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Freshman Success Factors: How to Make the Most of Your First Year on Campus

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Your first year on campus can be a roller-coaster of ups and downs. Along with the exhilarating highs of crashing raucous college parties, exploring a new social scene, and getting your first real taste of freedom comes the sobering challenges of a soul-crushing academic workload and the sometimes-unpleasant consequences of your new adult responsibilities.

Sadly, for some students, the pressures of freshman year turn out to be too much to bear. According to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Education, nearly one-third of all college freshmen fail at least one class their first year on campus. Even more distressingly, 60% of incoming freshmen fail to graduate within six years. Presumably, many of these students eventually drop out and never complete their degree.

So what can you do to make sure that you don’t fall prey to this fate? Experts say that being aware of just a few key pitfalls to avoid can go a long way towards ensuring that you’ll sail through your freshmen year with flying colors. Here are some common-sense tips to help you make the most of your first year on campus.

*Read up on time management and study skills. You know those crazy, last-minute, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants antics that you relied on to wing it through high school? They’re not going to cut it in college. If you’re chronically disorganized and wouldn’t know a study skill if it bit you on the butt, now is the time to crack down and get serious. The summer before you hit campus, spend some time in the productivity and study skills sections of your local bookstore or library. There are dozens of systems out there – find out what works for you and stick with it.

*Make full use of campus resources. These days, most college campuses offer a cornucopia of cool resources geared to help students make the most of their college experience. Whether it’s the digital reference material at the campus library or free sessions at the tutoring center, chances are you’ll find something that can help you become a better student. If your school offers an orientation program designed to introduce students to campus resources, be sure to sign up for it. If you don’t, you might never even know what you’re missing out on.

*Treat your coursework like a full-time job. First-year college students often make the mistake of assuming that a full course load will only take up 10 or 15 hours of time each week. Sure, your actual class meetings will likely clock in at under 20 hours, but when you take into consideration all the time you’ll have to spend getting to and from your classes, completing your assigned readings, doing homework, studying, meeting with classmates or professors, and working on long-term projects, your time investment each week is most likely going to top 50 hours and change. You’ll be much better off if you recognize this from the outset and plan your schedule accordingly.

*Attack problems head-on. College freshmen are known for being notorious procrastinators, and not just when it comes to class work. All too often, first-year students try to avoid problems and challenges that pop up, rather than just dealing with them head on. To ensure success in your freshman year, familiarize yourself with the problem-solving mode that productivity guru Stephen Covey calls “being proactive” – that is, “acting before a situation becomes a source of confrontation or crisis.” Apply this principle with your professors, when dealing with your roommates, and in your personal life.

*Force yourself out of your comfort zone. The first year of college can be a tumultuous experience, and many freshmen wind up feeling a bit disoriented by the whole process of getting acclimated to their new environment. In response to this, some first-year students withdraw into themselves, sticking closely to the same friends, interests, hobbies, and activities that saw them through high school. Though this response is understandable, it won’t do much to help you get the most out of your college experience. Push your boundaries and try something new. You just might stumble across a passion you didn’t even know you had!

What factors do you think most influence freshman-year success? If you’ve already made it through your first year on campus, what advice would you give to the newcomers who’ll be showing up in droves this fall? Give us your insight in the comments.


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Stefanie about 7 years ago Stefanie


I would like to know where you found these statistics:" According to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Education, nearly one-third of all college freshmen fail at least one class their first year on campus. Even more distressingly, 60% of incoming freshmen fail to graduate within six years. Presumably, many of these students eventually drop out and never complete their degree". I would like to use them in a presentation to college freshmen but I need a source. Thanks :)