17 Freshman College Tips to Know Before Heading Into University

Preparing to start college this fall? Click here for some legitimate freshman college tips guaranteed to help you navigate college.

Did you know that 64 percent of young adults that drop out of college do so because of mental health? College is an exciting time, but it can also be very stressful. 

If you’re preparing to pack up and head to college for the first time, it’s normal to be excited and worried at the same time. The next four (or more) years of your life will lead to growth, opportunities, friendships, stress, and more. 

Your friends and family are likely throwing any freshman college tips they can think of you, and while their intentions are good, it can sometimes make things even more overwhelming. So what do you really need to know before you hit the books? 

Keep reading to learn what college freshmen absolutely need to know for success. 

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1. Nothing Is Set in Stone

College is a time to explore and discover who you really are. When you’re getting ready to head off to college, everyone will ask you what you plan to study. It’s a heady task to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life at 18. 

However, it’s important to know that nothing is set in stone. In fact, around 80 percent of college students will change their major at least once. 

You might enter college as an education major and graduate with a degree in social work. The important thing is to follow your heart. 

Also, keep in mind that there are many paths that you can take to achieve what you want. For example, being a teacher doesn’t mean you need to stand in front of a classroom full of kids or teens. 

You can teach and educate as a social worker, writer, or even in business. What’s your passion? Find it, and then forge your path to incorporate that passion into your career. 

However, we get it; college is expensive. If you take too much time discovering your passion and who you are, your college career can quickly become more expensive. 

That’s why it’s important to take your gen ed classes first. Get those done while you’re exploring who you want to be. 

2. The Freshmen 15 

In your family’s quest to give you advice for college freshmen. You’ve probably heard about the freshmen 15 and laughed. However, the reality is that around 50% of first-year students do gain weight during the freshman year of college, and men tend to gain more than women. 

There are various reasons that this is the case and different ways you can combat it. 

Make Healthy Choices in the Cafeteria

Meal plans are important when you’re living on campus. Many times it’s impossible to eat anything beyond Ramen or other microwaveable food in the dorm room. 

While the cafeteria has a lot of great choices, unfortunately, most college students choose less healthy processed foods. This could be due to stress or time limitations or simply the freedom to eat what you want when you want. 

However, it’s important to make those choices in moderation. Try to fill your plate with healthy options, and remember to practice portion control. 

Don’t Eat Late at Night

When you’re eating late at night, you tend to make more unhealthy choices. This can contribute to weight gain, and if you’re not sleeping enough, you’re likely to further indulge in unhealthy foods. 

People who eat between 11 pm and 5 am tend to consume around 500 more calories per day. They also gain approximately 3.5 pounds more than people who don’t eat during that time per year. 

If you need to eat late at night, watch the food you choose. Go for a healthy meal versus a snickers and bag of chips. 

Avoid Stress and Emotional Eating

College is filled with stress and emotional experiences. When you’re stressed and emotional, do you reach for something to eat? It’s important to watch that. 

You’re away from home, often for the first time in your life, and you have to juggle school, life, and sometimes work without the cushion of your parents. You gain more weight when you’re under stress, and chronic stress makes it worse because you’re dealing with chronically high cortisol levels. 

You’re also more likely to reach for “comfort food” when stressed. Comfort food tends to be full of fat, calories, and sugar. It’s imperative to learn to manage your stress and use healthy coping mechanisms. 

Pay Attention During Social Events

College is a great time to make new friends, and often opportunities to be social are unlimited. However, social events tend to come with unhealthy food and sometimes alcohol. 

Increased alcohol consumption can cause weight gain. The calories from alcohol are more likely to be stored as fat due to how your body metabolizes it. 

Get Active

In college, you spend most of your day sitting in lecture halls. When you’re not in class, you’re likely in front of a computer or buried under a pile of books studying. 

The amount of time in class and spent doing assignments makes it easy to lead a sedentary lifestyle. On average, college students tend to sit for more than seven hours a day. It’s important to remember not to neglect physical activity. 

If you’re trying to figure out how to prepare for your freshman year of college, this is something great to consider. You need healthy exercise habits, and developing them before going to college can help you start strong. 

Related Read: 25+ Best Gifts for College Students: Top University Student Presents

3. Have Fun But Not Too Much Fun

Are you looking forward to parties in college? Starting college comes with a lot of exciting opportunities for social engagement. For the first time in your life, you don’t have parents enforcing a curfew or not allowing you to go to parties. 

It’s also a time when you can experiment and learn more about yourself. However, one of our biggest pieces of college freshman advice is to have fun, but not too much fun. 

You can go to the party, but watch what you drink and steer clear of drugs. 


Around 31 percent of college students display signs of alcohol abuse. When you head to a party, it’s easy to indulge. However, there are long-term consequences, and alcohol use can significantly impact your academic career. 

