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College Student Guide: Our first-year survival tips
There’s a lot that I wish I had known before I started college, so this list is what I humbly offer to you


I’m Rachael, Connect’s Events Editor and resident young person. I graduated from Armstrong almost two years ago (has it really been that long?!) with honors, and while I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, I’m glad I made it through and got into the real world.

I’m sure you all came to school with some sort of preconceived notion about what your college experience would be like, thanks to the media’s portrayal of what higher education is like. I definitely came in with expectations, and while some of them came true, a lot didn’t.

For example, nobody left their dorm room door wide open to make friends, my residence hall was pretty quiet most nights, and I never did a keg stand (but I’m open to trying, so call me).

There’s a lot that I wish I had known before I started college, so this list is what I humbly offer to you. This is what I, and my friends that I solicited, wish we had known before we started college. I hope it prepares you for school better than Animal House did.

Before you do anything else, buy a planner and write everything down in it. Record your tests, your homework due dates, your appointments, your mom’s birthday. Write everything you have to do in one day and cross it off.

Buy your books from Chegg or Amazon, not the bookstore. Books are already expensive, but the markup at your school’s bookstore is exorbitant.

Know all the free stuff your college offers you and capitalize on it. At Armstrong, the gym was free, so I went to endless Zumba classes and learned how to lift weights. Every semester, we got a free breakfast night, so you’d better believe I was there.

College is what you make it. You alone are responsible for how these next four (or three, or seven) years go. If you slack off and don’t put in a lot of effort, you won’t get a lot out of it. If you work hard and make connections, you’re gonna be set.

Do not go home every weekend. This is the time to branch out and make new friends outside of your hometown. You can totally reinvent yourself if you want to, and if you’re still going home every weekend, you’re not going to be able to do that.

The two best hangover foods are BLTs and grilled cheese. That’s it. Greasy food works sometimes, but be warned that sometimes it doesn’t. Also, don’t drink cold water or Gatorade—room temperature will settle in your stomach better.

Go to office hours! Make a solid effort to get to know your professors, especially if you’re in a large class. College is all about who you know, so build connections like crazy—you never know who could help you land your dream job.

Don’t take an 8 a.m. class or a Friday class. If you have one now, drop it. You are not going to go. You think you will, but you won’t.

If you don’t drink coffee and you start now, you will never stop. I started drinking coffee my sophomore year and now I can’t go past noon without drinking a cup or I get a crippling headache. I love the taste of coffee, but I could do without caffeine dependence. Choose wisely.

Some of the friends you make in college will be your friends for life. Some will not matter past next semester.

Art students: splurge on quality supplies. They might be more expensive, but you’ll use them everyday, and the difference in quality is noticeable. Price-check what you buy and shop around to save yourself more money. Keep scraps of your supplies handy, because you never know when you’re going to need just a little bit of something.

Take advantage of your student discount—all you have to do is ask. Lots of places carry at least a small discount for students, so keep your ID on you any time you go shopping. (Hang on to it after you graduate—I still use mine and I graduated two years ago.)

Between the organizations at your school and around town, there are exactly zero reasons for you not to be involved in something. That being said, don’t overload yourself.

I tended to take on more than I could realistically handle and then burned out hard. Before you take on something new, envision yourself working that responsibility in with everything else you do. If you immediately get a headache, don’t do it.

Don’t get so caught up in studying that you forget to have fun. This is a really unique time in your life that you probably won’t be able to relive later, and if you do, it’s called a midlife crisis.

When else could you go out every single night of the week and still be able to function like a real human? I remember the fun times from college, not the times I turned my friends down to study. Take time to enjoy yourself and balance your academic and extracurricular lives.

Good luck and have a great semester!