So you’re off to college. No parents. No family. No one to watch over you. That means that you can finally live the life you want, right? – Wrong. If you’re not prepared, your college freshman experience may be anything but a breeze.
The truth is that while the university does generally afford more opportunities for self-exploration, adapting to this new-found reality can prove quite tricky. That’s why we’ve put together ten of the most common challenges faced by a college freshman. Keep these in mind as you prepare for your university life so that you can make the perfect transition.
1. Adapting to a New Workload
Let’s make one thing clear: college is not high school. It requires a lot more effort—and a lot more personal responsibility. And trust us: most people have trouble adapting to these differences. Especially in terms of the workload.
You’ll find that your professors are far less lenient than your high school teachers ever were. Because public school systems have to follow strict grading and workload quotas, students don’t have to worry about being overburdened with work. That’s not true in college. Many professors will pile on work—without even because four of your other professors are doing the same.
Even worse, many professors—especially those with tenure—come to the university to research and not to teach. The unfortunate reality of this is that you’re going to have to pick up the slack. This means more personal effort — more studying. And getting to know every one of your expensive textbooks as if they were your favorite novel.
Second chances are hard to come by. Your work will start to count more because your professors aren’t likely to drop it. That quiz that you didn’t pass because you spent the night partying?
Yeah, that will go against your GPA. Your professor isn’t going to drop any grades.
This makes staying on top of your work much more important. If you’re used to lax high school life, be prepared to change your mindset and be dedicated to your work and get motivated.
2. Sticking to a Schedule
What this boils down to is that you’re going to have to stick to a schedule. This is even more important when considering that you may have to balance your work with newfound social life and even job. This all requires new levels of discipline.
Remember, you’re not going to have your parents looking out for you anymore. And even the best professors don’t have time to take to watch over you. Instead, your success is going to depend on your personal decisions. This means making a schedule and sticking to it. But that’s often not easy. You may find that you have unexpected assignments and projects. Your part-time job might call you in.
You may even face pressure from your dormmates to go out and party. And let’s be honest: who wants to risk social isolation?
For these reasons, those looking to manage their college transition properly need to set firm boundaries. Make a schedule for every day with a checklist of what needs to get done. And stick to it. If necessary, write a research proposal or study plan essay to better organize your study times.
By staying true to your study schedule, you can get ahead of the game. Though it will take time to learn this level of personal discipline, doing so will build skills that will help in college and the world beyond.
3. Cooking or Finding the Right Food
One thing you won’t realize you’ll miss until you go to college is a good, home-cooked meal. We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but the truth is that you’re not going to be able to eat all your favorites while at university.
You may go months without a home-cooked meal. And no matter how many restaurants you go to, you’re going to find yourself missing the taste of home. Matters get even worse when you consider the fact that many dorms don’t have kitchens. Even in the ones that do, it’s not typical that many people bother to cook.
You’ll have to bring your pots and pans, and you’ll be liable for any damages that result from cooking mishaps. Things might be better if you’ve managed to score your apartment, but keep in mind that many universities have a restrictive policy that doesn’t allow incoming freshmen to live off-campus. This means that you’re likely going to be stuck with a dorm.
We know what you’re thinking: you’re on your university’s meal plan. You’ll be okay.
The truth is that many universities overhype the quality of their food. While it’s certainly not the case that the food will taste bad, don’t expect five-star five dining, either.
4. Adjusting to Living with Others
For many, a university is the first time they’ve had to live with anyone other than family. This can be especially challenging for those who grew up in a single-child household. While having a roommate has its benefits—namely, it’s nice to build close relations when you’re far from home—it can take some time getting used to.
Namely, you’re not going to enjoy the same levels of privacy that you’re used to. And you’re going to have to learn to deal with the social and daily habits of another. This often poses unthought-of challenges. While it’s easy to think that you may not always agree with your roommate, other challenges often prove more challenging to overcome.
You may, for instance, find that you and your roommates sleeping schedules are different. Or, you may be a recluse while he is a party animal.
Worst of all, though, is that you’re hardly ever going to feel at home for quite a while. Many things that you do in private won’t be an option for you anymore—even common bodily functions such as breaking wind.
Okay, we know—maybe that’s a little too much information. But it’s vital that you fully understand just how difficult it is to make the transition.
