Arrive and Thrive: 4 Important Lessons You'll Learn as a College Freshman

Ask any college upperclassman or recent graduate what they consider to be the most important lessons they learned as a college freshman and you might get a wide variety of answers. Some will reflect on the lessons they wish they had learned sooner, while others will focus on the ones that really helped them succeed. As a current freshman, it can be difficult trying to balance a new academic workload and a new social life. There will be many lessons learned along the way. Here are some key ones:

1. Time management is essential for success

In high school, you may have had six or seven hours of class a day, but in college you’ll find that it’s common to only have two or three classes a day. It might seem like you have tons of free time, especially if professors don’t give assignments daily. However, grades in college tend to be based on fewer assignments than in high school—sometimes your grade is based on the average of only one or two exams and a research project.

It’s important to manage your time wisely so that you don’t fall behind. Cramming a study period in right before an exam or writing a paper hours before the deadline will likely result in stress and a less-than-stellar grade. Schedule your days so you’re leaving time to prepare for class and stay on top of your assignments. Slot out times to go to the library or study daily instead of waiting until the night before something is due.

2. It’s never too late to make new friends

Your first college roommate or someone you meet at freshman orientation could end up becoming a lifelong friend. However, you might find that you don’t necessarily click with the first people you meet on campus. And that’s okay. Every student comes from a different background with different hobbies and personalities. The great thing about college is that everyone is adapting to their newfound independence and exploring new interests.

Even if your freshman roommate doesn’t end up being your best friend, you’ll meet people in your classes, clubs, and extracurricular activities who will end up becoming great friends.

3. It’s alright to consider changing your major (or to not have one yet)

Maybe you’re coming to campus with a clear idea of what you want to study or maybe you’re undecided and need help choosing your college major. Many students go through a period when they question what they want to do for a career after college and if their current major is what they really want to study. Just know that this self-doubt is completely normal. It’s okay to swap majors if your interests change or if something you thought you would enjoy turns out to be not at all what you expected.

If you’re unsure if you should change your major, consult with your family, who might have useful advice, and talk to your campus advisors, professors, or the career center. They’ll have the best insight as to what careers you might be able to pursue with your current major or can help you decide if changing majors is right for your plans.

4. Say yes—you never know what might happen

Maybe you’re nervous to check out a campus club or organization because you don’t know anyone there. Or maybe you’re afraid to sign up for an intramural sport that sounds cool but you’ve never played. One lesson you’ll learn quickly as a college freshman is that everyone has been where you are. Even the seniors once stood in your shoes.

Taking the chance to say “Yes!” to different opportunities might lead to experiences and memories that you’ll cherish forever. No one says it isn’t scary to try, but you never know just how great it might turn out.

Whether you’re currently a college freshman or you’re looking forward to starting soon, these lessons are something to keep in mind during your first year and throughout the rest of your college career. College is a time to learn and grow as a person. The lessons learned will shape your character and work ethic, and prepare you for what’s to come.