This is literally everything I could think of that I wish I had known before my freshman year of college. I hope this helps someone out feeling confused and overwhelmed as I did at the start of my freshman year. You’ve got this!
There are so many great lists online and on Pinterest already so I’ll just list a couple of weird things that I loved having.
- Dish bin + inside, keep dish soap/sponge/bottle brush: lifesaver to be able to carry your water bottles and dishes down to a sink if your dorm has one! Don’t forget to wash your dishes right away too or you’ll be mad when oatmeal hardens up…
- Nutribullet: great for making smoothies in your dorm when you need a quick breakfast or lunch
- Mini fridge → keep healthy snacks, get one with a little freezer to keep an ice pack and frozen fruit for smoothies
- Coffeemaker, filters, and your favorite coffee. (You’ll save so much money!)
- Electric tea kettle
- Make your own First Aid / Health kit
- Vitamins, supplements, vitamin C, immunity shots
- Keeping your immune system strong in college is so important! I swear by these herbal supplements to stay healthy: echinacea, vitamin C, black elderberry syrup (I take this in pill form), oregano oil, Quick Defense by Gaia herbs
- BandAids, Advil, earplugs
- Slippers (floors can be cold)
- Shoes — don’t bring all of them because you won’t wear them
- Clothes to wear to an interview or meeting
- Rain jacket with hood and rain boots
- Get a boot tray for wet, muddy shoes and boots
- Get a small backpack for gym clothes and shoes
- Backpack (get a BIG one. I started with a small one and had to buy a bigger one with two water bottle pockets which was so nice to have.)
WHAT NOT TO BUY:
- Extra of everything
- Lap desk
- Random dust-collecting decorations
Don’t go to the bookstore first and don’t buy your books on the first day of class!!! Wait because…
- Sometimes you don’t even need the book honestly
- Do some DEEP online research to see if you can find an online copy or a cheaper copy somewhere! Here is a site I found some of mine on for literally under $10 where it would’ve been $70+ at my school’s bookstore: https://www.abebooks.com/
- When you meet some upperclassmen, don’t be afraid to ask if they have a book you’re looking for and if they’d be willing to sell it or lend it to you for the semester. Nice people are usually happy to do that and they probably don’t need the book anymore 🙂
- Use Google Calendar!!!! Block out all your class times so you know when you’re in and out of class.
- Block out time for homework + studying throughout the week so you always know you’ll have time to get everything done
- As soon as you get all of your syllabi’s the first week in your classes, type it all into Google Calendar. The syllabus will tell you what you have to do for the entire semester so you can literally write down every due date and have it in your calendar to look at later when you need to see when something is due.
- Tests: I also added in all of my test dates and put them in red, set up an alert to go off a week or a few days before so you know you have some time until that test to study because they can really creep up on you.
- Planner: I love having my planner to bring with me to class to jot down extra assignments that happen, group meetings, etc. and then move those into my GCal after classes.
- Take notes by hand! I went back and forth on this all the time. I always wanted to use my laptop and type everything so I didn’t have to carry notebooks around, but I remembered information so much better when I wrote my notes in a notebook.
- Get a notebook for your M/W/F classes and another notebook for your Tues/Thurs classes. This way you know exactly which one to put in your backpack depending on the day and don’t accidentally bring the wrong notebook (been there, done that, not fun).
- LEARN THE CORNELL NOTETAKING METHOD. This changed my life second semester when a professor offered extra credit if we took notes this way. At first, I was skeptical and didn’t want to do it. But then I started it and I’ll never go back to just random note-taking. She even did a survey of our class and found that the ones who were getting the highest scores on tests were also the ones turning in their notebooks with detailed Cornell notes. It works people!!! And it takes a little more discipline to do it this way, but when the test time rolls around, it is 100x easier to study because you can go through your notebook and just study all of the important notes in the margins! Click here for a great video on it.
- Take care of yourself and roughly schedule in your meals at first, then later don’t worry about sticking to it once you’ve got a routine down! I literally forgot to eat at the beginning of the year because I was so busy and I know this happens to a lot of people at the start of college. I lost weight because of it which was nice, except it wasn’t a very healthy habit and one that I had to change and I was very stressed out. So make sure you make time for healthy meals.
- GET ENOUGH SLEEP. Please rest. It is easy to stress eat when you are not getting the rest you need.
- SNACKING: it’s not as necessary as you think. I don’t know why but there’s this huge glorification of late-night snacking, Uber Eats, ordering pizza to your dorm (very fun to do to celebrate the end of the semester with friends though!) and having a ton of food in your dorm / this obsession with free food since we’re broke college kids. Here are my tips:
– DO buy a mini-fridge for fruits, veggies, cheese sticks, turkey slices, milk for your coffee, spinach for smoothies, etc.
– DON’T stock up on cereal, granola bars, candy, etc. Your dorm is your bedroom and your kitchen combined so make sure you set some healthy boundaries in place. Trust me, if you buy the junk, you’ll reach for it late at night and won’t thank yourself when spring rolls around.
DINING HALL TIPS:
- Make your own meals in the dining hall. It’s really overwhelming. There are a lot of unhealthy choices. However, depending on your school, there can be a lot of healthy choices, too. Here’s my simple dining hall meal formula:
- Veggies, greens – put on half of your plate
- Protein — up to you. I would ask them for a grilled chicken breast which they were happy to do if there weren’t any available. Other sources: chickpeas, hard-boiled eggs in the salad bar.