Around 110,000 college students between 18 and 24 get arrested for an alcohol-related violation every year. The violations include public drunkenness or driving under the influence. 

Substance Abuse

Exploration isn’t limited to alcohol during college. The most commonly abused substances during college include:

  • Marijuana
  • Prescription meds
  • Ritalin, Adderall, amphetamines, and other study drugs
  • Cocaine
  • OTC meds
  • Ecstasy, LSD, MDMA, and other hallucinogenic drugs
  • Heroin
  • Opioids

It’s easy to brush this off and believe it’s something you would never do; however, around 5.4 million college students admit to binge drinking or taking drugs at least once a month. 

Practice Party Safety

Don’t go to a party alone. Always take a friend who can watch your back. In addition, make sure to leave together, or leave with someone else you know well. 

Make sure your phone is fully charged before you head out the door, and ensure that you have a designated driver. 

No matter what you’re drinking, never leave your drink unattended. Pour it yourself, and if it’s ever out of your sight, get a new drink. 

Remember, you’re allowed to say NO, and that no needs to be respected. It’s easy to believe that nothing will happen to you. But, it’s always better to take the necessary steps to stay safe at a college party

4. Stay Connected

Remember, your biggest support system is back home. It’s easy to get caught up in the grind of college and not call home. Or, to only go home when you need laundry done. 

However, your family and friends back home are a valuable support system you will need during college. Sometimes all you need is that call from your mom to cheer you on when you feel like you’re at the end of your rope. Other days, it might be a giggle-fest with your best friend from high school to help you laugh the stress away. 

Take time to stay connected with your cheerleaders and the people who love you. It’s not always possible to visit home often, but video calls, text messages, and phone calls can do wonders for you. 

Related Read: 40+ College Student Discounts in Tech, Fashion & Beyond!

5. Remember to Sleep 

Your college years will be a time of your life you will never forget. There are endless opportunities, and it’s crucial to take advantage of what you can. 

But, it’s also important to remember to sleep. Around 70 to 96 percent of college students get less than eight hours of sleep a night, and over half get less than seven hours a night. 

The recommended amount of sleep for young adults from 18 to 25 is seven to nine hours a night. This means that most college students don’t get enough sleep. 

Even if you value your sleep, it’s easy to neglect it when trying to keep up with everything going on in your life. If you’re falling asleep on top of a pile of books, you’re not sleeping enough, and you’re not going to be at your best. 

Chronic sleep deprivation can have an impact on your mental and physical health. 

However, just a few things you might notice impacting you include: 

  • Fatigue and daytime sleepiness
  • Short temper
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating, focusing, and remembering
  • Brain fog
  • Difficulty coping with stress
  • Mood changes

In addition, remember from our tip about eating that not getting enough sleep impacts what you eat and can contribute to weight gain. 

6. Get to Know Your Professors

College is a great time to begin networking. The friends you make, and classmates you connect with can often become part of your professional network later in life. 

But, one of your most valuable resources for networking will be your professors. These are people who have spent time working in your desired field and have built valuable connections. Your professors also have a wealth of knowledge that they can share if you’re willing to take the time to listen and learn. 

During class, don’t take a seat in the very back. Sit up front and participate. Ask questions and show your professors that you’re invested in your education. 

Read the syllabus, find out your professor’s office hours, and then use those hours. Office hours are excellent if you’re struggling with a concept. Sometimes all it takes is a little extra time with someone walking you through the concept step by step for it to click. 

Take the time to invest in your learning, and do quality work, and your professors will notice. Later, they’ll be willing to invest in you when you need a recommendation or advice. 

7. Get Involved

How can you discover who you are if you don’t try new things? There are a plethora of activities you can choose from at college. Find some student organizations that connect with the things you already love. 

Is there something you wanted to do in high school but were too scared to do? Explore those opportunities in college. 

In addition, take the time to attend special events for students. This can include career fairs, speakers, conferences, and more. 

Especially if the events are free. If there is a conference you’re interested in, check to see if they have a special rate for students. Some conferences even give students the ability to volunteer and attend for free. 

Not only will this help you explore fields of study you’re interested in, but it will also allow you to begin networking. 

Find volunteer opportunities as well. Giving back to the community has many benefits, and it gives you the chance to get a glimpse at different populations you might be interested in working with.  

Related Read: How to Make Friends in College: 10+ Easy Ways to Meet People at Uni

8. Practice Good Time Management

 Volunteering, student organizations, studying, class, work, social activities, staying healthy, and sleep can leave you feeling like there are not enough hours in the day. All of these things are important, but so are you. 

You won’t be successful in college if you don’t practice good time management and remember to set aside time for yourself. For extroverts, maybe going to a party is refreshing. 

However, everyone needs time to themselves. When you’re preparing for college, you should start learning how to manage your time. 

