5 Tips for New College Students

College is hailed as the time to try many new things. However, taking on too much, and not having a clear path can be overwhelming and make the experience a lot less enjoyable.

Here are five tips for new college students to ensure they have a positive and valuable experience:

1. Know your limits: While you’ll find that you are encouraged to try out a lot of new clubs and activities, or perhaps you’ve been told the advantages of finishing school early, knowing just how much you can handle is key to not becoming overwhelmed. Even finishing a semester late is better than not finishing college at all.

Overscheduling yourself is a one-way ticket to a nervous breakdown, which won't do you any good. In the bigger picture, finishing even a year later won't have that much impact on your job prospects and long-term goals. It will probably impact your wallet more so, but the side effects of overscheduling could end up costing you more time anyway if it results in failing courses or needing to take a mental-health leave.

In addition to knowing your limits, make sure that you don’t under schedule yourself. Get involved! At least half of college students are attending college in a new city, a new state, or traveling abroad to a new country. This is the prime time to meet people and explore new interests. It will make your college experience much more interesting than just classes day in and day out.

2. Go to Class: Although it's tempting to sleep in or skip class, this is different than playing hooky when you were younger. Most professors will not chase after you to come to their class, because you're paying them to be present, not the other way around. In addition to not wasting your tuition money for an extra hour of sleep, it is far easier to maintain a grade point average than it is to try to recover one. Think of the long-term consequences if you allow skipping classes to become regular pattern of behavior – it’s not worth it.

3. Do your research: You've completed all of the research you needed to know which school you wanted to go to, but how far did you delve into the financial side of it? Sure, overall tuition cost probably played more than a supporting role in your college choice, but student loans and debt from college is such a standard these days that it may not cross your mind to look at the different financing options.

Government funded loan rates versus private student loan rates can vary greatly. Although it seems far off, and you don’t usually have to start paying back student loans until you graduate, taking steps to have less debt for your future self that has graduated will make life a lot easier. Whether federally funded or privately funded, there are many types of loans. Knowing what is available to you ensures that you can make an informed choice for what kind of student loan is right for you.

4. Keep in touch: Just because you've gone off to college doesn't mean you're cut off. If you're able, taking a trip back home can be a good way to rejuvenate and take a break from studying.

If you aren’t able to make the trip due to time or cost, a phone call, a video chat via Skype, a card, or other little gestures can let your family or friends know that you’re thinking about them. You may even get a basket full of goodies in return!

Your family and friends are probably the ones who first supported your desire to attend the particular college you’re in and letting them know that you’re surviving as a new student is a good practice. Also, don't lose touch with friends because you're too busy studying, or due to a serious relationship that manifests. You will miss out if you cut off the people you normally associate with.

5. Don’t forget about the mistakes: As with learning something new, it's expected that you make mistakes. Remember to not be too hard on yourself and take these in stride. College is the next step in learning about the school, but also about life. It's about how to interact with people you might someday work with and new subjects.

Advice for new college students is plentiful. You may not use all of it but bear in mind that some best practices can make the experience much easier and more enjoyable.

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