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xavierking
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PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2007 11:48 pm    Post subject: Going to college. I'd like a How-to survive your first year. Reply with quote

Hey. So, I'll be going to college in just a few months and I'd like some advice on what to do and what not to do. Was the first year as hard as you thought it would be? What would you have done differently in that first year? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
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PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2007 11:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Don't expect to do a lot on weekdays..
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PostPosted: Sun May 13, 2007 11:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you don't understand a lecture crack open the fucking book! Other than that don't worry too much about things.
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 12:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eat well. It's hard, and the last thing you want to do after a long day of school is start cooking, but make yourself. Not only will it make it easier to keep in shape, it'll help your brain too.

Be smart with your money; don't waste it on booze and computers; shop carefully, especially when buying food. Look for what's on sale and buy bulk when you can.

Don't get behind with your homework; you'll never get caught up, regardless of how often you tell yourself you will.

Of course, if you're anywhere near normal, you'll completely disregard any advice you're given until at least your third year. That's OK; just remember that we have a right to say we told you so. :)
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 12:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm headed to college this year as well. I need advice! :D (I'm already asking you guys about laptops in one of my threads)
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 12:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ok, this goes somewhat beyond the first year....but:

1) Don't get a job your first two semesters if you can avoid it. Transitioning from a lifestyle in which you have a familial support network to one in which you need to accomplish most things yourself can take a lot of effort until you're organized. (After that, get a job within the university system, preferably in a department that you have interest in, and if at all possible, a department that does research)

2) Don't go nuts on the drinking and partying. One night a week, max.

3) The intro classes will seem deceptively easy. You might think you know everything until they start asking you things during the test that you thought were minor details. Intro classes basically exist to make sure you do learn the minor details that will be built on later, and if you can't get the basics down....well, thats why a lot of them are called "weed out classes".

4) Take at least one "enjoyable" class a semester. Something that you want to take just for the hell of it. When you're frustrated with your other homework, switch over to that class's homework until you've calmed down a bit.

5) USE YOUR TAs! (or professors, depending on the setup of the school) They've done the undergrad thing, they know the topic you're studying inside and out, they generally are cool people, and they're there to help you. If you have a particularly hard class (for me it was second semester calc *shakes fist at Taylor series*) just plan on being at every one of their office hours even if you don't particularly need help that week. It will make all the difference in the world.

6) I seriously hate advisors. They'll tell you not to worry about what you want to do for the first year, but deciding after that is almost too late to get the background you need to be effective at anything, unless you're on the 5 year or longer plan. Once you know what you want to do, don't just take classes in it. If it's a research uni, try to get in on an REU (research experience for undergrad), try to have additional contact with professors, and even try to go to colloquia in the field you're interested in. In the worst case, you'll realize you don't want to do that and can get out in a hurry.

7) Go back and read #1. A undergrad job in the field you want to be in often is the shinniest thing on a recent grad's resume out of college. It puts you miles ahead of the competition, especially if it was a job where you had serious responsibility, something like being a lab tech if you're a chemist or something.

--Dep

P.S.- I'm horribly biased towards research universities. Best accident I ever had was choosing one for undergrad.
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 12:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

what are your long term goals. What are your priorities? What is your preferred major?
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 1:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

valkyrite wrote:
what are your long term goals. What are your priorities? What is your preferred major?


Well, I simply want to do the best I can in college, then find a good job in computers. I do not plan on partying one bit. I just wanna be as successful as possible. Priorities? I sure hope I can make school my highest priority. I wanna major in Computer Information Systems.
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 1:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've had 4 years of college, 5 of graduate school, and I've taught college level history. From that perspective, here are my suggestions:

1. Always, always attend class. Your goal in a class is to learn the material and get an A. Attending lectures does some important things that help you reach that goal. First, it might seem like reading is enough, but the lecture is a really short way to hear all the important information a second time. It'll help you learn. Second, in many classes showing up gives you free points toward your grade. Showing up and participating is therefore the easiest way to rack up points--or to loose them for no reason. Save those precious lost points for exams and papers, you will need them! Third (and most important), listening to the lecture tells you what, from that huge hunk of material you've been told to memorize, the professor thinks is important. This tells you what you'll most likely be tested on.