If you feel like you’re already behind with learning to manage your time, don’t worry. It’s never too late to start learning. 

There are many methods that are helpful when it comes to time management. Some people prefer a digital calendar, and others prefer a paper calendar. 

At the end of the day, it’s about finding what works for you. There are a few tried and proven methods you can try and then adjust so that they work for you. 

Time Blocks

With time blocking, you divide your day into blocks of time. You will use each block to accomplish a specific task. For example, you could have a block for attending classes and one for studying. 

The important thing is that you complete the tasks you assigned yourself during that time. It might take some time to learn how long you realistically need for different tasks, so be prepared to make changes if needed. 

However, you also need to schedule a time to work out and time for self-care. Set those times, and then don’t let anything interrupt them. 

If a friend wants to hang out, invite them to work out with you. If it’s during your self-care time, only say yes if the interaction will leave you energized and not drained. 

One of the most important lessons you need to learn in life is that it’s okay to say no. You don’t need to feel guilty about saying no or taking care of yourself. 

Pomodoro Technique

Do you struggle to focus and get things done? You’re not alone. Social media and gadgets are a massive distraction in today’s world. 

That’s why there are many time management and focus tools available today. One you might want to consider is the Pomodoro Technique. 

This technique helps you focus and take mini-breaks, so your brain doesn’t burn out. With this technique, you set a timer for 25 minutes and start working. 

At the end of the 25 minutes, you take a five-minute break. After four 25-minute working sessions, you can take a more extended break of 15 minutes. 

This technique works well for many people, and it’s adjustable. If you find you do better working 40 minutes with 10-minute breaks, go for it. 

9. Use Campus Resources

Colleges offer many free or low-cost resources to their students. These resources can help in every aspect of your life. Take advantage of these resources while you have access to them. 

Career Services

Many colleges have a career services office. Here you can get help with creating a resume, finding networking opportunities, learning interview skills, and more. 

This department focuses on helping you find success after college. If your college has a career services department take the time to find out what they offer. 

Writing Center

Not everyone is a strong writer, and that’s okay. However, there is a lot of writing in college, and you will need basic skills in your future career. 

If you’re struggling with writing, check if your college has a writing center. The advisors there can help you break things down and write papers that impress your professor. 

Tutoring Center

Everyone struggles from time to time and needs extra help. That’s why many colleges have tutoring centers. If you’re struggling with a subject and one meeting with your professor during office hours isn’t enough, check out the tutoring center at your college. 

Student Health

Student health services often come at a small cost, but many universities give you the opportunity to include that cost as part of your tuition. Student health services are excellent if you just need a quick check-up. 

In addition, many colleges offer counseling as part of their student health office. This is a great resource to take advantage of. 

Counselors can help you with techniques to cope with stress and work through other emotions you’re experiencing. 

Recreational Services

You don’t need to pay for a gym membership in college. Many colleges have recreational services, and using the pool and gym is free for enrolled students. 

In addition, recreational services will often provide other opportunities. Like outdoor programs where you can go camping and hiking. There are even universities that have rock-climbing facilities. 

Campus Security

It’s not uncommon to be on campus after dark. Keep safety in mind, and find out what resources your campus security offers. Do they walk students to their cars or dorms after dark? 

If they do, take advantage of it. Don’t be alone on campus after dark.


When you’re doing research in college, you need access to a lot of information. Your college library is a great place to start. However, many times you don’t even need to go to the library to benefit from it. 

Many universities allow students access to academic journals at no cost. This is great when you’re doing research online. 

In addition, as more and more books become digital you can borrow digital copies of text from your library. 

Related Read: College vs University: What’s the Difference Between Uni and College?

10. Don’t Skip Class or Studying

In high school, your parent’s made sure you got up and out the door to school. If you were caught cutting class or skipping school you were probably grounded. 

However, there’s no one to make sure you get out of bed and attend class in college. Your professor won’t call your parents if you skip class. There’s also no one to make sure you sit down and study

The responsibility falls on you. It’s easy to think you’ll just skip “this once” and for skipping to quickly become a habit. 

Treat college like a job; make sure you’re always in class and ready to learn on time. Your professors will notice. 

Follow These Freshmen College Tips for Success

Your freshmen year of college will be full of new experiences and changes. Take the time to discover who you are, take care of yourself, and remember to use the resources available to you. 

Were these freshmen college tips helpful? Sign up for Goodwall today and reach your full potential with a supportive community that has your back.  

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Goodwall Team
Written By Goodwall Team
This article was written by the Goodwall team or by a contributor for publication on Goodwall. Goodwall is dedicated to helping students, entrepreneurs, and young professionals reach their full potential. We'll share thought-provoking and supportive articles on career advice, self-improvement, navigating the college landscape, climate action, social impact, and more. On the business side, we'll talk about SMB subjects related to community, diversity, talent acquisition, case studies, and enterprise.

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