the college survival guide

So I had this idea at 4 AM the other night, and woke up and wrote pretty much this whole thing. It’s a lot, I know, and in no particular order, but here is some advice for before you start your freshman year of college because its one wild ride. You’re welcome:

Number one, welcome week is going to be insane (especially after we’ve all been in quarantine), so take it as it comes and enjoy yourself, because the academics are about to whoop your ass. Also, utilize this time to meet as many people as you can. I met some of my best friends during welcome week!

If you haven’t already picked a roommate, I suggest rooming with someone you meet in the facebook group or someone who isn’t from your high school/in your immediate circle of friends. Coming from a high school where a lot of kids went to Michigan, I wanted to branch out and start fresh. Going in with someone you don’t know well can be so good because it pushes you out of your comfort zone and forces you to meet new people. It was honestly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I love Georgie with all my heart. I really could not have had a better experience with it. Here’s a cute pic of us:

Leave your door open during the first few weeks and get to know people in your hall. There are a lot of social dorms at umich, but I lived in a dorm where it wasn’t that social, and I wished I had made it more social and actually met the girls in my hall. One of my family friends randomly lived down the hall from me, and her roommate was in nursing. (Mak and Nat I miss you 😦 ) We became so close so fast, but besides them, I really didn’t know many of them. I had neighbors from hell, on both sides. I maybe met them once, but if we had become friends or even just acquaintances, I would have been able to face them and tell them what was wrong instead of all of us being passive aggressive about it. For example, one of the girls would leave her alarm running for literally an hour at a time, and I’m not even exaggerating. It was like that triggering alarm sound too, and it would go off for so long. Another time, my neighbors went out the week of finals, and came back at 4 am, blasted music, and played spin the bottle for an hour with random guys. And I had an early class the next morning. So yeah, become friends with your neighbors. It will make your life so much easier.

Don’t let yourself get too overwhelmed with work, focus on time management and don’t put things off until the last minute. Time management was something that I really struggled with in high school, but learning to balance my social life with my academics was one of the best things freshman year taught me. Take it slow, work at your own pace, and don’t feel like you need to compete with your classmates.

Have a safe word at parties, and keep your friends close. Pick something that can be casually brought up in conversation, and never leave your girls hanging. Getting split up is really stressful and can be bad, especially if you’re put in a situation that makes you feel unsafe. Get each other’s locations, so that if you do get split up, you can find each other. And always have your phone charged before you go out!! Also, never walk alone at night. And if there is no way for you to avoid it, call a Lyft (they do background checks) or be on the phone with a friend until you are safe.

Find your balance. Don’t be going out 4 nights a week if you’re taking 18 credits and swamped in work. Finding the balance between school and your social life is the key to your happiness in college. It’s okay if your friends go out and you don’t, there will always be another opportunity. Prioritizing what is best for you is hard, but its definitely a lesson I’ve learned over the last year.

Branch ! Out ! College is all about new experiences, so take this as an opportunity to befriend and learn from people who come from different backgrounds than you do. Get out of your bubble! Push yourself out of your comfort zone! I literally cannot stress this enough because you will regret it if you don’t. Georgie and I went out the first night we got to school, and that’s where we met one of our best friends through a mutual friend of mine, Heather, who introduced us to her roommate, Katie. We quickly became inseparable. A few weeks later, Georgie and I were walking around on the floor below us, and that’s when I reconnected with Lauren. I had met her at Parson’s when I was there the summer before my senior year, and now we are all one big happy family. I couldn’t be more grateful for them. The picture below is of George and I on our first night (rough, I know), but the girl I circled in the background is Heather.

And now look at us:

Don’t let yourself get caught going through the motions, enjoy your time spent there because you will never have another experience like freshman year again. There were days where I felt like a robot, waking up for class and studying, then club meetings or dinner, etc. Don’t let this become a habit! Enjoy your time there.

Don’t let anyone tell you what you need to do with your life. College is about finding the things you are passionate enough about to pursue for the rest of your life. Just because your parents expect you to go to med school or law school doesn’t always mean thats the right fit for you. Find your passions and do what you love because your life will be so much more rewarding in the end, even if you’re not making doctor salary. And never feel bad for not knowing exactly what you want to do right away, you will find it.

