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What I Wish I Knew as a College Freshman

what to know college freshman


Olivia SantoAs I enter my senior year at the Fashion Institute of Technology, I think about everything I learned, my regrets, and everything I wish someone had told me before I started college. I learned a lot in my classes in the past few years, but it doesn’t quite compare to what I learned outside of those classes.

It’s incredible (and a little frightening) how fast college goes by. With that being said, I can’t stress enough how important it is to make the most of your college experience. Be open to learning new things and learn from your mistakes, because trust me, you’ll have your fair share of them. But above everything else, remember to set yourself up for success because before you know it,  you’ll be getting ready to enter into the real world.


Here is what I wish I knew as a college freshman:

Go to orientation.

Orientation usually takes place the week before classes start, and is typically filled with a few days of on-campus activities. Now I know what you might be thinking, “ice-breakers and team building games are lame.” While you might not be entirely wrong, these games will put you in teams with other students that are in the same boat as you. You’ll get the chance to spark conversation, meet new people, and potentially make friends that will last you all throughout college.


Live in a residence hall with a communal bathroom.

When I lived on campus my freshman year, I lived in an apartment-style dorm with three other girls. Yes, it was convenient being able to have my own kitchen and bathroom whenever I pleased, but I felt isolated from the other people on my floor. If you have the opportunity to pick your dorm-style, I highly recommend picking a dorm that has a communal bathroom or kitchen. It might be inconvenient at times, but sharing a communal space will force you to come in contact with the people on your floor very frequently, which can lead to meeting more people and making a lot of lasting friends.


Family is very important.

While beginning your new-found independence your first semester of freshman year and meeting tons of new people, it’s easy to lose contact with your old roommates- your family. Remember to call them every once in a while, just to say hello because believe me, they miss you more than you miss them. Also, make it a point to call and thank your parents, especially if they are the ones who helped you get to college in the first place. During college you’ll make friends that come and go, but your family is who will always be there for you.


Relationships with high school friends will change.

Which isn’t necessarily such a bad thing. When you meet up with your best friends that stayed with you all through high school during holiday break, you might notice that things aren’t how they used to be. People change drastically during college, including you. Everyone gets new interests, meets new people, and experiences different things, which naturally changes you as a person. These changes might make you drift from or even become closer with old friends, so keep in mind that change isn’t always a bad thing.


Join a club on campus.

One of my biggest regrets during college is not joining a campus club. Joining a club on campus can teach you a new skill, add some color to your resume, and especially help you make friends. Sororities, glee club, entrepreneurship club, or even intramural soccer could introduce you to people who have the interests that you on a reoccurring basis. I thought that I would make tons of friends just by going to class and believe me when I say it’s not as easy as it looks because there is no down time to chat. With clubs, you’ll see the same people who have the same interests as you several times a week, which is the secret to making good friends.


Don’t wait until the last minute to do work.

No one likes to be up until six o’clock in the morning finishing up a presentation and ten page paper that is due at 9 a.m., unless you enjoy presenting your project to your classmates running on three cups of coffee. College courses are difficult, especially during freshman year because you’re still getting adjusted to the course structure. Make good study habits, find a comfortable (and quiet) place to study, and please, I beg you, do not wait until the last minute to finish up a project. College professors can be less forgiving and assign projects that require more in-depth research than in high school, so make sure to leave plenty of time before the due date.


It’s never too early to start preparing for life after you graduate.

I know you’ll hear this countless times from family, professors, and older friends, but college goes by so unbelievably fast. Before you know it, you’ll be picking up your cap and gown wondering where the time went. When that time comes, you’ll want to feel confident entering into the workforce considering how competitive it is, but that can’t happen unless you have built up some work experience during college. It’s really never too early to start interning or gain some work experience in you field, so during your freshman year, consider getting an internship or at least make plans to get one for your sophomore year.


Transferring or switching your major is never off the table.

