Blog: 8 unique tips on how to prepare for your freshman year
- Check out course requirements before you register. Knowing the requirements ahead of time can help you decide on a class. Different people excel at different types of assignments – some fare well with written papers and some ace the multiple choice exam. Also, the intensity of the requirements can help you decide when would be the best time to take a certain class. If you're not sure what the requirements will be, you can check out the course syllabus from a previous semester to get an idea.
- Check out the professor before you sign up for the class. To the extent possible, get a sense of what kind of person and what kind of lecturer the professor is (whether through rateyourprofessor.com, or by talking to someone who lived to tell the tale). First of all, it is a mistake to think that the most interesting course titles and descriptions are in any way correlated with the most interesting classes. An interesting professor can make statistics a pleasure, and a boring professor can put you to sleep talking about the psychology of the psychopathic mind. Secondly, you want to take your classes with professors who are fair, lenient, and reasonable, while avoiding those who are bad graders, arbitrary, and academically intolerant.
- Note the times and locations of classes you sign up for. To the extent possible, you want to make sure your courses will be spread out or condensed in a way that will allow you to maximize your time – for studying, working, or other pursuits. Also, make sure you will be able to make it from one class to another on time.
- Try and locate the best note-takers. They are an asset. Here's how to identify them: they come to every class, they type their notes (or have excellent penmanship), and they don't come off as your kill-or-be-killed competitive type. But also bear in mind that the best relationships are give-take relationships.
- Don't fear your professors. Yes they are older than you. Yes they are in positions of authority. But they are also people and many of them are humane. Your professor may be more willing than you anticipate to reconsider a grade, or find a workaround to a logistic or personal problem. And even if your request is denied, as long as you show respect and come with a reasonable attitude, there should be no harm in asking.
- Be thorough. Bureaucracy is a nightmare. But if you are thorough now you will rest easy later. Be diligent in making sure you have all your paperwork taken care of, and that you know exactly what academic requirements you must meet (and when).
- Be adaptive. When you choose a major and when you decide to pursue certain academic interests you are doing so based on limited information – what you think may interest you, what you think you may be good at, what you think may be practical, and what numerous people have advised you to do. But in your freshman year (and subsequently) you will accumulate more information, and learn more about yourself. Success is in large part a matter of rethinking decisions and not being afraid to make changes or admit a mistake.
- Don't fear failure. You will fail. That is a part of life, and that is a part of college. At some point there will likely be a course that needs to be retaken or replaced with another, or a grade that needs to be improved. Try not to waste your time and energies berating yourself or reassessing your cognitive abilities. That said, try to be analytical about what led to the failure, so you can do better the second time around.
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