- On the side: Everything in moderation. If they are serving something you want, like mac and cheese or a dessert, just take a small amount to enjoy. Find what works for you in this area. Everyone’s plate is going to look different but this is what worked for me.
Other dining hall tips:
- Drink water with your meal.
- Don’t visit the dessert bar every night. It’s usually not that good and I would save your treat for something better out with friends on a weekend.
- Don’t go back for seconds unless you’re really hungry. The buffet-style service makes it tempting to keep eating.
- Salad dressing — choose a balsamic or vinegar and olive oil. Watch out for the high calorie dressings.
- Breakfast and lunch can be made in your dorm room if needed– oatmeal, smoothies, wrap sandwiches, salads…
- Pack a lunch bag in case you don’t get a long lunch break in between classes.
- Don’t make plans to eat every meal with friends. In the beginning of college, you may want to do this when you are making new friends, but later on, I recommend eating one meal a day with friends and the other two meals alone. Trust me, you don’t have time for all the socializing three times a day.
- On that note, don’t be afraid to eat alone in the dining hall. It was awkward for me, at first, and you feel like everyone is looking at you. Just relax and enjoy your meal. No one cares! Plus, everyone has to eat alone at some point too, so it’s okay 🙂
GETTING INTO ROUTINES:
The transition to college is overwhelming and you can feel like everything is out of your control at times. It helped bring some stability to my days when I set a consistent bedtime, wake up time, and workout time. Set these ASAP when you get to school. Look at your class schedule and figure out how you can put some healthy routines into place. No, I didn’t follow these all the time, but when I did, I was much happier and healthier.
- Morning routine: I’m a morning person so I liked getting up and having a couple of hours to myself before classes. The worst feeling was waking up late for class and having to practically run to the bathroom with a toothbrush in one hand and ballcap in the other to shove my hair into. Rushing is seriously not fun and so stressful, so get up early! You’ll be happy in the long run if you make this a habit.
- Go to the gym the first week that you’re on campus and get familiar with it
- Ask someone for a tour
- Go with a friend! I loved taking group classes like yoga, dance, cycling, etc.
- Make it your time to decompress
- Find the most popular gym times by trial and error (AKA going at 5-6 PM was terrible because the gym was a zoo! Same with 9-10 AM. Go early during the week. Also the gym at my school is always super empty on Friday nights)
SORORITY + JOINING CLUBS:
- I chose not to join a sorority and it’s what works for me. I have met some really sweet girls that are part of a sorority, but I have a lot going on already and really didn’t feel that I could handle another commitment. Plus, it’s a lot of time spent being around others and I’m more of an introvert than some may think. I love my alone time so this just wasn’t what I was looking for.
- HOWEVER…find YOUR people. It doesn’t have to be in a sorority or the first group that catches your eye at the club fair. I do think it’s really important to find one group or community on campus to join, especially if you don’t know a lot of people at your school. I didn’t have any close friends at my school when I first came but I met a great group of students through a Christian fellowship group. I went to it once a week throughout the semester and did a bunch of activities off-campus with them too. I’d encourage you to find a group like this!!! It made me so much more confident and comfortable to have a group to go to with to football games, church, downtown, movies, etc. We even ate dinner together almost every night at the dining hall which was SO NICE to not feel alone! (Even though I grew to enjoy eating alone at times and with people other times!)
- Learn to say no. Be okay with staying in by yourself for an evening. I promise you won’t miss anything if you skip out on a few nights out or choose not to go to some events. It is okay to want some alone time, but also make sure you put yourself out there to meet people and make memories. College is such a cool new experience and you are going to have so much fun if you find a good balance of this (seriously though, I have to thank my friend Annie who I met at a game night the first week of college for pushing me outside my comfort zone to do fun things when I wanted to go to bed at 9 PM every night HAHA! We balanced each other out. :))
- You might feel lonely sometimes. Maybe every girl you know joined a sorority except for you, or everyone is out on a Friday night and you’re in your dorm room, or people are posting videos from a party to their Snapchat story that you’re not at. Maybe you don’t think you care, but deep down, you kinda do care. It is okay. I promise that you will find your people, your friends, and what you like to do. Give it time.
- Don’t set high expectations. Let go of the idea of finding a boyfriend in the first month or a big group to hang out with. Just chill and remember that good things take time 🙂
- Update your resume (and please make one if you haven’t already). Make sure you start doing things at college! High school is over and it’s okay to still use your resume with jobs and accolades from your younger years, but remember that now is the time to start looking for new opportunities so you can expand your resume and broaden your horizons. Don’t settle for what you’ve already done, start looking for what you can accomplish next.
- On that note, learn how to write a cover letter. Google this. Trust me, you will be asked for one sooner than you think.
You’re going to have the best year ever. Be yourself, smile at people you pass on campus, join a group, ask questions, nourish and move your body, and get sleep. Enjoy each moment because before you know it, you’ll be packing up the freshman dorm you just decorated. Leave a comment or send me a message on Instagram (@grace.olechowski) if you have any questions or just need some encouragement!
All my love // Grace4