The first semester of college will be pretty overwhelming from the start. You suddenly have a lot more responsibility because you’re living on your own, signing up for classes, competing for good grades, and participating in extracurriculars. All the while, you want a strong social life, which can be difficult to maintain when you’re so busy.
You need some basic advice to help your first semester go smoothly. Learn from those who have gone before you. Here are a few things to take care of before classes start.
Choose Your Career Early
College students often change their career choices before they graduate. In fact, about 80 percent of students will change their majors at least one time before they graduate. These students will declare a major an average of three times in their college career. If you don’t love what you’re studying at first, it’s best to make a change while you’re still in school.
However, constantly changing your major will significantly slow down your education and add to your stress. If you want to graduate in four years instead of five or six, it’s important to get your major right the first time.
Choosing a major that you’ll love is a lot harder than you might think, making it a tall order for the first-semester freshman. However, it helps if you look at it in terms of careers rather than education. Instead of choosing a field of study, choose a career that you’ve always wanted, and then choose a major that supports that.
For example, if you’ve always wanted to be an ultrasound technician in the maternity ward of the hospital, you’ll need a bachelor of science in diagnostic medical sonography. If you want to be a kindergarten teacher, you’ll need an elementary education degree.
Rather than exploring your major options, explore careers. Think about what you’ve always wanted to be when you grow up, and then choose an education path to get there. You’ll always have classes that you don’t enjoy along the way, but if you hold onto the career path on the other end, it’ll help you get through quickly.
Find Suitable, Affordable Housing
Where you live dictates much of the peace, happiness, and satisfaction of your college career. An apartment with immature roommates and hefty maintenance problems will make your experience more stressful than it needs to be.
Many first-semester freshmen choose to live in the dorms, but at most colleges, that’s not the only option. You can live anywhere off campus as long as you have no problem getting to your classes.
Research apartments that are available around your campus for best results. Some apartment complexes will have been around for decades, which doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be a bad place to live, but they’re more likely to have maintenance problems. You don’t want a flood from a leaky roof interrupting your study time.
If you’re on a budget, it’s always smart to look outside of the immediate campus area for housing and then commute to school. Contact construction companies in neighboring towns to see whether any new apartment complexes have come up recently for you and some roommates to live in.
If you’re going to Pennsylvania State University, for example, contact homebuilders in Hanover, PA, to get a good idea of the apartment complex situated in the area. You can live there with friends and commute to campus every day to save big on housing.
Call the Repairman
Things will probably break down in your apartment at some point. It’s the natural way of things, but unfortunately, it often happens in the middle of the semester. Rather than waiting for something to break during midterms when you don’t have time to deal with it, call a repairman as soon as you move in.
Have them inspect the apartment fully, checking for areas of weakness that might cause problems down the road. For example, you can’t have your air conditioning going out during a hot September. Just research air conditioning services in Bucks County, PA, and find someone to inspect it ahead of time.
Make sure that you document any potential problems with your apartment. A repairman will likely do the inspection for free, but repairs can be costly. Your landlord should be responsible for paying, and you have legal rights to hold your landlord to that.
Get Renters Insurance
Another important way to protect yourself while living in off-campus housing is to get renters insurance. This policy will cover your belongings within your apartment in the event of theft or a disaster.
This is especially important if you’re living in an area with higher crime rates because of the cheaper rent. Your renter’s insurance will cover even items that are stolen from your car while it’s parked on campus.
Unexpected expenses and problems are hard to deal with no matter when they happen, but during the stressful college years, you don’t have time to deal with them. It only costs a few bucks per month for a policy, but it gives you all the peace of mind you need.
Look for renters insurance policies that are close to home. For example, if you’re going to Rutgers University, check out policies online for renters insurance in New Jersey. They’ll have policies specifically geared towards your situation and budget, which is perfect for a struggling college student.
Plan a Trip to Look Forward to
There’s no better time to travel than in your college years. It will be the only time in your life that you’re not tied down by a job that makes taking an extended vacation difficult. You also don’t have family responsibilities so you can travel whenever your school schedule allows.
If you have the funds, you’ll plan time to travel every break you get, even if you can only travel across the state. During spring break, consider heading down to Florida to the beach or to amusement parks in Orlando. While you’re there, explore a little. You’ll have plenty of places to see on Florida’s Gulf Coast that would be perfect for your spring break vacation.
For Christmas break, go to Colorado where you can ski on the slopes and have a glorious white Christmas. Big cities such as New York City and Chicago are also beautiful at Christmas time. It’s definitely worth making this holiday special with friends and family by booking a vacation.
Travel as much as you can, but make sure you plan ahead of time. Check the school calendar and syllabi to make sure you’re able to go on your projected travel dates. You don’t find out that you have an exam scheduled on the day you’re planning to fly out for vacation.
You risk failing the class if you skip it, so it’s best to simply plan travel dates around your essential school days. You’ll be glad you had the foresight at the beginning of the semester.
College is supposed to be a fun, exciting time of exploration. Don’t let yourself get lost in the struggles of being on your own and navigating a college experience. These tips should help you get on the right track from the beginning and avoid heartaches along the way.