I've heard many people say they can skip class and get away with it, but as a teacher, I have observed a strong correlation between attendance and grades. Also, once you skip more than one or two classes, it tends to become a trend. Folks think it's going to be "only" a few classes, but once they let themselves skip, it spirals out of control.

2. If you have no idea why you are going to college, think up a good reason now. Go with a goal, follow your interests, stay engaged. This is a great chance to get a good career and learn whatever you want to know. Don't spend thousands of $ only to party.

3. If you aren't going out and having a fun time once a week,you are becoming too obsessed with work. If you are partying more than two days a week, you're in trouble.

4. Study abroad sometime in the next 4 years. You won't do this as a freshman, but you can find out what all the options are at your school so that you can apply to them in subsequent years. And yes, even do this if you are a computer major. It is the best, cheapest way you will ever find to spend 6 months to a year overseas. Take it.

5. Don't be scared of professors. Especially if you are at a smaller school that values teaching, most professors want you to learn and like their subject. So participate in class and chat with them when you can.
EDIT: If the class is huge and you have a TA, use the TA. Unless your TA is evil, he/she can be an important resource.

6. If you find a great teacher, take as many classes with him/her as possible (if it is allowed by your area of study).
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 2:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Biggest mistakes I made so far in University, and still need to work on :?, are mostly my work habits.

Do the assignments ahead of time, don't wait the night before. It feels great handing that assignment in early and realizing your commitment free for the weekend. A great place I found to get work done is in the tutorial center, even if you don't need much help. When everyone around you is working as well (often on the same assignments) then it is easier to not get distracted, and the help is there if you get stuck.

Another thing that is often suggested to me is look over your notes after or before class. Often you write crap down and then you go and look at it latter and are like whaaat. You don't always have time to analyze everything said by the prof or what he writes on the board so sometimes you will end up writing down everything and having to figure it all out latter.

Study early on, nothing is worse then staying up all night trying to cram as much as you can thinking your doomed. You retain less and it just screws you up in so many ways. (I'm really bad at this :|).

Oh and if you can get in like a co-op program or working in your faculty helping with research that is always a great thing to do. Helps you get experience and money, especially if you aren't doing amazingly academically. It's nice to have some experience and good employer reviews to offset any short comings in grades.

I think that's about it. Anyway don't worry, first year isn't that bad, it might take some time to adjust and your grades may take a hit but don't get all up tight about it and let it stress you out to much.

Now if I can just follow my own advice this fall ;)
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 2:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

1: Accept that dorm life will suck. This can be lack of space, constant people around you, craptacular roommates, all of the above.

2: Dining hall food sucks. If your school is large enough to have specialty menus, learn to have those instead. By these, I mean the kosher or vegan meals.

3: Your first paper for any teacher will be a lower grade than you expect. This is mostly because what every teacher wants in terms of a paper varies widely. I've had some professors that want the full fledge papers complete with footnotes, title pages, bibliographies, etc -- everything needed to publish it if necessary. I've also had professors that know midterm papers will be based off lectures/assigned readings and simply want to know what readings you've used at the end.

4: If your English skills are not what they could be, find the writing center. Any department with a lot of paper assignments in the subjects will have one.

5: The first year is all about learning time management. Each year you can expect reading load to double over the last. As a senior, my reading load is 600-800 pages per week, essentially 2-3 books.

6. Understand the difference between a 3.5 GPA and a 4.0 GPA can be the difference between sanity and insanity. At the end of college, an employer will care you have the degree, not what your GPA was getting it.
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 3:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

++ to most of the thread. A few I'll bother repeating:

- Go to class. Sure, you don't have to, but even when professors post slides, they say a lot more than they put on the slides. And you'll get an idea of what the professor focuses on, which you won't get from just reading the book.

