How to Prepare for Your First College Semester

Three Parts:Preparing Your RoomGetting Ready for ClassesBuilding a Social Life

Going away for college can be both an exciting and intimidating transition. It is important to be ready before you leave, so that you aren’t stressed out when you arrive on campus. The more prepared you are, the more you can enjoy all the opportunities that college has offer.

Part 1
Preparing Your Room

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    Find out the details about your living situation. Will you be in a dorm or an apartment? Will you be living on campus or off campus? How many roommates will you have? What furniture will already be included with your room? How many people will you share a bathroom with? Knowing these details will help you figure out what items to buy for your room. Plus, it will give you time to prepare mentally to live with other people if you’ll be living with roommates for the first time!
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    Contact your roommate. If you chose your roommate, or if your university discloses who your roommate is before you arrive at school, reach out to them to figure out who will bring what to for the room. There’s no use having two refrigerators and two tea kettles!
    • It’s okay to get to know each other on social media before you meet in person, but try not to make first judgements based on what you see online - wait to get to know the real them when you arrive at school.
    • If you don’t know who your roommate is before you arrive, that’s great too! It will make moving in all that much more exciting, and allow you to get to know them in person on the first day.
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    Think of how you want to decorate your room. You might want to match your bedding with your rug, for example. Or, you might want to bring some pictures of your friends and family to frame or put on your wall.
    • If you’ll be living at home and staying in the same room you’ve always lived in, maybe you’ll want to change it up a bit for the transition to college. A fresh coat of paint or a rearrangement in your furniture can make all the difference for a fresh start. Make sure you have a good, quiet study space with an uncluttered desk and adequate lighting if you don’t already.
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    Make a checklist of everything you’ll need for your new room, from bedding to wall decorations. You can find great college checklists online.
    • From there, see what you already own at home that you can bring to school and what you need to buy.
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    Go shopping. The earlier the better, as many stores sell out as the summer winds down.
    • Before you go out and buy a mini fridge full-price from Target, see if you know someone who just graduated college who might be selling theirs for a cheaper price. Or, look online at sites like eBay or craigslist for used items.

Part 2
Getting Ready for Classes

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    Get oriented on campus. Nothing screams “freshman” more than someone cluelessly wandering around the buildings with a campus map in their hands. A few days before classes start, figure out which buildings your classes are in so you’re not in a rush on the first day. It will also give you an idea of how much time it will take to get to class and what time you’ll need to leave your dorm.
    • Figure out how you will be commuting to campus/class. If you are far from campus or your campus is really big, consider driving or biking. If it’s not too far, you can walk or skateboard.
    • Be early on the first day to get a good seat. Even for the subsequent classes, it doesn’t hurt to be a few minutes early.
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    Have an idea of your class schedule. It’s okay not to know your exact class schedule before you arrive on campus. Usually, there will be academic advisors at orientation who guide you through what courses you should enroll in for your first semester. However, have an idea of what you’re interested in taking and browse your school’s course website to make enrolling in classes easier once you get there.[1]
    • When it comes to scheduling classes, try to choose a good mix of classes that both fulfill general education or “core” requirements and delve into subjects that you might be interested in majoring in.
    • Don’t be over-ambitious with your course load for your first semester. You will already be busy meeting new people and getting situated during this big transition - the last thing you want is to be bogged down with work in the second week.
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    Prepare your school materials. While professors don’t usually send out a checklist of required school materials like in high school, you’ll need to be prepared with the right materials to stay neat and organized.
    • Get a planner or calendar. As soon as you get the syllabus for each class, go through and write down all your assignments. This will help you stay more organized during the semester.[2]
    • The one list professors will send out is a list of the required textbooks for each class. You can either buy or rent them at your school’s bookstore, or check out websites like that sell used textbooks for less.
    • Get a laptop. A laptop is almost indispensable in college, as many students like to take notes on their laptop in class, and it gives you the freedom to study anywhere. Also, it’s a good idea to invest in a computer backup so that if something happens to your computer, you won’t lose everything you worked on.]
    • Although you will be using your laptop a lot, don’t ditch the old-school paper and pencil. Be sure to have a notebook and a handful of pens and pencils with you at all times when going to class, in case a professor doesn’t allow laptops to take notes or you quickly have to jot something down.
    • Buy folders or binders to keep your papers organized. Although almost everything seems to be done digitally nowadays, professors still hand out assignments on paper. Don’t let them get crumpled at the bottom of your bag and buy at least a couple folders to keep them tidy.
    • Decide if you want to invest in a printer for your room, or if you will use the university printers. Keep in mind that, although the school usually charges you for each page you print, it may still be more cost effective than buying a new printer and refilling paper and ink (plus, everyone will ask you if they can borrow yours!).
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    Pay attention and be prepared to work. Although the first day of classes are usually just an overview of the course, don’t zone out! Especially if you’re deciding whether to keep or drop a course, you’ll want to get a good understanding of the syllabus and professor’s teaching style. Get in a good habit of taking notes during the first lecture.[3]
    • There might even be homework assigned before the first class, like a reading assignment. Check your email the week leading up to the first day so that you’re prepared in case your professor sends out an assignment.
    • College classes run at a much higher pace than high school. There are no ice breakers on the first day of class. Professors lecture at a fairly fast pace, and although they sometimes stop for questions, they are on a strict agenda, especially for big lectures. Be sure to note down what you might need clarification on to ask them during office hours.

