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How to Prepare for the First Year in College

by Jan Archer

The first year of college is no cake walk. While you're confronted with new classes and academic challenges, you'll also be adjusting to a new lifestyle away from home. There are ways to get organized and emotionally ready yourself for this new phase of life, and the sooner you start, the better off you'll be once the semester kicks off.

Stay Productive

If you skated through high school with little studying, prepare for a shock freshman year. Schedules are rigorous, and many required freshman courses like English composition are designed to get you used to a consistent workload. Prepare for this by getting your mind in shape over the summer. Take on a part-time or full-time job, and keep reading, even if you choose to read novels or fantasy. Any way to keep your mind active is a positive step toward readiness for freshman year. Instead of soaking up the sun by the pool all summer, save that activity for the weekends and use the week to keep your mind sharp with reading, sports and work.

Stay Fit

If you've never hit the gym or laced up sneakers for a sport or a jog, it's time to start. Physical fitness will make your life easier freshman year when your schedule will require late-night study sessions and lots of food-oriented activities. The famous "freshman fifteen" is not a myth. Many students find that the on-the-go lifestyle of freshman year causes weight gain and discomfort. Start making time for daily exercise now, even if that means a quick walk around the block in the morning to clear your head or a break every two hours for jumping jacks and pushups. You'll sleep better, study more effectively, and feel more confident if you get regular exercise.

Start Organizing Your Living Space

Whether you're living at home or moving to a dorm, your living space will change once you begin freshman year. You'll need to have a clean, clear space in your room for reading and studying. If you plan to live at home, have an honest discussion with your family about the time and space you'll need for quiet study hours. Make sure siblings and parents understand that you may need to be undisturbed for hours during the day while you study for tests or write papers. If you plan to move to a dorm, pick out your bedding and make sure you have a container for your bathroom items since you'll likely travel down the hall to a shared bathroom during freshman year. It may take some time to get used to a new living space, but start thinking about the way you want to organize it around personal comfort and studying needs.

Make a Budget

One of the most overlooked preparations for freshman year is budgeting. After all, you may be out of your parents' house and on your own for the first time, or you may be living at home but expected to provide your own meals or pitch in with bills. Sit down and make a budget that outlines how much you can spend per week on food, gas, entertainment like movies and sports tickets, and other miscellaneous needs like toiletries. If you live in a dorm, the cost of housing will be added to your tuition bill, but smaller expenses like soap, shampoo, razors and laundry soap can sneak up on you if you don't budget properly. Staying in control of your finances will mitigate stress and allow you to focus on the really important parts of college: learning, community and friendships.

About the Author

Jan Archer holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a master's degree in creative writing. Roth has written trade books for Books-a-Million and has published articles on green living, wellness and education topics. She taught business writing, literature, creative writing and English composition at the college level for five years.

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