- Don't procrastinate [too much]. Once the shit piles up over your head, well, you're in a pretty shitty place.

- Eat right. I somehow lived almost exclusively on dorm food the first 2 years here, and I probably lost 5 pounds (not that I have much to lose, I weigh in at about 135lbs). Now that I'm buying real food, I eat a lot better, feel a lot better, etc... And get some exercise too.

- I can't say much about the reading workload... I've never done all of my assigned readings unless there were assignments based directly on the reading material. Then again, I'm lucky enough to pick most of it up in lecture. But if you ever find yourself not understanding the material, definitely read up on it, and ask your professor or TAs for help. I'm TAing a class right now, and there's a lot of people that are losing points for fairly simple things that they just aren't understanding, or they'll have problems doing their homework but since they put it off till the last day, there's no time for me to help. The teaching staff is there for you to learn; use it.

- Don't stress the points too much. There's nothing I dislike more than students who will nitpick their scores for every 1/2 point they can get. If I was allowed to, I'd dock points just for doing that. What matters is that you know the material and that you know how to apply it.
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 3:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One last thing no one has mentioned:

Don't try to take 9:00 am classes, they don't seem to bad but once you start needing to wake up at 8:30am everyday, it becomes a real pain. Last semester I has to wake up at 8:30 everyday and well... let's just say I'm making up for that pretty well this summer. Secondly, don't try to work at night, try to finish it off in the morning/afternoon. It's just really tempting to crash at night especially when the bed is so close to you.
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 3:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

jsf_x35a wrote:
One last thing no one has mentioned:

Don't try to take 9:00 am classes, they don't seem to bad but once you start needing to wake up at 8:30am everyday, it becomes a real pain. Last semester I has to wake up at 8:30 everyday and well... let's just say I'm making up for that pretty well this summer. Secondly, don't try to work at night, try to finish it off in the morning/afternoon. It's just really tempting to crash at night especially when the bed is so close to you.


Oh god yes, I had 8:30 am lectures for a couple of my terms and they were horrible, you usually miss them more easily too which is never good.

As for the person who mentioned dorm life will suck, I found my res experience first year was great, although I know others who did not really enjoy it. I guess it varies from person to person.

Also since many have mentioned reading load, I wanted to ask what program your going into? I find my reading load is usually quite small so far. While some of my optionals like say philosophy have lots of regular readings my other courses like math/cs don't have any assigned readings. There are still textbooks for the courses without the readings, however they are more reference material and you will probably find yourself just reading sections that you need more information on or if you missed something in class as opposed to say philosophy where your reading entire chapters/sections of material to write your tests/papers.
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 3:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm just ending my first year, and i've only a wee bit to say.

Have fun. Don't over do it or anything, but amidst all the hard work the occasional party or night off really keeps you sane. On the other side of the issue, if you party too much you'll really get out of sync with your schedule and the work you should be doing.

Exercise. Most universities have some sort of gym facility. it doesn't hurt and doesn't take too much time to go the the gym and run for 15 or 20 minutes, and do a bit of other various exercises. On the same note, eat well. No dining hall food isnt the best, but your far better off eating white meats, fruits, and veggies than double deep fried food all the time.

I could post stuff about study habits and related issues, but really, thats something you need to find out for yourself. Going to lecture and reading the book goes without saying, but most of it comes from your own trial and error. Also, see your professors if need be. I cant count the number of times I see kids who dont know what they're doing, but never ask for help.
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 4:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Didn't read the thread, but I'll throw in my two cents. Having just finished my first year of college, the experience is rather fresh.