5. Using Communal Bathrooms
All aboard our TMI-train. Though going to the bathroom isn’t something most like to think about, it becomes a real pain when attending university.
If you’re like most, you’re used to private bathrooms. Unfortunately, this is a luxury that most can’t afford when living in the dorms.
That’s right. You’ll be stuck with a communal bathroom that serves you and all eighty others in your hall. And trust us: it’s not fun. While it’s true that the bathrooms do have stalls and private showers, it’s also the case that they’re much more open than you would probably like.
This means you’re going to have to adapt to performing some of your most private functions in a public space—and in front of people who know you.
Yikes. We understand just how cringe-worthy this challenge can be.
That’s why it’s essential to have a plan in mind ahead of time.
We have one pro-tip for you: find a unisex bathroom. These bathrooms are private and come with their door lock—and you should be able to see them sprinkled across campus. Go late at night when others are asleep, and you’ll be able to keep yourself regular in as private a manner as possible.
6. Getting Across Campus
If you thought getting from one class to another on time in high school was hard, you have another thing coming. College campuses can stretch for hundreds of acres—often necessitating the need for buses and public transportation to get from one class to another.
Fortunately, universities typically provide their students with free transportation throughout the semester so that they don’t have to rack up outrageous fees to get to class. This doesn’t make it any easier to be on time, however.
You’re going to have to learn the layout of your campus—and learn it quickly. Bus routes are going to need to be memorized so that you can make it to class on time. And while there are apps available that can help you plan your schedule, it’s crucial that you never miss your ride.
Staying after a few minutes in a class, for instance, can often cause you to miss the only bus that could get you across campus in time. This becomes a significant problem with some professors reserving the right to drop you from the roll if you miss even two classes.
For this reason, make sure that you take the time to practice getting around campus in your first week. Ideally, you’ll want to do this before classes start so that you don’t have to miss any days.
7. Picking the Right Classes
One of the areas many college first-year students struggle with is selecting the right courses. This becomes even more difficult for students who haven’t decided on a major yet. When this happens, many students find themselves choosing the wrong classes. These are ones that not only prove so hard that they drop your grade, but that they also do nothing to further your education.
If you want to major in English, for example, choosing a course in physics often causes more harm than good. To help combat this, it’s essential that you discuss with your academic advisor before choosing your classes. These professionals can help guide you in the right direction. They understand the university and its requirements and can help ensure that you’re getting the most out of your education as possible.
For those who are undecided on their majors, these experts can even help you choose a course in college. While the ultimate decision is up to you, don’t be afraid to use academic advisors to streamline your experience. By doing so, you can cut down on some significant hassles while transitioning to university.
8. Finding the Right Friends
Perhaps the worst part of starting university is leaving your old friends behind. If you’re lucky, you may have a few friends who follow you from high school, but even then, they’re likely going to be few and far between.
It’s often the case that you’re going to have to find a new social circle and set of friends. This can often be liberating. For one, you can get away from others’ expectations of you and start living a life that better suits you. This means that you can finally begin to hang with a crowd that makes you feel comfortable.
However, it can be difficult finding these friends, and you may often feel pressured into befriending your roommates or classmates. While this works for some, it’s important that you enter relationships naturally—and not out of pressure.
Just be aware that this can take time—so expect to spend a few lonely nights.
9. Resisting Temptation
Many universities are just as well known for their wild parties as they are for their education. If that’s the case for your school, you may find that you have to resist temptation more often than not.
But remember, making sure that you stay on track is important to your overall academic success. And depending on your financial situation, you may need to keep up your grades to retain needed scholarships. For many, however, college opens the door to exciting new opportunities that seem hard to turn down. From wild parties to daring hookups, college can often be treated as a liberating experience.
Make sure that you’re not so caught up in this illusion that you neglect what’s important.
10. Paying for School
Finally, you may find that you need to pay for school. This often involves getting a part-time job to cover student loans and other expenses. You may consider applying for a school without an application fee or apply for a fully-funded scholarship to cover your academic cost.
If this is the case, be aware that you’re going to have to juggle the extra burden of having a job with your studies. While this can be done, be sure that you don’t let yourself get so caught up that your grades begin to slip.