College 101: 7 tips to a successful freshman year

UAB experts provide tips for freshman students transitioning to college and how they can adjust to their new lives on campus.

Stream College 101UAB experts provide tips for freshman students transitioning to college and how they can adjust to their new lives on campus.The freshman year of college represents a new and exciting chapter in life for many young adults. However, for many first-year students, the transition to college can be an intimidating experience. This can be for a variety of reasons — being far away from home, making new friends, adjusting to a collegiate workload, or just adapting to the pace of university life.

As universities across the country begin their fall semester, University of Alabama at Birmingham experts offer steps a student can take to aid in a smooth and successful transition into college life.

Maintain a detailed schedule and routine

When many students arrive to campus, it is the first time they have ever lived away from home. Having a personalized schedule and establishing a routine can help ease academic apprehension and create a sense of normalcy in a new environment, explains Angela Stowe, Ph.D., director of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Student Counseling Services

“Sticking to familiar routines, especially in a new environment, can be grounding and comforting, and provide a sense of calm as well,” Stowe said. “Suggestions such as having personal items from home (your favorite pillow, pictures, even a stuffy, books) help make your new space feel more familiar. Following your morning or evening routine can also be helpful. Routine goes a long way to help settle the mind and body.”

Colleges and universities adhere to an entirely different format to education than what a traditional high school setting resembles. Developing a routine lays a foundation for staying healthy and organized, as well as developing sound study habits that provide benefits for the duration of a student’s undergraduate years.

Prioritize deadlines and results

While many students may be accustomed to deadlines and completing homework, the freedom and flexibility in structure that college provides can trip some students up unless they are diligent in keeping their tasks and responsibilities in line.  

“Being responsible for the syllabus, due dates, reviews, and asking for help may all be new to first year college students,” Stowe said.

Inside College 101When tackling assignments and studying, focus on the nearest due dates. It can help productivity and relieve the panic and stress associated with rushing to do last minute assignments. Make progress on high priority course work early to avoid procrastination and to yield the best results.

Build a relationship with professors

Stowe believes connecting with faculty and professors early in the semester is beneficial to a successful academic year.

“One of the most important things students can do is ask questions and self-advocate,” Stowe said. “If there are any questions or concerns, making a point to reach out and meet with faculty makes a huge difference.”

Establishing active communication with an instructor can help them recognize a student as more than just a name on a roster. Taking the time to meet with a professor shows dedication to one’s education, which is a beneficial character trait to be associated with.

Join an organization or club

Getting to know new people can be one of the most difficult and daunting parts of a student’s transition to college.

Shawra Rainer, director of Community Standards & Student Accountability in the UAB Division of Student Affairs, explains how getting active on campus can be a surefire way to meet new people.

To learn about UAB affiliated organizations click here.

“Studies have shown that student involvement is positively related to their success while in college,” Rainer stated. “At UAB for example, the CSSA would highly recommend students to get involved on campus. There are more than 300 student organizations that support a variety of interests.”

Engaging with student groups can be a great way to meet peers with similar interests, lifestyles, and experiences.

Go to events and social gatherings

Another way to meet fellow new students is to attend on campus gatherings and events. 

“Even though you may be surrounded by new people, loneliness can be a real thing for new college students,” Stowe said. “Make a point to intentionally identify events or activities that will connect you with new people. When you attend such events, make a point to meet and introduce yourself to at least three new people.”

Stowe suggests that for those who have a harder time meeting new people, prepare ways to introduce yourself. Have a few questions to ask others to get to know them and be patient – forming new friendships often takes time and trust.  

Get to know classmates

If making introductions to fellow students on campus is difficult, getting to know classmates can be a great way to build connections and make friends.

“Introduce yourself to students that sit by you in class and ask them where they are from, what they are studying, where they’re living, and other introductory questions,” Stowe said.

Trying to meet classmates can benefit a student socially and academically. Forming a study group can be a favorable way to meet new people. It can also be advantageous as students matriculate through their undergraduate years together.

Become familiar with on-campus resources

“There are many resources and people on campus that can provide strategies, support, and services that will help a student get what they need and get right back on track to working toward their goals,” Stowe said.

At UAB, the specializes in supporting students and offering boundless opportunities to get involved while creating a real sense of belonging to the university. The CSSA wants students to have personal growth and development while upholding the tenets of the University’s creed, The Blazer Way.

Gaining an understanding of the resources offered through the college or university can allow students to make informed decisions and be intentional when it comes to their freshman year. Seeking opportunities that are available will establish a knowledgeable foundation for one’s entire undergraduate experience.