1. You will NOT have like any disposable income. Spend incredibly wisely. Don't expect to drink nice beer (when you can afford beer at all), and if you don't have a meal plan get used to eating hot pockets and ramen noodles.
2. Mooch whenever you can. If someone offers you anything for free, take advantage of it.
3. Learn to love the Internet. On weekdays you will spend a lot of time on it, unless your friends have similar schedules (incredibly unlikely).
4. If you're not a morning person, drop any early morning classes unless you absolutely have to take them and cannot take them at a later time. You will skip class a lot, if it's too early for you.
5. Don't skip class. It's a nice luxury to be able to do that without consequence, but it will really, really hurt you. One lecture in college is like two+ weeks worth of class in high school.
6. Take up any social opportunities that come your way. In college you can't really judge a person just by looking at them. College students act like individuals almost from the get go. You'll find that almost everyone you meet has a cool connection with you.
7. Don't get a job unless you have to pay all your expenses. It's hard living with no income for year, but it's a good experience. Also, adjusting to the rigors of college is rather hard at first. If you have a job piled on top of that you won't be able to keep up with your studies.
8. If you're a perfectionist, stop. You will fail a test or two eventually. You might even fail a class. It happens to everyone at some point, and it's recoverable. Don't worry about it. This is especially hard to keep in mind if you were a straight A high school student.
9. Live on campus your first year!!!! I can't stress this enough. It's the best way to meet new people.
10. If you absolutely can not stand the idea of living with someone messy don't live on campus. Odds are your roommate will be a slob, like me. My best advice is just to get over it because living on campus your first year is a must.

I could list shit off for hours. I promise you by the end of your first semester you'll have figured out almost everything I could possibly list. Enjoy it! It goes by incredibly fast so savor every moment.

Oh one last thing. Find a way to not go home over the summer. Trust me, once you get used to student life you will really regret going home for the summer.


Last edited by /dev/random on Mon May 14, 2007 4:04 am; edited 2 times in total
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 4:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

0. Do the work. It will be your number one priority until you finish. Never forget that.
1. Talk to your professors. Don't annoy them, but don't hesitate to visit them in their office if you have any problems. Many of them don't like undergrads, but you wont always be an undergrad.
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 4:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I've just finished my first year at College too and managed to come out with a decent GPA so I hope some of this is helpful, and hopefully not too repetitive from other stuff in the thread :D

1)Self control is critical, you absolutely have the ability to go out and find a party any night, DON'T. I've seen so many intelligent people get very poor grades because they consume their body weight in alcohol every month. I'm assuming that you are from the US, please correct me if I am wrong, so it would probably be illegal for you to go out drinking, so if you get caught it is a very easy way to get some fines and bad marks on your record. A friend of mine got a DUI while in school, he no longer goes to that school. If you really feel the need to party be responsible and do not do it during the week.

2)Ok, this is going to sound harsh but if you have a girlfriend prepare for the worst, out of all the relationships I know of from high school not a single one survived the first year of College. I'm not saying its impossible, just unlikely to work out.

3)Take a major you enjoy, I'm a CS major and I'm really loving it so far. Having interesting work will definitely make things more enjoyable.

4)Pay attention in class. I rarely took notes but if I actively listened to my professors I didn't have any real difficulty on the tests, but when I brought my laptop to class and kind of zoned out I did a lot worse. Basically don't take a laptop to class unless you are a diligent note taker, it is more of a distraction than it is helpful for most people.

5)If you are having trouble in a class get help, my school has tutors available for free, yours probably does too. Studying together with a group of friends is great too. Also, all of your professors will have posted office hours where you can go talk to them about anything you don't understand.

6)Like the others said, try to avoid getting a job if you can the first year.

7)Don't skip class, I can't say that I never did but its a very bad habit to get into.

8)MOST IMPORTANT: Have fun, College is about learning a marketable skill but enjoying yourself and making some new friends is really essential to being happy away from your old friends and family. Try to find some clubs/groups you might be interested in, talk to people in your dorm, don't end up being that weird kid down the hall who never leaves his room.


Good Luck, I promise you will enjoy it :D
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 4:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Insomnium wrote:
2)Ok, this is going to sound harsh but if you have a girlfriend prepare for the worst, out of all the relationships I know of from high school not a single one survived the first year of College. I'm not saying its impossible, just unlikely to work out.


