5 Ways To Survive Your First Day of College

When I was in high school, the first day of class was a guaranteed breeze; no tests, no homework and most of the day was spent filling out forms and pretending to follow along while the teacher read the syllabus out loud.

My first day of college was the exact opposite!

Some of my classes started right away; I’m talking about lectures with notes, Power Point presentations and even homework.

I was both appalled and scared. What happened to the forms? Were people taking notes about the syllabus? We were supposed to be slacking!

That was the day I learned that in order to have a successful semester, I needed to change my first day of class behaviors.

  • Show up prepared– This should go without saying, but you’d be surprised by the amount of people who don’t bring a notebook or even a pen! Lectures will most likely start immediately, especially if it’s an honors class or a core subject, so treat that first day more like the tenth day and bring your supplies.
  • Ask if the book is mandatory– I know the counselors and advisors say to buy the book before classes start, but honestly, this isn’t always necessary. Many professors will tell you on the first day that they don’t use the book and you won’t need it to study for tests or do homework. Books are expensive enough; you don’t need to waste your money on ones you won’t use.
  • Write down important dates– The only thing worse than a pop quiz, is a quiz that was announced two months in advance but you totally forgot about it.  The best way to avoid this is to invest in a planner or a calendar and on the first day of class, use your syllabus to find and record the date for every single test, quiz and paper deadline.
  • Find a buddy– Take the time to find two or three people who sit near you and get their information in case you have to miss class or show up late.
  • Relax– Many professors will try to scare you on the first day. My theory is that they don’t do it to be mean, but to get you to take things seriously. So, when they tell you about the 12 page papers and the 200 question tests, don’t be scared. I mean, it will be tough and there will be a lot of hard work involved, but it will be okay. After classes are over for the day, take some time to decompress and clear your head. Do whatever you need to do to forget about the past few hours. Pizza and TV usually works, but I’ll leave it to you to decide.

Your first day of class will undoubtedly be overwhelming and nerve-wracking, but knowing what to expect and how to handle it will make a world of difference. The right attitude and habits will ensure that you’ll have not just a great first day, but a great first term!

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Mercedes Espinoza

Mercedes Espinoza

Mercedes Espinoza is a senior at Florida Atlantic University pursuing a degree in Multimedia Journalism. Although reading is her first love, writing is a close second and she can usually be found with her nose in a book or hunched over a laptop typing away. Outside of school and work, she’s interested in all things fitness as well as continuing to grow an already massive nail polish collection.

2 Responses to “5 Ways To Survive Your First Day of College”

  • Vicki on February 27, 2012

    I think you’ve hit the mark here on four of your points. This is some great advice.
    The point I would question is, “Ask if the book is mandatory.” I’m not so sure about this for two reasons. 1) If the professor has suggested the book, he/she has a reason. Even if the information won’t directly be tested, he/she thinks there is something there that will be important or helpful. If you want to get the most out of the class, you should probably get – and read – the book. 2) Asking on the first day of class whether you need the book sends the message to the professor that you are only looking to do the minimum necessary. That may not be what you intend, but it can seem that way. Not the best way to begin with a new professor.
    So I’d suggest thinking twice about that one – but the rest is great advice for a successful beginning.

    • TheCollegeHelper

      TheCollegeHelper on February 27, 2012

      Hi Vicki,

      Thanks for your comment!

      However, I do agree with all of the advice that Mercedes has provided in the post. Some professors provide a lot supplemental materials (i.e. articles, hand-outs, PowerPoint slides, etc.) and will inform students on the first day of class that the textbook is not mandatory and/or they’ll let students know that they can purchase an earlier edition of the textbook at a significantly lower price.

      While this is not always the case, I do recommend that students wait until after the first day of class to purchase textbooks. In fact, Kaitlyn Taylor, a freshman at U of I and another one of our interns, mentioned “being too desperate to get her textbooks asap” as one of her Top 5 Biggest Regrets From First Semester Of College.

      She goes on to mention that many of the books she showed up with on the first day of class were books that she “never used.” I encourage you to check out that post as well.

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