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Survival Guide for 1st Year College Students

  • 05th August 2019
  • Lauren Bachelder

If you or your child are about to become a freshman in college, you may feel overwhelmed by the huge transition. You will undoubtedly face many learn-as-you-go moments, but we’re here to help prepare you for what’s to come.


Here are seven tips from a newly graduated college student to help 1st year students survive this fall:

  1. Don’t blow off a syllabus week
    Syllabus week is all fun and games until you slack off and forget about that quiz during the second week of classes! Find thirty minutes during syllabus week to make a “survival sheet” that includes important due dates, absence/tardy policies, and late assignment procedures. First, go through each syllabus and write down due dates for quizzes, exams, projects, and papers. Compiling all of this crucial information on the same sheet of paper will help you plan ahead for especially busy weeks and ward off any surprises.
    It’s also important to understand your professor’s absence and late assignment policies. If you wake up with a cold, can you miss class without a doctor’s note? If you find yourself in a bind, will your professor accept a late paper? All of this crucial information could be found on your “survival sheet.” Keep this precious gem in a safe place, and take a picture with your phone so that you can reference your “survival sheet” frequently.
  2. Find your squad
    In each of your classes, try to make connections with a few people to share notes, study together, and potentially become your partners in future projects. By simply sharing your number with a few classmates or creating a class GroupMe, you create a resource for when you miss a class or find yourself struggling through homework.
  3. Stay organized
    In addition to your “survival sheet” with important exams and due dates, you should keep a daily agenda. Store these daily tasks and deadlines on a traditional paper agenda or through digital resources like Google calendar, and set phone reminders so that you never miss that weekly online assignment. Just like in junior high and high school, make the effort to keep your backpack/dorm room clean, and store paperwork in a safe spot! We also recommend that you keep your digital files tidy as well, with separate folders for each class that are backed up on a cloud service.
  4. Focus on time-management
    Sometimes no matter how efficient you are, you just won’t have time to spend your college days the way you want unless you cut something out! We’re not encouraging you to quit in the middle of important obligations or back out on a team that’s counting on you. However, at the end of the first semester, for example, have a serious conversation with yourself about your commitments, and determine if you really want to participate in each activity again. If your heart isn’t in it or your time is spread too thin, don’t be afraid to quit!
  5. Find a mentor & tutor
    Despite your best solo efforts, some classes will just be flat out difficult. Connecting with an upper classman allows you to learn how to manage various professors’ teaching styles, along with tips on how to survive the course. By working with an Apollo Tutor, you gain direct access to someone who has already aced that course, along with all of his or her notes and expertise!
  6. Actually go to class, & take quality notes
    Although this may seem like a given, the quickest way to put yourself behind in a college course is to simply not attend class or fail to take helpful notes. Even if attendance isn’t mandatory, you do yourself a disservice every time you miss a lecture. You may think you can watch extra videos or complete extra reading tomorrow, but let’s be honest… you won’t. Do your future-self a favor, and don’t wait until the last moment to catch up and absorb the material!
  7. Over-study & over-prepare at first
    Especially in courses where a few exams make up the majority of your grade, you may really tank your chance of meeting your goals if you bomb the first test. To avoid playing catch up for the rest of the semester, over-study for the first few tests, allowing yourself to assess the difficulty of the professor’s exams as you move forward.
  8. Invest in self-care
    According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, even people without diagnosed anxiety disorders can face serious consequences of not managing everyday stressors well. Untreated stress can lead to low energy, insomnia, irritability, long-term health problems such as chronic stomach pain, and a whole slew of other issues! This means that you have to find healthy ways to combat the business and stress associated with a college schedule, and take care of yourself.
    Self-care is more than just bubble baths and massages – in fact, it can include all kind of activities! These activities are often fun and relaxing, such as enjoying a favorite hobby or catching up with friends, but the not-so-fun stuff, such as exercising, fueling your body with the right food, and sleeping is equally as important!

To set yourself up for success next semester,  find a tutor and mentor by taking just five minutes to sign up at ubermatch.apollotutors.org!