Mine will survive. We've been going out for 3 years now. We've had a long distance relationship, but have been around each other enough to know we won't cut each others' throats. We're going to go to the same college. :)
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 4:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Clete2 wrote:
Insomnium wrote:
2)Ok, this is going to sound harsh but if you have a girlfriend prepare for the worst, out of all the relationships I know of from high school not a single one survived the first year of College. I'm not saying its impossible, just unlikely to work out.


Mine will survive. We've been going out for 3 years now. We've had a long distance relationship, but have been around each other enough to know we won't cut each others' throats. We're going to go to the same college. :)

No, sorry you won't. You might make it the first year, but you won't make it. Sorry to be harsh, but I know from personal experience/other friends' experiences. Honestly, you should find a new group of friends that she isn't included in and dump her. Otherwise, she's likely to do the dumping.
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 4:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

/dev/random wrote:
Clete2 wrote:
Insomnium wrote:
2)Ok, this is going to sound harsh but if you have a girlfriend prepare for the worst, out of all the relationships I know of from high school not a single one survived the first year of College. I'm not saying its impossible, just unlikely to work out.


Mine will survive. We've been going out for 3 years now. We've had a long distance relationship, but have been around each other enough to know we won't cut each others' throats. We're going to go to the same college. :)

No, sorry you won't. You might make it the first year, but you won't make it. Sorry to be harsh, but I know from personal experience/other friends' experiences. Honestly, you should find a new group of friends that she isn't included in and dump her. Otherwise, she's likely to do the dumping.


What reasons do you say this will happen for? Anything specific? I'm not believing you, but I'm interested to see what you think. :P
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 4:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Clete2 wrote:

What reasons do you say this will happen for? Anything specific? I'm not believing you, but I'm interested to see what you think. :P

You'll find that a few months into your first semester you've both changed a lot. It's likely you'll be too different for each other. Going to college changes you SO much. I'm a completely different person now than I was a year ago. My ex is just as different from her former self as I am. Also, with all the new people you'll meet it's likely one, or both of you, will find someone that they click with better. That's what happened with my ex. She found a guy that she hit it off with better and she dumped me for him.
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 4:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

/dev/random wrote:

You'll find that a few months into your first semester you've both changed a lot. It's likely you'll be too different for each other. Going to college changes you SO much. I'm a completely different person now than I was a year ago. My ex is just as different from her former self as I am. Also, with all the new people you'll meet it's likely one, or both of you, will find someone that they click with better. That's what happened with my ex. She found a guy that she hit it off with better and she dumped me for him.

I agree completely, my ex and I were “madly in love” when we left for school, by 2 months into the first semester she had left me for a teacher from our high school. I know how you feel, you just know that it will work out, but it probably won't, sorry that it is so harsh.
But, on the plus side, most schools have more women than men these days, use this as an opurtunity to find somone you are more compatible with.
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 4:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

/dev/random wrote:
Clete2 wrote:

What reasons do you say this will happen for? Anything specific? I'm not believing you, but I'm interested to see what you think. :P

You'll find that a few months into your first semester you've both changed a lot. It's likely you'll be too different for each other. Going to college changes you SO much. I'm a completely different person now than I was a year ago.

++
It's surprising. I'm still quite like how I was in high school in some regards, but very different or completely the opposite in so many others. It's been 3 years, but even that's not very long.
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PostPosted: Mon May 14, 2007 4:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

About the morning classes: totally depends on the person. I spent all my summers in high school working (had to be at work by 6 am), so school always meant sleeping in. A few quarters starting at 10 or 11 and I was a completely late-morning person. This quarter I get up at 8 every morning (first class at 9:30, but making lunch and walking to campus takes a while). Now, I can't sleep in past 9:30 if I tried. On the other hand, I get out of classes earlier, so I have the whole afternoon to do stuff (and getting homework done early allows for fun in the evenings).
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