How to Survive Your First Semester in College

After arriving to Indiana for college I did not know what to expect. I knew that I got accepted into “Belles Connect” a one-week program for low-income students to get the opportunity to get acquainted with the college campus and talk to a few professors. I got to meet a couple of students and got the opportunity to explore the surrounding community. Even though the program was a great opportunity to get to know students and the surrounding community, I was anticipating school starting the following week.

The first week was filled with first year students running around in 90-degree weather trying to get to know the buildings and figure out where their classes were located. Upper classmen nonchalantly walked to their classes with the occasional hug and “how was your summer?” question. I was almost having a panic attack imagining the worst-case scenarios for the classes that I was signed up for and imagining that I was going to fail a class. After the first three weeks into the school year I failed two religion quizzes, one math quiz, and barely passed one religion paper. I felt discouraged and knew that I had to do better in religion and in math. I made sure to create a balance between schoolwork and fun activities by using my planner more often and going to my professors’ office hours.

At times I stayed in during Fridays and the weekends but dorm parties, speed dating events, Notre Dame football games, day trips to Chicago and the occasional toga party were hard to resist. I made sure to do assigned homework the day it was assigned and spread out my studying time throughout the week to be able to go out every Friday evening and Saturday. Studying became easier once snow started to pound on doors and it was difficult to go out every weekend. By being snowed in during the semester and during breaks I made great friends from different areas of the country and from different areas of the world. We made sure to take advantage of fall break and the Thanksgiving holiday by watching movies, eating different dishes, and having conversations near the fireplace. By the end of the semester I was teary-eyed knowing that I had to go home but feeling accomplished knowing that I did well in my classes.

What has helped me survive my first semester in college:

Go to your school’s activities fairs and sign up for multiple clubs. Make sure to sign up for a couple that you know you will be interested in and at least one that is random (boxing club, anyone?) That way you will have a good idea of the clubs that are actually running and how much time is spent on every club. Invite your roommate to dinner every once in a while. Your roommate will be your first friend. At times there may be disagreements, but if you are going to be living with a person acknowledge that they are there by inviting them to lunch or dinner. Befriend some upperclassmen during the activities fair (seriously). They are the ones who know who are the best professors, which classes are the most interesting, and where the best social events are located. First semester was very hard for me because I did not know my way around classes and the surrounding community but after hearing which professors are the best I had my eyes peeled for the sign up sheet when I had to sign up for courses the following semester. Go to your professors’ office hours when you need help. Asking for help demonstrates that you have tried understanding the material and are eager to understand the subject more in depth. Going to office hours will help the professor know you which is a huge perk when you need recommendation letters for future internship opportunities and graduate school applications. Do not wait until the very last minute to complete homework, projects, essays or study. Use your planner and write down a list of what you have to do. Even though some of us have waited until the last minute to complete tasks during high school, doing this in college will leave you extra stressed out and you may not get a high grade on an assignment or test. Remember that college academics are another ballpark compared to high school academics! Remember to contact your family, friends, advisors, and mentors every once in a while. They are always curious of your college life and how you are doing academically and socially. They are also there to help you!