Spend time outside before the weather gets too bad. I lived right next to the law quad at umich, and didn’t go there once in the fall. I really regret not taking advantage of the nice weather to explore Ann Arbor, or just have a picnic in the grass. The winter gets really old, really fast, so get outside before it’s too late.

Find study spots that work for you. Everyone’s brains work differently, and finding the right study spot to suit your needs is so important. Some of my favorites at umich are UMMA cafe, the ugli (even though I have cried many times there), The League, and the LSA building. Some days the best thing for me to do was lock myself in a study room in the basement of my dorm and just grind out work, it really just depends on how you’re feeling.

Don’t limit yourself to one dining hall. As a nursing student, a lot of my classes were spread out across campus, especially first semester, so I ate at a lot of the dining halls. Everyone has different food, and it’s good to change it up every once and awhile. Some of my friends only ate at one dining hall all semester, and that’s just gross lol. My favorite dining hall at umich is Mojo!

Become friends with your RA. This is so important because if you have a good relationship with your RA, you will have a much smoother year, trust me. I was lucky enough to have a really sweet RA (shoutout Victoria if you’re reading this, love ya girl), but I’ve heard horror stories.

Join as many clubs as you want !! There usually is a club fair at the beginning of the year, and I honestly suggest you go to almost all of the tables. Joining clubs expands your circle, and makes your transition easier. It’s a good and easy way for you to find people who are passionate about the same things as you. But I also think it’s really good to find one or two clubs eventually that you put all of your energy into and are passionate about. The two clubs that I really became engrossed in are SHEI Magazine (which is a student run fashion magazine on campus, and I am a photographer for them) and Camp Kesem (a summer camp for kids whose parents have had or have cancer). Both are so amazing, and I have really enjoyed being part of them.

Never feel bad for trusting your gut. If you feel like you’re being pushed into a bad situation, get up and go because chances are you’re right.

Take time for some self care! Whether this is working out, staying in for the weekend, taking a nap, or just doing a face mask this is so important. College life is so busy, and when you’re nonstop all the time, you will end up crashing if you don’t slow down for a hot minute. So always make sure to take time for yourself and your mental health.

Be yourself. Actually getting involved in things that you are passionate about that might not always be on trend or conventionally cool will help you meet people that have the same passions as you. Don’t be afraid to take some risks and step outside of your comfort zone. No one is there to judge you!! Find happiness in your uniqueness!!

Bring. a. robe. and some good shower shoes. This is especially important if you live in a coed hall. I’ve had nightmares about dropping my towel in front of people in the hallway. The one time I didn’t wear my robe back from the shower and just wore my towel, my friend had brought over a guy she was talking to to meet us. So I met him in my towel, God bless. It was so embarrassing. The showers are also very nasty sometimes, especially when girls leave their hair everywhere. Please don’t be that person and always clean up after yourself out of respect for the custodians and your hallmates.

Remember to routinely wash your sheets because if you’re sick all the time dirty sheets will just prolong your illness. Or honestly, just remember to do laundry regularly. Letting three weeks worth of laundry pile up is just so much unnecessary work. And plus, while you’re washing your clothes, you can take time for some self care, so it really is a win-win situation.

Always have dayquil, nyquil, tylenol, and motrin handy. Dorms are like incubators, so if your roommate is sick chances are, so are you. I was sick literally all first semester, and it was a nightmare. Utilize the health services the university provides for you, because they can help you so much. I was there probably once a month at least first semester. The whole front mesh pocket of my backpack was full of medications, hand sanitizers, inhalers, and literally any possible medical need I had. You name it, I had it. Mak and I called it my pharmacy, and it became a running joke for the rest of the year. Heres a pic of us at UHS together! Gotta love bonding.

