Surviving College: Advice for Incoming Freshmen

Last Updated on May 22, 2023

College Survival: HBCU students walk the campus of North Carolina A&T during their new student orientation.
Photo by: Quencey Barton, North Carolina A&T State University
Incoming freshmen are the lifeblood of HBCUs. Up until the moment they actually walk through the door to their first class, their schedules are packed with orientations and meet-and-greets. Even the most laid back students and their parents are caught in a tornado of excited rush to get everything ready for the first day of classes.

Surviving college is easy if you start with a clear head, a committed heart, and a lot of inspiration. Here are some tips for incoming freshmen:

Surviving College: Smart Packing

Overpacking is one of the side effects of pre-college excitement. By the time you’re ready to go, your box is full of the things that your parents and well-wishers have given you “for college”: thick blankets, clothes, portable emergency lights, etc. After all, you’ll be away from home and you don’t know when you’ll be needing them. On top of it all, you can’t just leave behind the mementos you’ve collected over the years (what if you get lonely or homesick?).

Pack for the climate is critical for surviving college. Do your research and find out how low or high the temperature can go. If it’s mostly warm the rest of the year, pack lightweight clothes but bring one thick jacket for when the weather goes awry. Also, warm and humid places tend to get a lot of rain, so pack waterproof clothes. Cold areas also require waterproof clothing and a lot of thick blankets. Have two sets of bedding so that you can use one while the other is in the wash. Bring clothes that you can wear without ironing. But don’t forget to bring at least one dressy outfit for semi-formal or formal events.

Related post: See our dorm checklist for more help with packing for college.

Freshman Orientation Must-do’s

Bring a small notebook wherever you go, especially during freshman orientation time. This is when you will meet other students that you can connect with. Remembering names can help with surviving college. Sometimes, the people you meet on your first day become your best friends for the rest of your stay in college and post college.

If a site map is available, use your free time to get acquainted with your campus. Explore the campus and take note of the shortcuts that get you from one building to another. This information might come in handy if you oversleep and you need to run to class. Find out where the toilets are, especially in the buildings where you will have your classes. Ask your upperclassman guide any question, especially about campus security and what the rest of the students do when certain events happen.

Create a Flexible Schedule

Be realistic about your schedule, especially if you know you can’t handle several reading-intensive courses per semester. Assignments for these subjects tend to take up most of your time, so space them out so that you have a relatively easy schedule to work with. Also, take note of the best professors for each subject. Sometimes, who the professor is makes all the difference. Take note of your core requirements and get them over with as early as you can.

Some students prefer back to back classes, while others cannot handle this kind of schedule. If you belong to the former, make sure your schedule is not as packed. Space out your classes so that you can rest in between. Breaks allow students to socialize, and for difficult subjects, you will need to meet up with some classmates for review sessions and group studies.

On the contrary, if you get restless during breaks and you don’t want to lose your momentum during the day, go for back to back classes but make sure they’re in the same building so you won’t have to run to get to the next one.

Surviving college is easier than it seems. Just stick with the basics, attend all your classes, remember your goals, and be friendly.

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