Your First Year of College: It Matters, So Make It Count

A popular misconception that students have when entering college is that the first year doesn’t count. Of course the transition from high school to college requires a period of adjustment as you learn to adapt to the change in pace, coursework, and lifestyle. However, your college career begins the second you step into the classroom for the first time, and every second counts.

Drawing from my own experience as a first year student last year, I’ll guide you into how to effectively make the most out of your freshman year during this transitional period without getting overwhelmed and stretching yourself too thin. During your freshman year you should focus on two things: grades and involvement.

 Start slow.

My school year is divided into quarters, so my first quarter as a college student, I focused my energy on maintaining my grades, getting to know the campus, and making friends. These three things are very important and a great investment of time for your first year. It is crucial that you keep your grades up and start out strong, so that you don’t have to play catch-up for the next couple of years.

Yes, college life is full of distractions and it’s definitely good to explore everything you’re interested in. Just be sure to make your grades your priority, especially in those first couple of months as you gauge the difficulty of your coursework and develop study habits that you’ll use during the rest of your academic career. I don’t recommend getting involved in organizations just yet. Settle in, have fun, and keep those grades up.

Do your research.

Success in the university doesn’t rest on academic performance alone, so once you’ve gotten into the swing of things and begin to feel at home in your new environment, it’s time for you to start looking for opportunities beyond the classroom. My winter quarter of my freshman year, I began looking into different campus organizations, jobs, and internship opportunities. I recommend that you really take your time with this process. It’s easy to be influenced by an upperclassman you admire or by what your friends want to do, but you should look for activities that you’re passionate about and/or that are relevant to your career aspirations.

Different activities require different levels of commitment in regards to time and effort, so keep that in mind. This is also a good time to begin looking for a job if you want or need to make extra money. I recommend looking at on-campus jobs first. You will probably be living on campus your first year, so transportation would not be an issue, and on-campus jobs tend to be flexible as far as scheduling goes.

Get to work.

At this point, you’ve gotten a feel for the campus, you know how much time commitment your classes require, and you’ve found which activities you’re passionate about. It’s time to get to work. My spring quarter of my freshman year, I joined two clubs that appealed to my interests. You don’t have to wait until your sophomore or junior year to get involved with on campus and off campus clubs, or to get a job.

Achieving balance between social and academic activities comes with experience over time. Starting your first year is a good idea because you will gradually sharpen your time management skills. You’ll also get a greater sense of responsibility and will have begun to lay some groundwork for your resume-building.

Your first year of college is just as important, if not more, than all your other years in college, so make it count!

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Pamela Nonga

Pamela Nonga

Pamela Nonga is a second year at the University of California Davis double majoring in Political Science and Communications. When she’s not theorizing about the greater meaning behind her day-to-day experiences on her blog, you can find her on a run, enjoying a blend of the outdoors and her favorite tunes. Pamela loves to read, write, and travel, and hopes to work in the fields of Journalism and Media as a career.
Pamela Nonga

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