Part 3
Building a Social Life

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    Keep an open mind when meeting people. Even if you have friends from high school going to the same college, branch out and meet new friends through your dorm, classes, and extracurricular activities. Your high school friends will always be there - now is your chance to meet people with diverse backgrounds and interests to expand your social circle.[4]
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    Step out of your comfort zone and be super social the first week. The first week of school is the best time to meet people - usually that’s when all the freshmen activities are, and no one knows each other yet! Put yourself out there and don’t be scared of being awkward or weird, no one really knows what they’re doing anyway. Start up a conversation with someone sitting across from you at the the dining hall table or in class. All you have to do is introduce yourself and ask them where they’re from, or if you can borrow a pencil - easiest ice breaker ever![5]
    • That being said, don’t be discouraged if you don’t meet your best friend on the first week. You will not click with every single person you meet. Oftentimes, once you get into your routine and bump into the same people from class on a day-to-day basis, friendships will seamlessly blossom from everyday experiences.
    • If you are shy, a good place to start making friends is in your own room with your roommate, if you have one. You can easily bond over moving in and getting up for your first day of class together. This doesn’t mean that you have to be automatic best friends, but these shared experiences are likely to bring you close.
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    Join a student group and try new extracurricular activities. College is a clean slate - join a club that fascinates you, or try out for a sport you’ve never heard of. There are plenty of student organizations, sports teams, and clubs that you can join. Who knows - you might end up discovering your lifelong passion. Your college will likely put on an activity fair during orientation week, so be sure to check it out.[6]
    • Greek life is often regarded as the quintessential way to build a social life in college and can be a great way to meet new people. But, if it doesn’t seem like a good fit for you, there are a multitude of other types of student groups you can join. Keep in mind that Greek life differs vastly from school to school, and is likely very different from what you see in the movies. If you’re on the fence about joining a sorority or fraternity, just try it out! It doesn’t hurt to go to rush, and you don’t have to commit to joining a sorority or fraternity at the end of it. Go with your gut, and know that you will make friends whether you’re in one or not.
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    Meet people at parties. Of course, moving away from your parents’ watchful eye means you have all the freedom to do what you want on the weekends, including going to college parties. This can be a great way to unwind and meet new people, dress up in themed outfits, and have fun getting ready with your dorm mates beforehand. Keep in mind that you should always have a buddy system before entering a party so that you have someone to rely on if you ever run into trouble. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the campus’ safety resources and procedures and have important emergency phone numbers inputted in your phone before heading out.[7]


  • Make sure you get a lot of sleep before heading off to college. The first semester is the most important time to make new friends and start your classes off on the right foot. You want to have a lot of energy and be alert!
  • If you or your friends have older siblings who are currently in college or have recently graduated (or even better, they go to the college you are going to), reach out to them to ask them any questions you might have. Or, befriend some upperclassmen at school like your RA (resident advisor) who can give you tips on classes to take or clubs to join. Many students are eager to help out the incoming freshmen to get situated.
  • Enjoy! Remember that this is a once in a lifetime experience. While it is important that you do well in classes, be sure to take time for yourself to unwind and stay well-balanced.

Article Info

Categories: Campus Life