Advice for College Freshmen and Transfers

college advice catholic

During college, I sometimes felt a little (or a lot) lost. I often wondered if I could really handle an “adult” life. The good news is, I figured it out. And you will, too! In the meantime, I’ve put together a little list of things to help you along the way!

College Advice: Things to Do

Get all the paperwork done first.

Be sure to make all the “boring stuff” (getting your Student ID, class schedule, etc.) your top priority. Complete it early in the first week of the semester, going to the necessary offices first thing in the morning to avoid lines. It’s a good foundation to build off of for the rest of the semester!

Find the closest chapel.

It’s important to find a spot for prayer outside of your dorm room. You will need a place for quiet reflection and rest (maybe even a place to cry when you feel overwhelmed). Be consistent in your visits. Try to go everyday, even if some visits are shorter than others. You’ll be amazed at your growing awareness of God’s presence throughout your day if you do this.

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Similarly, make time for quality prayer every. single. day.

I know you’re busy, but God cannot be outdone in generosity. Any time you give Him in prayer, he will give back to you one-hundred times over. You will never ever regret spending time praying. It’s a very good way to become familiar with God’s voice. This can only be of benefit to you. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

Do all of your assignments.

Even the little ones that you think you can afford to skip. They provide a nice cushion for the tests which may be harder than you expected!

Get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis.

I’m not saying to never stay up late with friends (that is an important part of your college experience). Similarly, there will be times (usually around midterms and finals) that you need to stay up until the wee hours of the morning. That’s normal. Just make sure that the majority of the time you are getting enough rest. Your brain and your immune system will thank you.

College Advice: Things to Avoid

Don’t buy a ton of stuff for your dorm room ahead of time.

I did this and regretted it. I bought too much stuff that I ended up never using and all it did was take up space and make my dorm room crowded and messy. Move into your dorm with much much less than you think you need. You can always go out and buy something later. If I could do it all again, I would only buy new bedding, hangers, a collapsible hamper, and a favorite inspirational print.

Don’t purchase a bunch of school supplies…

…at least until you’ve gone to all your classes and seen the preferences of your professor. Some don’t allow laptops, some want a specific type of notebook to use for a re-occurring assignment. Many don’t care, but for the professors who do, you don’t want to get on their bad side. Wait to purchase what supplies you need until after you see the syllabus for each class.

Do not compare yourself to others.

Even if it seems like someone else has all their ducks in a row, chances are they are hiding a cross of their own. Just because you can only see what looks like a golden life, do not assume that this person is not also struggling. As one of my theology professors used to say, “Comparison is from the pits of hell and should stay there.” Do yourself a favor and don’t base another’s reality on your perception!

Don’t get involved in every single opportunity.

It’s important to go out and meet people. But it’s also important that you have time to breath in your schedule. Do not over-value busy-ness! Society has raised us to believe that the busier we are, the more value we hold. Not surprisingly, our country also has some of the highest anxiety and depression rates in the entire world. Correlation does not always apply causation. But I know that for myself, unending business makes my anxiety levels sky-rocket. So build in time to relax, and don’t feel guilty about doing it!

Don’t “wing” it.

Time management is crucial to success. Learn how to plan your day and your week to maximize efficiency. You can always modify the plan as you go, but having one to begin with will always help you to “get the ball rolling” and stay on task. It also ensures that due dates for assignments don’t sneak up on you!

College Advice: Things You May Not Expect

Your friendships will change.

Even those ones that were some of your longest and dearest before college. This doesn’t mean that the friendship wasn’t real; it simply means that life is changing. College-made friends are different. Connections run deeper and become more meaningful because of bonding over shared values, hours of exhausted studying, and learning how to navigate the “adult” world together. In a sense, these friends become an extension of your family, as they are the people you spend all your time with, and you get to choose each other.

You’ll need to adjust the way you study and learn.

You can’t just memorize, you have to learn! I remember spending over ten hours studying for my first big collegiate test and was shocked when I only received a B. I discovered couldn’t operate the same way I had in high school if I wanted to be successful in college.

The world is bigger than you realize.

When I went away to college, I discovered how very little I actually knew about life. Turns out adult reality is much bigger and more complicated than I ever knew. Don’t worry though, you’ll figure it all out.

Future employers might not care about the things you think.

Join the groups and help with events that you’re actually interested in, not the ones you think will necessarily look good on your resume. You’ll be surprised how God uses your natural interests and authenticity to help you land a job.

Final College Advice from a Friar

Over a decade ago, one of the friars that was a part of Franciscan University’s study abroad program in Austria gave some memorable advice. It was so memorable that the staff  repeats it every semester with the arrival of new students:

Some of you need to get out of the bars and into the chapel…and some of you need to get out of the chapel and into the bars!

Virtue is found in the balance of life, not in the extremes. Being a regular human being who loves God and normal everyday things about society does a whole lot of good in world, both for you and everyone else.

Got a question about college? Worry? Anxiety? Pop it in the comments section below!

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Grace Bellon is a lover of bearded men, rich coffee, cheesy puns, cuddly doggies, and Catholicism. You can find out more about her here (warned ya she liked cheesy puns).

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