TAKE VITAMINS. I cannot stress the importance of this enough. I routinely take vitamin c, d3, biotin, a multivitamin, a probiotic, and fish oil. Vitamin c saved my life, it boosts your immune system so you’re less likely to get sick! (take them in the morning 15 minutes before you eat anything). Vitamins are also your key to getting extra nourishment that you might not be getting in the dining hall.

Get reusable k-cups!! If you have a keurig, which I recommend buying, this will save you so much money. Georgia and I would just buy coffee grounds and fill the k cups, and then dump them when we were done. It’s also super environmentally friendly!!

Don’t feel like you have to compete with other people, especially on social media. It really doesn’t matter who has the best game day photo! Focus on making memories and having fun. It is not a competition, please just go and enjoy yourself. Getting up at 7 so you can be ready to take pictures by 8 is really not worth losing the extra hour of sleep, trust me. And comparing yourself to other people really can take a toll on your mental health and self esteem. Never feel bad or like you’re not doing as much as everyone else for doing what’s best for you.

Make friends in your classes, having study buddies saved my life. Having someone to bounce ideas off of and study with is so helpful, especially for big projects or exams. Here’s Mak and I having a mental breakdown studying for biochem. As you can see, we were together 24/7. (I had been writing on that white board for at least 7 hours at that point in the day).

Form good relationships with your professors or TAs. This can make or break your experiences in your classes. Make an effort to go to their office hours just to introduce yourself, because that will make your face stand out in the 300 person lecture hall.

8 AMs aren’t always bad. First semester my earliest classes were at 9 AM three times a week, and the my other days were at 11:30 AM. But as a nursing student, they’re always getting us out of bed as early as they can to get us ready for working in the hospital, so second semester I had three 8 AMs. And let me tell you, I am not a morning person. Yes, at first it sucked, but most days I was done by before 11 and had the whole day to get work done. In the fall I will have four 8 AMs in a row… can’t wait! But at least I know I’m more productive when I get up earlier. When I had later classes first semester, I was more sluggish throughout the day and didn’t get as much done as I would have liked because I spent the whole morning in bed. So if you’re stuck with a few 8 AMs, they’re not always a bad thing. But if you can, avoid them on Fridays because trust me you’re not gonna wanna get up that early.

Don’t buy the book right away, some classes I bought books for and didn’t open them once. It can be a waste of money, and a lot of them you can find PDFs online for. And carrying them around all day in your backpack will break your back.

Always keep updated on your syllabus’. This is so important because lots of professors don’t always remind you when things are due, and can sometimes make changes to due dates or assignments throughout the semester. So always double check your syllabus if you are unsure.

You can basically throw any study techniques that you think worked in high school out the window. I was the kind of person who wouldn’t start their homework until sometimes 10 pm, then stay up until 3 am cramming for a test I had the next day. That doesn’t fly in college, unfortunately. The exams are much more dense and have weeks worth of lecture material packed into them. For a lot of my exams, I started to study two weeks in advance just little by little. That way the few days leading up to the exam were more review than memorization. Finding the right study methods that work for you is definitely a trial and error process, but you will get there eventually. Everyone is different, so what works for your friend might not work for you.

Don’t talk about your ACT/SAT scores or high school GPA because literally no one cares. Everyone got there because they are smart, and it really doesn’t matter what your stats were because you’re not in high school anymore and you’re not competing for an acceptance letter. Please, I’m begging you, don’t talk about it.

Get a good planner or really utilize google calendar. I use google calendar to enter my syllabus into, and then my actual planner I write down things I need to do that day. This can range from things like writing a paper to doing laundry. Plan out your days so that you can get work done efficiently. If you don’t have a plan, chances are you will procrastinate and waste your time.

Under the bed storage is key!! I half lofted my bed and bought plastic drawers for underneath my bed and it was really good extra storage for clothes and toiletries. Dorms are small, you gotta do what ya gotta do. (I probably will do a college packing list at some point out of boredom, so maybe stay tuned for that) P.S. I really miss this place 😦

Don’t bring all of your clothes at once, especially if you’re in-state and don’t live that far away. I brought some fall stuff and summer clothes at first, and then switched it out over fall break in october. Trust me when I say you don’t have room for your whole closet.

