The Best Advice for Students Attending Their First Year of College

What is the best advice you can give to someone attending their first year at a university?: originally appeared on Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and get insider knowledge. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.


Answer by Jessica Su, CS PhD student at Stanford

  • For the first four weeks, put lots of effort into your social life. Never eat alone. Knock on doors and chat with people. Figure out interesting things to do in the area, then invite people there on weekends. Basically, become far more extroverted than you are normally, and spread your social efforts over a large number of people so you end up with a large number of semi-close friends. Then pick a few of those people to get closer to. Spend more time hanging with them and less time hanging with the others. You should still be friendly with the others in case your close friendships don't pan out, but you shouldn't necessarily see or talk to them every day. This will give you time to develop deeper relationships and focus on your studies.

  • Take a light course load your first term and study some of the material over the summer. That way you can spend your time meeting new people instead of stressing over academics.
  • During the fall and winter you should apply for summer jobs that will boost your resume. If you want internships go to the career fair and have a look around (don't forget your resume!). If you want a lab position you should start emailing professors around November. There are also various summer programs you can apply for (google "research experiences for undergraduates"). Either way it is best to start early on these things.
  • Get enough sleep. It will really help you focus in class. It will also help you avoid the cycle where you're too tired to study, but you can't sleep because you have too much work to do.
  • ...


    Answer by Jaclyn Konzelmann, Graduate of Honours Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Waterloo

    I hated my first year at University. I was dating someone at a different school who I didn't get to see that often (compared to high school when we saw each other every day), none of my friends from high school went to the same University as me so I started out having no friends, and to top it all off, I quickly realized that while I may have done well in high school, an engineering calculus class was no comparison to grade 12 math (I still remember the shock of seeing my first 60 something mark).

    It took me about 10 months to finally open up and start having fun in University. It was the summer after first year that things turned around for me and I started to LOVE University. Having said that, if I were to give any advice based on my own personal experiences in school - and after meeting a ton of new grads at my first job and talking to them about school, I would say:

    #1. It's ok to be scared, nervous, sad, anxious, first. Work through this and try to open yourself up to new experiences. Change can be scary, but it can also be exciting, fun, exhilarating, and lead you to amazing new places in life!

    #2. Everyone else around you is in the same place in life as you. It's easy to get caught up in your own feelings, but remember that everyone around you is in a similar position. They are all there to make new friends and experience new things. Let people in and reach out to others. This is also one of the ever diminishing times in your life where you will be surrounded by people who are in the same place as you. Once you start working, you will be surrounded by people who may have already been working for 5, 10, 15 years and are at a different place in their life. But right now, you can easily relate to everyone around you. This is something that took me 10 months to realize - but was definitely one of my breakthrough moments in school.

    #3. Travel. This is something that I never did because I never really realized it was an option. If you get the chance to do a year or a term or a semester abroad and you think it might be fun - do it. Not only will it be a lot of fun, it will also make you a much more interesting person when you meet people later on in life. It also gives you something cool to talk about. My sister worked abroad for a term in Scotland and she loved it - and learned a lot.

    #4. Do well in school, but don't think you need to have the rest of your life figured out. Sure school is the next step in figuring out what to do with your life, but don't thing that you should have everything figured out as soon as you start University. Heck, don't think you need to have it figured out in your last year. Life is an adventure, school is a key part of it, so try your best at everything you do and take it one day at a time. I ended up graduating from Engineering and am now working in a Business role, I'm still thankful for the education I got because I know school was more about shaping me as a person than teaching me all the skills I would need in a working environment.

    #5. Make friends. Even if you end up in different places in life after graduation, you will keep in touch with the people that matter most to you. And it will give you a good excuse to visit different places if you do end up all scattering. Most of my friends ended up staying close by and I was the one to move, but it was great having them come out and visit me :)

    #6. Have fun! I realize this is a generic piece of advice but nonetheless I don't think it can be stressed enough. Do what makes you happy and try new things. Whether that means joining your school's robotics club or playing on a sports team; if it will make you happy then do it. Be responsible, but always always make time for having fun.



    Answer by Benedict Chiu, USC Class of 2017

    I just finished my first undergraduate year of college and it was a big transition year for me. I offer some humble advice!

    Building your social life from scratch is hard, but necessary
    Through elementary school, middle school, and high school, you have mostly grown up with the same group of people. Sure you'll make new friends and new enemies, but the bottom line is that you know everyone by face if not by name.

    College is overwhelming in the sense that you know close to no one; everyone is a stranger. Don't worry, you're not alone on this. Putting yourself out there and interacting with people is essential and out of most people's comfort zones. However, it does wonders because your first semester is really a time in which people are open to meeting complete strangers. You're not going to like everyone you meet, but eventually you will find a niche of friends that you'll become closer to.

    Study smarter, not harder
    You will have a lot more free time in college because of more flexible scheduling. There's a lot of time for fun, but you need to also find time for academics, as that is your primary purpose at a higher education institution. However, you'll realize that there are many different areas of education in humanities, social sciences, technology, and business, etc. Depending on what you're studying, your GPA might not be the most important thing to focus on.

    Are you looking to go to graduate school or medical afterwards? Are you looking to start working right out of college? What do companies look for in your academic discipline? Do they care about your grades or your experience more? Find out what you want and balance your study time accordingly. It pays off sometimes to sacrifice two hours of studying to go to a networking panel event.

    Some other random tips that I wrote for my friend:

    1. Figure out your alcohol limits. You have a semester before people get annoyed by people who are out of control and/or puke everywhere.

    2. A lot of people want to "just have fun" with regards to dating. Don't hold it against them and just go with the flow.

    3. Dining hall food is usually shit. But it's better than eating out and spending your life savings.

    4. Go to a lot of football games or whatever your school's big events are because those are a lot of fun and not worth missing.

    5. Remember how much you're paying to go to college. Take advantage of every opportunity.

    6. A lot of people you meet you won't see much of or won't remember their names. Don't worry. Just hang out with the people that make you happy.

    7. Try something new every semester/quarter. There's no shame in joining and leaving multiple organizations between each term. But try your best to find something that you like and stick with it.

    8. Free shit is the best. Seek that out whenever you can.

    9. You won't be able to keep in touch with everyone back home. That's just life, but chatting people randomly once in a while is perfectly acceptable.



    1. Choose roommates with caution if you have apartments or rentals. Don't renew contracts just out of friendship with someone if your lifestyle and theirs isn't compatible.

    2. Don't drink during the week. Make a rule: save it for the weekends.

    3. Get involved in a student group that shares your goals--social, religious, environmental, etc.

    4. Hold a part-time job.

    5. Remember that there are a lot of good people out there who will help you.

    6. Remember that there are a number of bad people out there who want to take advantage of you.

    7. Go to class. Don't make excuses. (See number 2 above)

    8. Find a quiet place to study and write, and use it.

    9. Don't be afraid to set boundaries with people you date (time investment, level of involvement, commitment, etc.).

    10. Don't amass debt on credit cards.

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