Don’t be afraid to admit that your college or major isn’t for you. If your coursework doesn’t interest or excite you by the end of the year, than consider exploring what other majors may be right for you. Same goes for your college; if you don’t find interest in the courses offered, or if you prefer to be in a different location, transferring colleges might be something to consider. There are so many majors and colleges to choose from, that you’re incredibly lucky if you get it all right the first time around. Where you go to college and what you study has the potential to influence the rest of your life (as scary as that sounds), so why not do what makes you absolutely happy?


Olivia Santo is a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City and former writer for You can explore her past articles here.

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    Written by Olivia Santo

    Olivia is a former student assistant in the Office of New Media for the State University of New York. She is an undergraduate direct and interactive marketing major with a minor in economics at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, NY.

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    There are 10 comments

  • Gail says:

    Great tips, Olivia! Especially the ones on communication. I am extremely shy and due to that my freshman year was a nightmare for me, I wish someone convinced me to join the club on campus. It would have been so much easier for me.

    Check out this article too – It has some great practical advice as well.

    • Samuel says:

      hello, Gail! I also had a similar problem in college. Because of my shyness, I always suffered. Lack of communication, and fear of joining clubs. Everything is just like you. I was helped by one article – Fortunately, I lived in a room with two more guys who always helped me to communicate with the community. Once they noticed that I ordered my essay on the written service. They were very upset. I was ashamed of my act and I did not do it anymore. I was on the verge of a relegation and such a misdeed would have obviously played a cruel joke on me. Fortunately everything ended well.

  • Lola says:

    I always look back on my freshman year and wish I knew some of these tips then. One thing that I always suggest to people starting college is to make friends with atleast one person in every class. You will then have someone to study with, exchange notes, and catch you up on lectures if you have to miss a class. And you will have new friends to hang with on campus and on the weekends!!

  • Family is very important. specially good 🙂 😀

  • Along with the benefit of making new friends that sharing a communal bathroom can bring, it can also test your patience and force you to deal (respectfully) with a difficult living situation. We might add ‘Watch the Freshman 15’ to the list. Great article!

    Check out our blog on the Freshman year as well at:

  • Linda Smithgall says:

    Aside from the residence hall tip, everything above applies to junior and senior high school too. It’s never too early to start!

  • CML says:

    When you get out of college, you are going to search for a job. It is important to build your networks while in college so that you can tap the hidden job market as well as have solid references. Do this through campus engagement, internships, volunteering, clubs, etc. I have recently been interviewing recent grads and I am shocked and amazed about the attire/grooming appearing before me for a highly visible position. Sure, you want to be your own person – but it is important to understand corporate culture and the industries to which you are applying and tailor your look for the workday accordingly.

  • Don’t declare your major too soon, and try to pick as specific a major as possible; if you like political science, why not try majoring in public administration or public policy instead?

    If at all possible, go away to school– far enough away that you can’t go home to do laundry. Then, be cognizant of differences between you and friends from home who didn’t go away to school. Regardless of the differences in your schools, you’ll have totally different experiences, both of which will likely cause some resentment.

    Easier said than done, but if at all possible, opt for the unpaid internship in your field of interest rather than the paying job at the mall. That hourly job at the Gap makes your beers easier to obtain, but the experiences you have at jobs in your field could help you decide to fine-tune (or scrap entirely!) what you have in mind for your future; not to mention, your contacts you could end up helping you loads in the future, whether in grad school or in your career.

    Don’t be a jerk. Don’t talk too much. Don’t be the person who never volunteers (information or time or help). Find something you love and be a booster for it. You know, all the stuff you should do in life anyhow. 🙂

  • Matthew says:

    Treat school like a job. 15 credit hours = 15 hours in class. 15 in class = 15 out of class. + 10 more hours in extra tough weeks, and you have “worked” a 40 hour work week. A part time job for 20 hours, and you are at 60 hours for a week. Many working stiffs do more than 60 a week. College is very attainable, if you are willing to be disciplined.

  • Ali Achmad says:

    Transferring or switching your major is never off the table. 😀

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