College is some of the most fun you’ll have, but it can also be the biggest stress. As some schools start their fall semester and others loom close, there are some things you should keep in mind and some expectations you should manage if you are going to make it out of your first semester in one piece. It’s not all scary, and there might be some things on my list you don’t need to worry about, and that’s great. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. So here are some things on what to expect during your first semester.

What to expect during your first semester

Time Wasters and Time Management

If there is one thing you should take away from this article, it’s that time management is the most important skill you can cultivate in your first semester. If you had great time management skills in high school, you have a head start on the others, but college is different. High school is super structured. You’re put in a building for seven hours every day and shuffled from class to class. Afterward, maybe you had your club or sports to go to, then did homework and sleep. You’ve had this schedule for as long as you can remember. 

College gives you more independence than you’ve ever had before, and while that, it’s amazing. It can also be a curse. You make your schedule, so plan accordingly. There will be days when you don’t feel like you have enough hours to do everything you need to do. There might be days when you have nothing to do and waste your day away. Whatever the case, learning to manage your time by figuring out when to eat, sleep, socialize, study, workout, go to class, work, and find time for yourself will be your saving grace in the long run. Figure out a routine that works for you. 

Spreading Yourself Too Thin

Learning to say no is a part of time management and financial responsibility. Knowing what you have the time for will make it easier to say no. The last thing you want to do is spread yourself too thin during your first semester. Set boundaries for yourself and fight off the start of burnout. 

Hanging out with friends during college is the best. Especially at first, dorms feel like summer camp, but going out to eat all the time or whatever other stuff your friends like to do can empty your wallet. Also, learning to say no because things aren’t in your budget is a great habit. It sucks, but it will save you money and stress at the end of the month.  

Chaos and Staying Organized

College is chaotic. Rushing between classes and hanging out with friends and running errands you’ve never had to do regularly sets your schedule up for chaos. Controlling that chaos and staying as organized as possible will help some of the stress it creates. Not everything needs to be color coordinated, but marking important due dates on your calendar or setting up daily reminders for the gym or drinking water will help you stay on top of the normal daily stuff so that when college throws you a curveball, you’re not already overwhelmed with the basics.   

Health vs the Freshman 15

For the love of everything, please eat some veggies and drink water. I know it’s easy to eat Top Ramen, stuff off the dollar menu, or the junk food schools serve in the mess hall, but if you don’t eat veggies and drink water, the Freshman 15 will sneak up on you. You are paying thousands of dollars in tuition, so squeeze your school for every penny you can. Use the school gym. I’d say it’s free, but you are paying for it. If the gym scares you because you don’t know what to do, take a weight lifting class as an elective. Or go up to someone and ask them for help at the gym. Social anxiety is awful, but you’ll thank yourself later. Don’t let the Freshman 15 gain another victim. All it takes is a little forethought and a small amount of effort. 

Lots of Decisions to Make

Life seems to come at you fast when you turn 18. You graduate high school. You go to college. Maybe you moved away from home on top of that, and now you have to decide at the peak age of 18 what you want to do for the rest of your life. You also have to decide what kind of person you want to be. You decide who you are and how you present yourself to the world. You get to explore life in a way that is freer than ever before, but it’s a little riskier.

Self-exploration is overwhelming. Some decisions have major consequences, and some are easy to undo. Take your time, decide on the things important to you, and surround yourself with friends who will help nurture and support your growth and you do the same for them. If you can do that, then college will be a breeze. There is no better feeling than having friends you can call while you have a mental breakdown in the library.    

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