January 21, 2019 | ° F

RU Connection: Tips for your first year at college

So, you're starting college! Congratulations, Scarlet Knight. You have survived high school and made it to college. You probably don't realize it yet, but the next four years of your life are going to be, well, hectic. They will mold you into the person you will be for the rest of your life (which is, hopefully, a functioning adult that knows how to do laundry and cook something other than ramen). College is a unique time in your life — you are somewhere between still being a kid, eating chocolate for breakfast and sleeping until noon on Saturdays, and being an adult, studying for exams, living on your own and doing your own laundry. The first year of college can be a little bit of a shock as you dive into unchartered territory but just remember: we've all been there, and we've all survived. You will, too. 

Here's some tips to make it through your first year:

  • Take Welcome Weekend seriously. I know, no one likes ice breakers. They're awkward and slightly uncomfortable. But, Welcome Weekend is how you will find some of your first friends at Rutgers, so take advantage of it! Enjoy the festivities and branch out. Just remember — everyone there is in the same boat as you, and they are looking to make friends as well.
  • Don't buy your textbooks right away. Go to the first class first, and see what the professor says. In the long run, it will save you hundreds of dollars on textbooks you did not actually need, and never even opened in the first place.
  • When you do need textbooks, rent them. There will be textbooks that you need to buy brand new from the school bookstore, and that's just an unfortunate casualty of going to college. Where you can avoid it, though, definitely do. There are tons of websites that offer student rentals for textbooks, for about 1/4 the price of the brand new copy in the bookstore. Take advantage of this. 
  • Use your meal swipes. Come late November, early December, you will notice everyone frantically running to the dining hall three times a day, exclaiming that they have 100 meal swipes left and need to use them all before the semester is over. Don't be one of those people. Use your meal swipes regularly, and explore all the places on campus they are accepted, like the Rock Cafe, the Livingston Student Center, Cook Cafe and more. You paid for them, so don't waste that money. 
  • Actually study for your exams beforehand. As someone who rarely studied in high school and still got good grades, I will be the first to tell you: that will not fly in college. Many people will tell you this, and you probably won't believe it. But really, cramming in college is 500 times harder than it was in high school, and causes unnecessary anxiety and frantic all-nighters. Study at your leisure. Go to your local coffee shop, bring some note cards and your textbook, and relax while you study. It will make a world's difference for your mental health (and probably your GPA, too).
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions in class. It is completely normal to be intimidated the first time you walk into a lecture hall with over 300 students in it. But, don't let this discourage you from asking questions. Professors want to get to know their students, and it is a great way to distinguish yourself from everyone else. Also, no one likes being confused. If you have a question, chances are at least 20 other people are just as confused as you.
  • Don't let people deter you from your passion. During your four years of college, some may try to discourage you from your major or career choice. Whether they tell you the market is bad or the career is dying out, make your own decisions and follow your heart. It's your life, so you might as well be happy living it. 
  • Go to the football games. One of the best parts of attending a university in the Big 10 is the college sports. Football games in the fall are unlike anything else. Game day is filled with a general sense of excitement from everyone in the student body, and cheering on the Rutgers team is something that unites everyone in the name of the Scarlet Knights. Put down the textbook and have fun, college is only four years, anyway.
  • Have fun and challenge yourself to something new. Pairing with the previous point, make sure you have a good time. Of course, the primary goal of attending college is to make sure you receive an education, but make sure you let your hair down occasionally, too. Rutgers has so many various clubs and activities on campus that will help you meet some really awesome people, so take full advantage of that. Rutgers has everything you could possibly imagine (including, but not limited to, a Quidditch team), so use these resources. You will blink and realize you're heading into your senior year of college, and you'll wonder how time flew by so fast. Make sure you look back on your time at Rutgers with fondness, not regret.
  • Remember that it is okay if something does not work. College is all about trying new things and learning who you are. It's okay to get lost on campus, to change your major, to decide to take a lighter course load than originally planned. Everyone has their own path in college, and no two people's experience will be the same. Don't worry if you're not having the "traditional" college experience in the movies, no one does. College is about growing and changing, and as long as you're doing that, you will be perfectly fine.

Chloe Dopico


Chloe Dopico is an associate news editor at The Daily Targum. She is double majoring in political science and journalism and media studies. Follow her on Twitter @ChloeDopico for more. 

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