article that details several helpful study apps: The Best Apps for Studying of 2023 – BestApp.com
4. Take Breaks!
If you’re not at your best mentally your study time won’t yield the results that you want. So instead of studying until you burn out, take small breaks as often as you need them without being unreasonable. Always set a timer so your break doesn’t turn into hours of wasted time.
Do something that helps take your mind off the task, but something that won’t suck you in. Avoid social media and TV, and focus on things that will help you re-energize and gain focus. My personal choice is reading, but other valuable options can include: taking a power nap, exercising, eating something healthy, going for a walk, and calling a friend or family member.
5 – Break Down Your Coursework
Oh, our common enemy: procrastination. What a killer of us all! (Hopefully you read that in a Shakespearean way). Whatever you do, don’t let procrastination kill your grades.
When you get behind in school it becomes a downward spiral that leads to falling farther and farther behind. However, if you start your semester by staying on top of current assignments you should be just fine! Look ahead for larger projects and see if there is anything you can start doing now to prepare or break down the workload.
6 – Take advantage of your resources!
I said it before, but it’s worth saying again. Utilize the resources at your disposal! Visit your professors during their office hours, talk with TA’s (teaching assistants), go to review sessions, and take advantage of tutors!
Developing strong study habits early on will set a solid foundation for your academic success throughout your college or university experience.
One of the most enriching aspects of student life is the opportunity to meet new people and form lifelong friendships. Most of the best friends that I’ve ever had are from University.
Your social scene is going to depend a lot on where you live. My freshman year, I lived on campus in a dorm room with no kitchen, so everyone ate in a community cafeteria. That made it really easy to socialize and make genuine friends.
After my first year I moved into an apartment complex and I found that I had to put a lot more effort into making new friends. That doesn’t make it impossible, but I had to seek after social opportunities rather than them coming to me.
I’ve never had any experience with fraternities or sororities, so here is an article you can read if that’s something you’re interested in: Studying in the US: fraternities and sororities explained | Student (timeshighereducation.com)
No matter where you live, there will definitely be orientation activities that you can attend your first week of college. Usually they will divide you into groups and this will naturally give you an opportunity to make new friends.
There may be other activities like dances (which is where I met several of my friends) club rush, sporting events, and many other festivities that will depend on where you are attending.
Be open minded about the people you begin interacting with. I was very surprised at the different types of people who became part of my friend group. Don’t shy away from new perspectives or experiences.
Building a Network:
One of the biggest advantages of college is that it helps you connect to others that can boost your career potential. These can be peers, but they may also be professors or other faculty at the institution where you study.
Though it may feel frightening at first, try to connect with your professors and build positive relationships with them. Many of them are at the top of their fields, and they have connections that you can tap into. Go in and talk with them during their office hours, asking for help or advice. You may just find a valuable mentor.
Consider joining student organizations related to your academic field or pursuing extracurricular activities that align with your passions. These activities provide platforms to meet like-minded individuals and expand your social circle.
Embracing Opportunities for Personal Growth:
Your schooling is about a lot more than just attending classes. If you want to make it far in life you have to internalize this truth: what you know is only as good as who you are.
So go out and seek opportunities that will build different aspects of yourself. The University you attend may likely provide a lot of these opportunities for you.
Here’s a list of all the fun, engaging or meaningful extracurricular activities I could think of:
- Clubs that match your interests
- Student government (which usually doesn’t just include the main officers. In college there are likely a lot of other roles involved that you could get started with)
- Community service (I volunteered as a youth mentor for a sixth grader from a local elementary school. It was genuinely my favorite part of the week)
- Research projects (some Universities will allow undergrad students to help out with research as well!)
- Campus publications
- Competitions (oftentimes there will be essay competitions that offer cash prizes)
- Performing arts
- Intramural Sports (for those like me who aren’t good enough to play at the college level, or maybe even at the high school level, but love sports)
Additionally there may be other more traditional learning opportunities outside of the classroom including guest lectures, seminars, workshops, and conferences. Overall, engaging in extracurricular activities broadens your horizons and enriches your overall educational journey.
