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Freshman year survival guide

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

Going to college can seem daunting, there’s no question there. However, most people can testify that the time they spent at their university were some of the best years of their life. As a senior, I can’t believe how fast time has passed and I’m squeezing every moment out of my last year at UK. Feeling nervous about your upcoming college experience? Lucky for you, I’ve compiled a quick list of things I wish I knew when I was a freshman. Take a deep breath and keep reading. You’ve got this!

Dare to Depart From Your Dorm

Having your own dorm room is a trademark of the college experience. It’s so much fun to have your own space and design the place you will call home for the year. For most students, it's the first time you get to live on your own and have full creative liberty to make your room yours. However, it can be easy to hide out in the new cozy dorm you’ve made, and you may end up homesick or lonely in your new pad. It’s great to have a comforting room at the end of a long exam day or a welcoming place to crash after a study session at Willy T., but don’t be afraid to venture outside your comfort zone. You could end up making a best friend while grabbing dinner at the dining hall or chatting with classmates in Whitehall!

Optimize Your Organization

One of the most important skills I have learned in college is how to properly organize. I use an academic planner that outlines certain events each month, such as exams or projects, and color-coordinate due dates with a specific color for each class (I use an Erin Condren Academic Planner and love it). This makes it way easier to stay ahead of my work and ensures that I’m always ready to take on whatever challenges I may face in my day-to-day classwork. If you’re planning on using a tablet for your lectures, I recommend using a note-taking app that you can create folders or labeled sections in so you can keep essential class information in an easily accessible location. (I use Notability and find it is great for keeping everything neat and in order).

It can take up to two months for actions to become routine, so you can get into the habit of doing this now by practicing with your summer work schedule or plans with friends!

Engage in Extracurriculars

No matter what interests you have, there is almost certainly a student organization for that! From political groups, being a foster for a service dog in training, or being a member of Big Blue Nation, UK has so many ways to be involved in campus life. I became a member of ResLife as an RA my sophomore year, and it changed my life. I have made some of my best friends through this group, and I’m so glad I took the chance to join. Being involved on campus also gives you a chance to have some fun and de-stress from classes. Who doesn’t love a good win-win?

Send the SOS

One of the biggest challenges I faced during my freshman year was burnout. I was always academically motivated in high school and didn’t struggle very much with my classes and extracurriculars. However, college seemed like a completely different ballpark. This was the first time I struggled to grasp concepts when I was taught them, and when it came down to it, I didn’t know how to ask for help. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help when you need it, whether it be with personal worries or academic woes. There is such a strong student support system at UK and chances are, if you have a question about something, there is likely someone else with the same concern. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your professor or RA — they are there to help you in whatever way they can and want to see you succeed. It’s always okay to ask for help.

Maximize the Moment

This may sound like a broken record of advice, but college really is what you make it. As a senior, I feel like I just moved into my freshman year dorm yesterday. These can be some of the best years of your life, so don't forget to take time to be present in the moment. After graduation, your friends will no longer be just down the hall from you; take advantage of the time you have and make the most of it. No one can define your college experience but yourself. This is your time to learn who you are and where your place in the world is, but you don’t have to have it all figured out just yet. Make mistakes, take chances and get outside of your comfort zone. That’s the only way you get to grow.


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