And don’t rack up credit card debt — especially if it’s while trying to keep up with your high-spending classmates.
Find a community. You are more likely to succeed in college if you feel like part of a community. Get involved with something that interests you. Join a church, intramural sports team, a cappella choir, dance company, publication staff, cultural group or activist organization.
If you are a first-generation student, you should not feel alone. Seek out fellow freshmen from similar backgrounds and stick together. Find upperclass students who attended your high school or grew up in your neighborhood and are now successful in college. Find professors or university employees who get you and can provide trustworthy advice.
Nearly every college in the country now offers living-learning communities, which are groups of students with a common interest (often a major, demographic or hobby) who live together and take classes together. At many schools, students who live in one of these communities are more likely to stick around for sophomore year.
Seek out and utilize services on campus. In addition to paying tuition, most students pay a hefty fee that covers support services like tutoring and counseling — so use those services as much as needed. When you get your first research assignment, ask a librarian for help navigating the stacks and online journals. When you get your first writing assignment, visit the campus writing assistance center and have someone read over your work. When your mind starts swimming in calculus, request a tutor. If your professor hosts a review session, make sure to attend. If you have a question about an assignment, even a little one, ask. If you are feeling anxious, depressed or just homesick, visit the campus counseling center.
It’s never too late to ask for help — but sooner is always better.
Carefully schedule your time. College is now your full-time job, so make sure that you treat it like one. You have to do this on your own, as there’s no longer anyone around to badger you to finish your homework, show up to class or go to bed. At the beginning of each week, plan out what you will do each day. Plans always change, but this weekly exercise pushes you to set priorities and ensure you do not waste time. If you need to work, find a job on or near campus where your employer is more likely to understand and respect students’ schedules.