Attending the Freshman Orientation at your school is important and many colleges and universities actually require this. The experience will introduce you to the campus, faculty, staff, and all aspects of a college environment. In most cases, you will meet your college advisor during orientation. Most college advisors encourage students to register for their first semester during orientation. In large, public universities, college courses fill-up early and students sometimes have a hard time getting the particular courses they would like.
By visiting a campus during orientation, you will interact with current students, make new friends, and get a jump-start on learning about campus activities and student organizations. Some programs also welcome parents in an effort to inform them about campus life. If a special orientation is held for parents, you should encourage your parents to attend if they are able.
If you are undecided about your living arrangements, remember that your living environment will have an effect on your personal and educational growth. Usually, students who live on campus are more involved in both academic and social activities. Some schools require Freshman to live on-campus.
Your First Semester
Counselors can offer advice and guidance, but different approaches work for different students for different reasons. There is no magic formula for success at college. The students who seem to do the best at college have clear academic and personal goals. This takes a lot of self-knowledge and self-discipline. Be patient with yourself. You will get more out of the experience if you immerse yourself into college life.
Try to avoid the many distractions of a typical college campus. There may be times when you will need help. Some students, free from their parent's day to day supervision for the first time, abuse their new freedoms. The temptation for social activities to overtake academic responsibilities as a priority is something students must guard against.
The challenge of college work may be a surprise for some. Students who were able to cruise through high school might find they need to develop study skills for the first time. Here is a rare instance of where students who weren't "ace students" in high school may actually be at an advantage. Study skills are important in college. A student with well-developed study skills will succeed. Students who were intimidated by college because they didn't consider themselves "strong students," shouldn't worry. More than anything, college is "work." If you're not afraid to work at your studies, you will make it through college. Don't be afraid to ask for help. All colleges and universities offer different types of support services.
There will be anxiety during this time of transition. But that's normal. It's a time of adjustment for both students and parents. For this reason call your parents once a week or more. To keep in touch, you can also call your friends. Many schools have e-mail accounts for their students and high school friends keep in touch through e-mail.
In your new life, you'll be making new friends in your dorm or by through student organizations. Your college or university should have a large variety of organizations created to meet different student needs. Getting involved in student organizations is a major way to make new friends that are likely to share your interests. If you can't find an organization to your liking, it may be possible to create such an organization. All you need is several members willing to create an organization and a faculty member willing to sponsor the organization. Most schools have a Students Association where you can find out how to create a student organization.
Other important factors in your first semester are living with a roommate, managing your finances, coping with stress, developing healthy habits, and communicating with your professors.
Dorms & Roommates
Many freshmen begin college by living in a dorm where they are assigned a roommate. For many students, the experience will be a challenge. Consider sitting down early with your roommate to outline your expectations from each other and establish some ground rules. Remain flexible. Although most roommates get along fine in the beginning, this may change. The best approach is to discuss issues up front. Approach any problems honestly and directly. Many students claim to have "the roommate from hell." To prevent such a scenario, communicate with your new roommate. Generally, freshman roommates are assigned to other freshmen.
Manage Your Finances
This may be the first time you have to manage your own finances and develop a budget. You will have to budget your money carefully by keeping track of all your spending, or you will find yourself running out of money by the middle of the semester. You may have to open your own checking account to simplify paying your bills. This is important. A check which might look large at the beginning of the year oftentimes starts to look thin towards the middle of the semester.
Cope With Stress
A certain amount of stress is natural. College life, however, can be very stressful. You must learn to cope with stress by learning to relax, prioritizing and improving your time management, developing a support system, talking about your problems with someone you trust, and adopting a practical, non-emotional problem-solving approach. However, if you feel overloaded and you need extra help, do not be afraid to ask for it. Most colleges and universities offer different types of student support services, like counseling services, student health centers, tutoring services, academic counseling, etc. Take advantage of the academic and non-academic resources at your college or university as you need them.
Develop Healthy Habits
College students, in general, never seem to get enough sleep or rest. The rigors of academic work can take a physical toll. Studies show that college students tend to nap in the afternoon, which greatly improves their performance in school, especially as part of a healthy routine. Eating the correct foods and exercising regularly are two simple rules you can follow that will make your life easier. These practices will enable your body to better handle the stress of this transition. If attending church regularly is part of your life at home, continue this practice at college. This is a time of great change, challenge, and growth. Your first priority is to take care of yourself, every part of yourself.
Communicate With Your Professors
Developing relationships with college professors can be helpful. Whether you attend a large or small college or university, it will be very important for you to establish a connection with one or several professors. Even in a large class, every student has the right to have access to the professor of a class. Feel confident about approaching your professor about any comment, question, or problem. You can visit a professor or TA (Teaching Assistant) during specified office hours, which is part of the information you will get the first day of class. Make a point of visiting with your professor or TA when you don't understand the material or when you need to make special arrangements to take a scheduled test. It is important to understand the professor is ultimately responsible for your grade in a class. As you continue into your later college years, the professors you had in earlier years can continue to mentor and guide you.
College life is an important, unique, and unforgettable time in a person's life. It is a time for a student to get to know himself/herself and to have the opportunity to shape his/her future in a direct way. Every Latino student who attends college becomes a leader in some way. Recognize that your college years are your time to develop into that leader. You are the focus of your life at this time. No matter what you become later and what you may accomplish, you will reflect on your college years as a time you developed your potential. So enjoy the experience.