Dishes are annoying to do in college, so if you don’t have a sink close to you, I suggest you get disposable cups and plates and silverware (environmentally friendly if possible) it just makes your life so much easier. I hated doing dishes because I would have to carry them all the way to the bathroom and back, which doesn’t seem like a lot but it just gets annoying really quick.

Have a pair of gross shoes to wear to parties. You will not want to wear your brand new shoes out because they will get trashed. No one is looking at your shoes, just wear some old ones that you don’t care about and you’re good to go. Here’s what mine looked like by the end of the year when I had to throw them out. Disgusting, right? Who knows what was on them.

Don’t let your friends date douchebags, if you get bad vibes tell them the truth before they get their heart broken. Because watching your friends be sad over a boy who can’t even do his own laundry is the worst feeling in the world.

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but don’t text him. You’ll probably regret it in the morning. That is all.

The first few weeks can be hard, but know that it gets better. I really struggled in my first two weeks because I was stressed out about the workload and being away from home, but trust me when I say it does get better.

Invest in a couple good beanies, they save you on gross hair days in the fall and winter and pretty much any month after september.

If you need good pre music here’s my playlist: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3ZA9dlWTcvRA5DprWXZZOL?si=vUcu07_XThWnRvjRqCUAPA I had to give myself a little plug there, no shame.

You probably are going to gain some weight, not the dreaded “the freshman 15” but a little bit is normal. I mean dining hall food is disgusting, but you have to make do with what you have. Don’t fret about it too much, it’s completely normal.

Give yourself extra time in the morning, that extra 5 mins in bed isn’t gonna do anything for you. There were days where I slept for an extra 5-10 minutes and it threw off my whole morning routine and put me in a bad mood for class. It’s definitely not worth it.

But with that said, prioritize your sleep! I really suggest that you get your work done during the day so that you can actually sleep at night. I found that I was not productive at all past 8 pm unless I had to study for an exam. So don’t stay up later than you need to! It’s not worth it. Georgie and I sometimes would go to bed at 10 because we’re old ladies, but sleeping and not being dead tired the next day made all the difference in my productivity.

Open the windows in your room at least once a day, that small space can get real musty real quick especially if you don’t have air conditioning.

Know your limit. Yup, that’s all I’m gonna say.

Make sure you know where your classes are before classes start. I walked around to my classes the day before class started to make sure I knew where I was going and wasn’t late for the first day. Doing this will save you so much time and stress during that first week.

Go to every football game or sporting event you can. My personal favorite are hockey games because the atmosphere is much smaller and the student section is so much fun, but I’m so excited for football season. There really is nothing like it. Nothing, and I mean nothing, hits harder than the post game nap. Here’s me and my friend Molly at The Big House when it was warm. I actually got sunburned that day, and my friend wore a block M sticker on her collarbone and it left tan lines. I miss it 😦

Use your school’s resources for academic support i.e. career development office, study abroad opportunities, math labs, writing centers. They are there for a reason, so don’t be afraid to use them! They can be really helpful!

Don’t be afraid to reach out for help with your mental health. Look into your school’s resources before college and if those are historically inadequate, try to come up with other ways to get support. Having a good group of friends is also key for this. Just being able to sit and talk with your friends can be so therapeutic, and it is totally essential every once in a while.

Bring alternate lighting for your dorm!!!! Dorm lights are awful. (even for guys trust me). I brought globe lights, and a neon sign and it just made my room so much cozier. Good lighting can really boost the mood.

Get to know your dorm building. Find all of the entrances, so that when you need to avoid the campus security officer at 2 am, you can.

Only bring what you know you’re going to use. I way over packed on certain things like extra phone cases, boxes of napkins, sunglasses, etc. If you don’t know if you’ll use it, don’t bring it. Your dorm is going to be small, so having the essentials is all you need. Plus, you can buy extra toiletries and things like that at Walgreens or CVS.

And that’s just about everything I could think of, if anyone has any questions about college or umich or honestly life, never hesitate to reach out! I love to talk 🙂 Get ready to buckle up babes.

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