8 Things Everyone Should Do During Their First Semester Of College

Even though it feels like summer was yesterday, the first semester of college is already going at full speed. Many of you have only been there for about two weeks, some of you have been there even longer, but either way, it probably feels more like two months. Before you know it, winter break will be here, and with it, finals and the end of the semester. Ack! Time really does fly that fast, so before you miss the opportunities, there are some things everyone should do during their first semester of college you need to know about. Nothing is as fun or frightening as your first semester. It’s frequently where people go the most um… crazy, so it’s easy to see where time goes.

It’s only natural that you forget about practical things like paying tuition or self-care. Everyone learns how to adult on a curve, so don’t beat yourself up about going too hard academically or socially. However, before your first semester is up, there are definitely some things that should be taken care of. Your parents aren’t around to remind you to do these things, and even if they were, they aren’t at college with you, so how would they know if you actually went through with it? You have to take care of you by yourself right now, and part of taking care of yourself is factoring in time and setting deadlines. These are eight things everyone needs to do during their first semester of college. There’s still time, so make some headway, and get going.

Meet With Your Advisor About Picking A Major

If you started your college career with an undeclared major, that's totally cool. In fact, most college students start their academic lives as undeclared. However, as time keeps moving on in college, you're going to need to pick a major eventually. Most majors require a certain level or number of classes in order for it to count. While you may not have an exact major in mind, your advisor will at least help you pick a department and get you started on classes there. That way, when you declare, you won't have to stay an extra semester (or year) completing all of your major required courses. Spend your first semester sampling and trying things you're interested in, but once you're in those classes, you'll get a feel for what feels right and what doesn't.

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Find Something You Can Get Invested In For All Four Years

Whether it's Greek life, a student run organization, or just getting into a routine at the gym, the activities you engage in outside of class are likely to be where you form your closest friendships and will shape your college career in a way that class can't. Of course, you'll make friends in class, but contrary to what your tuition money says, college isn't all about going to class. Get involved in student life. Try everything and see what sticks. Having a constant during the ups and downs of your college career is going to keep you sane and grounded no matter what life throws at you, not to mention, it'll probably be really fun, too.

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Get Yourself Out Of Trouble

During your first semester of college, it's almost guaranteed that you're going to find yourself in a managable, totally okay, but momentarily panic-inducing trouble that you don't know how to handle. You're going to have to solve a major problem without the help of your parents, and you know what? You're not going to die. You'll actually solve it with aplomb and come out feeling more confident and adult than ever. Or at least have a really good story. So go ahead and embrace that you'll get a flat tire, heinously clogged toilet, suffer your laptop melting down, or get so inconsolably lost in your new town with a dead phone. It's fine. It happens to literally everyone and you're way more capable than you think.

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Know Where Your Tuition Money Is Coming From

I hate to say this, but I've seen it happen, and it's the worst. You don't want to be surprised after you register for classes and pick a roommate, only to realize you... can't come back because your tuition isn't being paid. Take a close look at all your scholarships. Make sure that you reapply for all necessary student loans that aren't automatically renewing. Ask your parents if they can afford to send you for another semester. If you are unsure, go to your financial aid office. There may be work study programs where you basically take a part time job on campus to "pay off" your loan from the school itself. Securing your tuition in the long term is key. It's easy to forget that college costs money when you're busy having fun, but keep an eye out for where your tuition money is coming from.

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Know Where Your Spending Money Is Coming From

Other than tuition money, your tampons, toilet paper, and movie tickets aren't going to pay for themselves. The cost to actually go to college is one thing, but it's also expensive to live away from home and be at college. School takes up a whole lot of your time both in and out of the classroom, so a lot of students don't have time to get a job or the means to get to one. A lot of students include spending money in their student loan application (ex: get approved for a $30K loan, tuition is $25K/semester, you have $5,000 left in spending money), which is one way to do things, but there are plenty of flexible jobs on campus or even relevant to your major you can get started on that might help and will be understanding of your coursework and changing schedule..

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Find Your Ride Or Dies

As most of you know by now, college friendships tend to happen fast and you tend to fall hard for your new found crew. That crew might shift and change through the semester, but having that core three or four people who you know are there for you no matter what are going to change college life for you. For those of you who live away from home, you're away from your family and those who unconditionally love you without judgement. They've had years of loving you. However, these people who you've only known for a few weeks have suddenly achieved that level of intimacy. Having people who can act as your surrogate family and siblings is key to college survival and you should definitely start to get your tribe in place during your first semester.

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Do Something You Never Would've Done In High School

This doesn't have to be major and it should not be unsafe or dangerous in a harmful way, but during your first semester, you definitely should get out of your comfort zone. Go to a party by yourself, make the first move on a cute stranger, or it could be as small as actually putting in study time. You don't have to change who you are or overhaul your image in a huge way, just challenge who you thought you were in a playful way. Dye your hair purple! Who cares? Not everything about your identity, likes, or dislikes are set in stone and college is the time to test those limits and boundaries. Start that journey towards really finding out who you are during your first semester.

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If You Feel The Need - Start The Transfer Process

Not all college experiences are perfect. Sometimes the school you're at isn't the right fit and you want to change schools for whatever reason. That's totally fine! A lot of people transfer schools during their college careers. The process of transfering schools is not unlike applying to college. As you all remember, that's kind of an involved process. When you know it's not right, start that transfer process. Get your application together, start to ask for letters of recommendation, and financially/academically prepare for what life might look like if this transfer actually goes through as well as what it would look like if you get rejected. Transfering can be more involved than applying to schools in some cases, so get started now if you know that you really don't want to be at your school anymore.

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What did you do so far during your first semester? What have you done already? What would you never do? Let us know in the comments!

You can follow the author, Aliee Chan, on Twitter.


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