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Ten Things You Should Know Before Starting College

The switch from high school to college can be a major adjustment. From navigating homesickness to figuring out which degree to pursue, here are ten things you should know before you begin your college adventures.

1. Rest assured that you do not have to have everything figured out.

While some students already know what they will major in within the first semester of college, it is normal to feel unsure about what you want to do with your future. The good news is that college is not a linear experience, and often, it can take time to determine your interests and desires.

2. Rent your textbooks or buy used ones.

Buying brand new books may be a smart decision if you intend to use them for a long time post-college. However, many college classes require textbooks which you will only use for a semester. One of the best ways to save money is to purchase used textbooks from sites like

Half Price Books and Amazon. You can also rent your textbooks through Amazon and ship them back to the company at no cost after your semester is over. To make some extra cash, you can even re-sell your textbooks on Amazon or TextbookX.

3. Get to know your professors. 

Introducing yourself to your professors on the first day of class is an excellent way to build a positive rapport and establish familiarity with one another. Professors want to know that you care about the material that they teach, and showing up to office hours or reaching out to discuss topics further shows them that you are invested in their classes and that you want to know more about subjects that they are passionate about. Professors also serve as some of the best mentors, helping you navigate the next four years as well as post-college life.  

4. Advocate for yourself and ask for help when you need it.

Asking for help can be difficult, but you will thank yourself for it in the long-run. Whether you need assistance writing a paper, tutoring for a particularly difficult class, advice from a professor, or professional help from a counselor, there are an abundance of people who are waiting to help you thrive. The best thing you can do for success and mental clarity is to be an advocate for yourself, especially when you are having a hard time.  

5. Develop a balanced routine.

Too often, students fail to create a balance between academic work and personal needs, leading to burnout, sleep deprivation, illness, and chronic stress. While academics are the focal point of college life, developing space in your routine for self-care can greatly improve your academic performance and mental and physical health. Taking care of yourself does not have to interfere with homework and academics – workouts three days a week, aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep each night, and eating a balanced diet are all small ways to increase your mood, boost your health, and strengthen your academic work.

6. Use a planner!

When homework assignments, meetings, and extracurriculars begin piling up, using a planner can be a life-saver. Consider creating some time each weekend to go through your class syllabuses as well as upcoming schedules. Writing each homework assignment, due date, and commitment in a planner is a simple and effective way to stay on top of things. To keep your schedule even more organized, think about buying an hourly planner or color-coding various subjects.

7. Find your study style.

There are a wide variety of techniques that you can use to study; however, it may take some trial and error to determine which methods work the best for you. Beyond the typical study techniques such as making flashcards or re-writing notes, you might want to try mind-mapping if you are a visual learner or listening to lectures on the subject if you learn better auditorily. Other methods include taking practice tests, teaching the material to a friend, or using colors to distinguish different topics and ideas.  

8. Prioritize your mental health.

The combination of academic pressure, new relationships, and a drastic shift of environment leads college students to be particularly susceptible to mental health challenges such as anxiety and depression. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and it is critical that you ask for help when you need it. Reach out to a trusted friend, build a strong support system, and consider seeing a counselor on campus who can provide you with additional support, coping mechanisms, and resources.

9. Try new things.

College provides some of the best opportunities for new experiences. From joining a club to studying abroad, there are endless chances to step outside your comfort zone. Trying new things is not only a great way to challenge yourself but can also help you find new passions. If an experience turns out to be unfulfilling or unpleasant, it is still valuable because it is a learning experience. 

10. Know that it’s okay to be homesick. 

Homesickness is one of the most common problems that college students face. While it is completely normal to feel homesick, especially if you attend college far from home, it can be difficult to deal with and interfere with your everyday life. The best way to combat homesickness is to keep yourself busy. Socializing with friends, attending events, and avoiding too much alone time will help you manage your homesickness. It is also helpful to schedule times throughout the week to talk with your family. Most importantly, know that homesickness does not last forever, and it will get better with time. 

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