14 Pieces of Advice I’d Give to My College Freshman Self
June 16, 2014 - 2:55pm
"Though this is a tumultuous time of change, it can also be one of the most rewarding stages of your life if you are able to manage it well."
Transitioning to college can be difficult, especially when you decide to go to college in NYC. In addition to the normal college stresses of figuring out your class schedule and homework load, you’re faced with the challenges of learning how to do things in the city such as navigate the subway system and cook for yourself. Though this is a tumultuous time of change, it can also be one of the most rewarding stages of your life if you are able to manage it well.
Here are 14 tips, from a senior to a freshman, to prepare you and help you through the transition.
1. Take it slow.
Transition takes time, and there’s simply no way to artificially speed up the process of getting adjusted. If you try to rush into your new life too quickly, you’ll end up feeling unprepared and lost. Give yourself time to make friends and get involved—don’t expect everything about your college life to be settled within the first week. It might take you a while to find the right friends and activities to get involved with, and that’s perfectly alright. But at the same time…
2. Get involved.
King’s offers an incredible amount of interesting student organizations and activities to get involved with, and if you immediately see one that interests you, feel free jump in! Additionally, if you see a gap—if there’s some extracurricular activity you think ought to be available to King’s students that isn’t--find some like-minded people and start an organization yourself. If you are the type of person who can get involved without getting overwhelmed, then don’t be afraid to take advantage of these incredibly rewarding activities. They’ll also help you meet people and settle into a routine.
3. Pursue Deep Friendships.
King’s is unique and tends to attract a certain type of person. This means that you are probably going to find more like-minded people here than you will anywhere else in your life. You have the extraordinary opportunity to make what will become some of the best and closest friendships that you’ll ever have. Take the time to get to know people on a deep level—intellectually, philosophically, and spiritually—and you’ll probably find a few rare kindred spirits.
4. Buy Textbooks from Upperclassmen.
Buying new textbooks, even online, can be inordinately expensive, but there are plenty of upperclassmen who’ve taken the same courses that you’re required to take. In most cases, these students are eager to be free of their cumbersome textbooks and will be willing to sell them to you for a comparatively low price! So ask around—post in the Facebook group, check out TKC Craigslist, send messages and emails, and see what deals you can find.
5. Spend Time Getting to Know Your Professors.
King’s has some of the greatest faculty members in the world, and any time that you spend getting to know them will be a more-than-worthwhile investment. Don’t be afraid to speak up in class, ask questions, and, most especially, to take advantage of office hours. Very few students attend office hours, even though they are a great opportunity to get to know the remarkable people who are teaching you and who have set that time aside to interact with students. It’s definitely in your favor to avail yourself of the time that they offer you.
6. Remember your priority at College.
When you’re out on your own for the first time—especially in a place like New York City—it can be tempting to explore your new freedom at the expense of your grades. There are so many wonderful things to see and do in the city, and while we should be exploring the culture, it’s important to remember that at this stage of your life, your primary job is being a student. Focus on making class and homework your priorities, and explore in your free time (C.S. Lewis’ essay Learning in Wartime is recommended reading, explaining what the attitude of a student ought to be).
7. Take Breaks.
Yes, get involved with extracurricular activity, and yes, do your homework and yes, certainly, go to class--but make sure that you take at least a little leisure time each week for the sake of your sanity. Sit in a quiet place, read a not-for-class book, write a poem, watch an episode of something funny on Netflix—make some time for the things you enjoy, otherwise, you’ll go crazy.
8. Figure Out a Schedule That Works for You.
As early in the semester as possible, figure out your class schedule and extracurricular commitments and design a schedule that allows you to give all these things proper attention while still leaving ample time to complete homework, have free time, and, perhaps most importantly, sleep. Don’t just wing your schedule because you’re so overwhelmed with trying to settle in—in the long run, it will be much more beneficial to have your schedule in place early on.
9. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help.
It’s tempting to pretend that you have it all together and that this transition doesn’t faze you at all, but the truth is, it’s not easy for anyone. Fortunately, you have a whole houseful of upperclassmen who’ve had to go through the same thing and who will be more than ready to help you—but of course, they can’t help you unless you tell them you need help and accept it from them. There’s no shame in not having the subway memorized or not knowing where classrooms are in your first week of school—so don’t feel bad for asking clarifying questions!
10. Design a College Budget.
Everything in NYC costs more than you’d expect it to, so it’s crucial to figure out how much money you need to live day-to-day pretty early on in your new life. Make sure you’ll have enough money for groceries (and prepare yourself for the sad reality that you’ll probably have to stay away from name-brands), laundry, metro cards, and the other expenses that make living in NYC possible. A free website like Mint.com can help you design a budget, or you can create your own.
11. Get Involved With Your House.
The House System is one of the most fantastic and unique parts of King’s, providing opportunity for meaningful community and true friendships. However, if you’re not willing to invest in the House, it won’t benefit you very much. Each House is unique and comes with its own set of traditions, expectations, and identity—if you jump in immediately and learn what it means to be a part of your House, you won’t regret it. You’ll have a group of people eager to help you in every step of the transition, and a life-long community of brothers or sisters in Christ.
12. Be Prepared to Live With Roommates.
Even if you’ve shared a room with a sibling, up until now you haven’t had to live with complete strangers. In college, you’ll be placed with people you don’t know at all and expected to maintain an at-least-civil relationship with them. Your roommates don’t necessarily have to be your best friends (though it’s wonderful when that works out), but you do have to be willing to be flexible and let things go in order to preserve a tolerable living situation.
13. Set Academic Expectations for Yourself.
Only you know what grades you want to get, how much work you’ll have to do to get those grades, and how important achieving your ideal grades is to you (and setting grade expectations is a vital component of success--a psychological concept known as “self-efficacy”). While it will take a little bit of time for you to adjust to the rigorous academic expectations that exist at King’s, once you’ve gotten a sense of what’s required of you, you can begin to figure out your personal goals. This includes establishing a study process, so figure out how you personally need to study and then set aside times and places in which to do that. Are you more comfortable studying with the background noise of a coffee shop? Find a café near your apartment. Prefer studying in quiet at home? Make sure your roommates know when you need some silent time.
14. Figure Out How to Eat in NYC.
King’s doesn’t have a meal plan, which means you’ll either be cooking for yourself or loading up on a whole bunch of takeout. It’s important for you to figure out what kind of meals you’ll be able to make and how to eat healthy on a budget—it can be helpful to purchase a “Cooking in College”-type cookbook, filled with simple, do-able recipes, as well as to figure out how much money you can afford to spend on buying pre-made food (otherwise, the temptation to buy convenient meals will end up costing you a fair bit).
Your freshman year can be one of the best years of your life if you go into it with the right attitude. Prepare for it as best you can, but also recognize that you will be surprised. There are certain things about living on your own in NYC that no amount of preparation would adequately equip you for—and that’s part of what makes it such an exciting place to live! So get ready for an adventure. Get ready to enjoy King’s, enjoy the city, and enjoy your new life! As you get ready for the adventure of living in the city, here are some specific tips that will help to turn you into an NYC pro in no time.