7 Pieces of Advice For First Year College Students

July 28, 2016

Congratulations. You’ve survived the college application cycle. You’ve researched plenty of colleges and universities, written SATs, ACTs, and application essays. You’ve listened to advice from a multitude of parties and juggled the pros and cons of the schools on your list. You’ve done plenty of heavy lifting and for that you deserve to give yourself a high five.



Now that the congrats is out of the way, I’ll remind you that in the very near future, the heavier lifting begins. Yep, you actually have to go to college.

Whether you’re moving across the country or attending college in your hometown, you’re about to enter a whole new world. It’s a world that’s a ton of fun, but compared to high school, college course loads are much more demanding and student life is significantly more complex.

To help you get prepped for your first year of post-secondary education, I reached out to some friends of mine who faced challenges during their inaugural years at college and had them share their challenges along with some practical advice.


Challenge: Writing different papers for different courses and professors

Advice: Step out of your comfort zone and ask for help

“As a first year university student I found it difficult to write my first few papers for English, History, Anatomy, and Physiology. Each of these subjects require different formatting and of course each teacher had their personal preferences. I struggled in understanding exactly what they were looking for and how I could achieve the best results. I overcame this by studying the different writing styles, asking more experienced students what their tips were for writing papers, and when I still felt a little unsure, I would schedule office time with my professor for further clarification. It can be nerve racking to step out of your comfort zone and ask older students or your professor for help, but most people actually want to help you when they can see your willingness to find academic success. You can even make a handful of new friends in the process!”

Zoey has a great YouTube channel that has some more helpful content for to-be college students. Check out her video on staying motivated at school here.


Challenge: Parents adjusting to my college life and schedule

Advice: Be patient, expect your parents to adjust gradually over time

“Upon leaving high school and embarking on my college journey, I sort of expected that my parents would naturally loosen their grips and provide me with more freedom. But this wasn’t the case right away. Even though I’d begun an adult chapter in my life and was ready for greater independence, my parents still stuck to high school rules like curfews and regular communication. I’m sure things would have been a little different had I my moved out for my first year, but regardless I needed to find a way to create my own space and also be respectful of my parents. The keys to making my first year work while sharing a roof with my parents were patience and gradual adjustment. I accepted that everything wasn’t going to change at once. By respecting my parents, asking for one change at a time, and letting my actions prove I was growing up, I was able to find more and more of the independence I was seeking as my freshman year went by.”


Challenge: Finding community

Advice: Move out, get involved on campus, explore who you are

“In my first year I found it a challenge to find community. High school is so tight knit, with the small classes and built in social relationships. When you get to university it can be like moving from a small town to New York City. I was really disengaged during my first year because I didn’t have social bonds keeping me there. I ended up transferring to a school in a city away from home. Leaving home and moving into a campus residence building helped a lot! But I think even if I stayed at my old school I would have been a lot happier if I moved out of my parents house, joined clubs, student governance, and found a community of people going through the same things as I was. College is a time to explore who you are and get to know new people with different interests from you and from people you met in high school.” - @mackstannard


Challenge: Discovering the best way to study

Advice: Try new methods, unity notes from different sources

“I found high school easy and I got straight A’s without trying. When I got to college, I realized I’d never learned how to properly study; I’d never asked for help and I certainly hadn’t pinned down my individual learning style. I used to think flashcards were the best test prep method for every course, but when I started to chat with classmates about their methods and try new study strategies, I started to see better results. The key for me was to combine all of my notes for a class in one place. Here’s how that looks: I flip through a chapter and write all the key terms and definitions down first. Then I read the chapter and take more in-depth notes. This way I already know what every term means and reading the material is much easier. Finally, I combine my lecture notes with my textbook notes.”


Networked Marketing & Communications

Challenge: Moving away from home

Advice: Allow time to adjust, start small

“My biggest challenge in first year university was moving so far away from home; I had no friends, didn’t know the city at all, and wasn’t prepared for the climate. At first it was totally overwhelming and I constantly faced challenges that I’d never experienced in my hometown.  My best piece of advice is to allow yourself enough time to make those adjustments, and to start small. Talk to one new person each day, explore a new neighborhood whenever you can, and if there’s anything that makes your life easier - get it! An extra GB of data may be worthwhile for a few months until you’re ready to venture out without Google Maps.”


LearnKit - Custom E-learning

Challenge: Making a meal plan last the entire semester

Advice: Learn to budget

“Eating isn’t free and pre-loaded meal cards don’t last forever. I learned this hard way. In my first semester, I burned through a little (a lot) too much cash on totally unnecessary snacks and oversized meals. I was too proud to admit to my parents that I had run out of food money, so I survived on granola bars and peanut butter for the last couple weeks of classes. Lesson learned: build budgets and stick to them!”

Brett (Me)

Skooli Online Tutoring

Challenge: Lackluster Tech

Advice: Take advantage of EdTech and other digital resources available to you

When I started my post-secondary studies in 2009, I was using a Samsung phone with a super nifty sliding external keyboard. I also had to hardwire my laptop to the internet via ethernet cable in my dorm room. My point is here is that technology has come a long way in only seven years. With smartphones and high speed connectivity across multiple devices, day-to-day life - and college life specifically - have gotten a lot easier. In my freshman year, I had a hard time navigating my way around an unfamiliar campus and a city I had never lived in without Google Maps in my pocket and staying connected to lecture hall wifi was a genuine struggle. But now, these aren’t problems. My advice to new students is to take advantage of digital technology and to use your devices to help you find academic success; not just as social communication tools. Here are some resources you might find helpful:

Skooli - Connects you with qualified online tutors in a digital classroom

Grammarly - Helps you analyze and enhance your writing

Evernote - Takes note-taking to the next level

Google Drive - I have to suggest this because I still know people writing papers on word processing programs, only saving them to their local hard drive, and then complaining when their entire essay gets mysteriously deleted. Use the cloud!

Cold Turkey - Helps you control your studies by allowing you to block apps, sites, or even the entire Internet for fixed amounts of time

I hope this post didn’t scare you, but rather offered some insight into the world you’re about to be a part of. Ask for help when you need it, discover your learning style, be patient - with your parents and with your own adjustments to a new environment, join student groups, budget, take advantage of tech, and you’ll be sure to make your college experience even better than it already would be.

About The Author

Brett Montrose, Guest Blogger
Brett Montrose, Guest Blogger

Connecting students with professional tutors at SkooliBrett is a Marketing Coordinator at Skooli. He is passionate about education, tech, startups, politics, and outer space. In his free time, you can find him running on the Vancouver seawall, at the hockey rink, or at the beach.

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