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Navigating Freshman Year: Tips for a Successful Start

by Grace Bennett

My first year at University of Central Florida coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and let me tell you, it turned everything on its head. The typical college experience I had envisioned was replaced by a mix of remote learning, social distancing, and face masks. It felt like a whirlwind of uncertainty and adaptation, but looking back, it’s clear that everyone’s college journey is unique, pandemic or not. As time went on, I realized that while the circumstances were challenging, they didn’t define my entire college experience. Adapting to virtual learning made me more disciplined and proactive in managing my time. Zoom study groups and online forums became my new way of connecting with peers, and they created unexpected friendships that I might not have formed otherwise.

While my college journey during the pandemic might not have been what I initially imagined, it’s important to remember that everyone’s experience is uniquely their own. Some may have found unexpected silver linings in virtual connections, while others might have faced more challenges than they ever anticipated. The key takeaway is that regardless of the circumstances, college is what you make of it.

Having survived my fair share of college craziness, I’ve put together 10 tips that I think could be super helpful for future freshmen or those already at college:

Put Yourself Out There

Venture outside your comfort zone to cultivate new friendships, uncover unexpected opportunities, and grow personally. Join clubs, engage in events, and start conversations to forge a network that will shape your college journey. Every interaction holds potential for lasting memories and connections. 

Stay Organized

Balancing classes, assignments, and a social life can be quite the juggling act. Staying organized has been my go-to move for making sure my grades don’t tank. Whether it’s a cute planner or a digital calendar, keeping track of deadlines and events will be your lifesaver.

Explore the Campus

One of my major college regrets is not getting out and exploring my campus more. UCF is one of the largest universities, and honestly, I didn’t roam around nearly as much as I should’ve. Find shortcuts between classes, discover a secret study spot, and get familiar with all the nooks and crannies – it will make navigating college life a breeze. 

Build Relationships

College is a melting pot of personalities. As a freshmen, you should make it a point to dive into social events, clubs, and gatherings. Building connections can lead to lifelong friendships and collaborations. 

Seek Help When Needed

Being someone who has a knack for making others happy, I’ve often found it hard to reach out for help when I really needed it. This tendency has, at times, caused me to underperform in school since I was too hesitant to seek help. If there’s one piece of college advice I could offer above all else, it would be to never hold back from asking for help. Remember, everyone’s in the learning boat, and they might be just as uncertain as you. Professors, advisors, and support services are there to guide you academically and personally.

Stay True to Yourself

As we are all only getting older, we’re in this process of learning, changing, and evolving into different versions of ourselves. In the midst of all these fresh experiences, holding onto your core values and goals is crucial.

Prioritize your Well-Being

I cannot stress this one enough! In the midst of the hustle and bustle, taking care of yourself should always stay on your radar. Balancing a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and practicing mindfulness significantly contributes to crafting a college experience that’s both healthier and happier. Remember, your mind and body are your best companions on this journey, so make sure to give them the attention they deserve.

Master Time Management

This one is always a struggle! Time management is absolutely important in college because it’s the key to juggling academics, social life, and personal well-being effectively. With a packed schedule of classes, assignments, and extracurricular activities, effective time management helps you to meet your deadlines without burning out. 

Budget Wisely

Money management is a life skill best learned early. I learned this one the hard way. Creating a budget for essentials and leisure activities can help keep finances in check and prevent surprises down the road.

Have Fun

Four years might seem like an eternity, but trust me, they zoom by in the blink of an eye. College is this whirlwind of moments, from cramming for exams to late-night laughs with friends. Try and make the most out of it. It’s not just about the classes – it’s about making connections, figuring out what your purpose in life is, and growing into an even more amazing version of yourself. 

As I look back on my own college journey, one thing for sure: it’s been a wild ride filled with many twists, turns, and unexpected detours. The COVID-19 pandemic threw us all a curveball, changing the college experience in ways we could have never predicted. Yet, what I’ve come to understand is that every student’s path is uniquely their own, pandemic or not. 

Remember, this is your journey to shape. Embrace all the ups and downs, the laughter and challenges, and the friendships you will endure. Your college experience is like an unfinished book, waiting for your unique story to be written across its pages. Go out there and make it one for the ages! 

About the Author

Grace Bennett is a senior at the University of Central Florida, pursuing a major in Marketing. GO KNIGHTS!

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