These experiences provide practical skills, expose you to new perspectives, and help you build a diverse skill set that can set you apart in the job market. They can help you build your resume, but I encourage you not to do them just for the sake of that kind of outcome. Do them because you genuinely want to improve yourself and enrich your life! Your experience will be much more positive that way.
Paying For School:
Paying for school can be an absolute nightmare. My advice may not be perfect, but I hope it provides a foundation for your financial plans.
The first thing I’ll say is that you should avoid debt at all costs. It’s worth the difficulty and sacrifice now to work and study at the same time in order to avoid years and years of debt bearing down on you in the future.
There are times where debt is essentially unavoidable, as in the case of medical school. If you become a Doctor though, your future salary will balance the cost. If you’re planning on getting a degree that will pay you less–that’s great, money isn’t everything–but don’t incur a lot of debt that you won’t be able to easily pay back.
Now moving on to ways that you can pay for school. The first good option is federal student aid. There are two types of federal aid which include loans and grants. You want to avoid loans if possible (as I mentioned earlier) but federal student grants don’t have to be repaid and are therefore very desirable.
The key to all of this is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. FAFSA is the form you need to fill out in order to see if you qualify for any of the grants that they offer. The website will walk you through all of the necessary steps: Home | Federal Student Aid.
The next option for help with paying for school is scholarships. There are a lot of different scholarships out there so the secret to actually earning money is to sift through all of the fluff. You have to find scholarships that apply to you.
The first type of scholarship that you have good chances of winning is a merit based scholarship. This is a scholarship that is offered by the University that you are planning on attending based on your GPA, test scores or other merits. You will be able to find most of these on the website of your institution.
The next type of scholarship you should focus on applying for are scholarships that are offered from companies or institutions that you have ties to. Try checking with
- Law Firms
- The company your parents work at
- The company you work for
- Your High School
- Extracurricular organizations you have ties to
I’m going to list down below some helpful scholarship websites. Before you check them out, you need to know to avoid spam or sweepstakes scholarships. These are the types of scholarships that are “too good to be true”. Any scholarships that don’t require an essay or some other way for you to set yourself apart are considered sweepstakes. They have thousands and potentially millions of applicants and you are unlikely to win. Additionally check out this video talking about how to avoid scams: Don’t Get Scammed: How to Identify Legitimate Scholarships – YouTube
Here are the scholarship websites:
- Find Free Exclusive Scholarships for College (June 2023) | Bold.org
- Scholarships | JLV College Counseling
- Scholly – #1 College Scholarship App – Win Free Money for College – Scholly (myscholly.com)
If you want to pay for school, you’re probably going to need to get a job. You’ll need to personally evaluate what time bandwidth you have, and evaluate how many hours you can work a week.
I recommend getting a job on campus because they are usually very flexible with your class schedule and may let you work for a few hours a week to supplement any scholarships or other aid you have received.
Balancing Work and Student Life:
Balancing a job and student life requires careful planning and time management. Remember to strike a healthy work-life-study balance, ensuring you have sufficient time for relaxation and self-care.
When juggling work and studies, effective time management becomes essential. Create a schedule that accommodates your work hours, class time, study sessions, and personal activities. Set realistic goals, break tasks into smaller steps, and learn to delegate or ask for help when necessary.
Seek support from academic advisors or counselors who can provide guidance on maintaining a healthy balance. Additionally, at Charlie Academy we have some awesome resources that can help you learn to maximize your time. The first is our free library that has resources to help you learn Time Maximization – Leadership Library – Charlie Life & Leadership Academy (wpengine.com). We also have a course for sale that details how to maximize your time and gives you relevant tools and practice. Here’s a link: Leadership Courses – Charlie Life & Leadership Academy (wpengine.com)
Embarking on student life at a college or university is an adventure filled with personal growth, academic challenges, and exciting opportunities. Remember that student life is a time for exploration, self-discovery, and personal development. Embrace all that college or university has to offer, and seize the opportunity to learn, grow, and create memories that will last a lifetime.