If You Give a College Kid a Cookie: Advice for First Time College Students
by Katherine Mali Hanner | Thursday, Aug 25, 2022
If you give a college kid a cookie, they are going to want a glass of milk. When they remember that they no longer have easy access to their kitchen’s refrigerator and pantry, they might start to feel a little homesick. When they start to feel homesick, they will look through their camera roll and reminisce about their old friends and summer memories. Then, they will spend the next two hours scrolling through their phones. When they glance at the time, they’ll realize it’s past 3:00 am and their first class of the day begins in just a few short hours.
From choosing the right major to living up to personal standards, or simply making friends, college presents a whole different set of potential worries. It’s easy to let late night thoughts fuel overthinking, especially within the first few weeks of school. However, before you allow your overthinking to get the best of you and reach for your phone in hopes of dissociating until 3 in the morning, take some advice from a once-freshman FAU student that will help you survive your first year in college with minimal stress and maximum success.
While many incoming freshmen find themselves academically prepared for college since they developed good study habits in high school, others will discover that they did not. If you fall into the latter category, fear not! There is hope for you. It may take time and consistency, but these academic habits will help you find success in your classes.
Tip #1: Maintaining a way to keep track of assignments is key to staying organized and not losing track of deadlines. Making a master list of all due dates and assignments based on your syllabi is widely regarded as very helpful. Sitting down at the beginning of each week to plan out my time within a daily planner also helps me stay on top of my classes. To keep myself accountable, I like to write down both the due dates and how long in minutes I want to spend on each assignment or study session. (Extra tip! Be generous with yourself, overestimating how long tasks will take, because underestimation is all too common and can greatly add to your stress.) However, if you find yourself falling behind in class…
Tip #2: Go to office hours! Professors love when you come to their office hours with genuine interest in learning. It not only benefits you, but also builds relationships. Plus, you never know when you might need a recommendation letter down the road.
Tip #3: Don’t exhaust yourself by stressing out if you don’t achieve straight As, but also don’t slack off. If you came to college with the goal of a 4.0 GPA, remember perfect scores aren’t everything. It’s important to give your best effort, but strive to make good memories as well as good grades. On the flip side, don’t take easy courses simply because you don’t want to work hard. Consider trying classes outside of your comfort zone. You may stumble upon an interest you didn’t ever know you had!
Taking care of yourself mentally is crucial to thriving in college. Prioritizing good mental health ensures a higher quality of life since it’s the foundation of thoughts and actions. Doing so benefits your relationships with others and yourself, too.
Tip #1: Take your thoughts captive and get help if needed. Thoughts can be overwhelming, especially at college when many worries may center around the future. I’m completely guilty of self-inducing anxiousness by allowing myself to linger on thoughts about big and little worries (past relationships, regrets, bad grades, fears, etc.) and “what ifs” about my future. I try to remind myself I’m in control and then do my best to redirect my thoughts to things that bring me joy. Although easier said than done, sometimes all it takes is repeating happy things to yourself to bring you out of a haze. It can help you see the big picture and little beauties of life rather than fixating on things that will be insignificant within a few weeks. Talking to friends or family can also help put things into perspective, but if you find yourself overly stressed often and feeling like there’s no escape, there is no judgment in trying out CAPS. FAU’s Counseling And Psychological Services have been known to help tons of students! Don’t shy away from getting the support you need, whether from peers, professors, or professionals.
Tip #2: Find a way you personally like to detox, and stick with it! For me, it’s rollerblading and journaling, but for you it might be playing frisbee or painting. Figure out what makes the stress disappear (even if only temporarily) and try to do it consistently a few times a week to help manage your stress.
Tip #3: Learn how to enjoy your own presence. Something I’ve noticed a lot of young adults struggle with is physically being alone. Many have expressed that they feel awkward going out and doing things on their own, be it grocery shopping, studying, or going to the beach. While having friends to go out with at a moment’s notice is fantastic, one of the greatest things I’ve learned since coming to college is the ability to go out by myself and have fun with my own company! To help myself with confidence and avoid clinginess with friends, I try to do something new and spontaneous by myself once a week. Build your independence and have fun doing it!
College is a great time to make new friends. Meet some people, exchange names and numbers, and be active on campus! Try approaching others and asking about classes or inviting them to a meal. Don’t just wait for others to approach you, since they are likely feeling just as awkward as you are! If you find yourself struggling to make friends, don’t be discouraged. Relationships take time. It’s okay not to find “your people” within the first week. My best friends didn’t come from orientation. I didn’t even develop my closest friends until the second semester, but I made a lot of great acquaintance friends in the meantime!
Tip #1: Try everything and don’t fear failure. Don’t shy away from an activity or something new because you think you could be bad at it. At every stage of my life (elementary, middle, and high), I can pinpoint a regret that stemmed from a fear of failure or people judging me for not being as good as others. Only years later did I realize there would have been no shame in me simply trying it. So check out that club, go try a new sport, do something you might be bad at! Don’t play it safe. Learn how to fail, how to be bad at something, and still have a good time. Branching out of your comfort zone is a great way to meet people and make connections.
Tip #2: Go to the dining hall. Just do it. It can be loud and intimidating, but I’ve had some of the greatest conversations with strangers who became friends at the DH. Don’t be shy in asking to join someone at a table, especially if they’re sitting by themselves. Being bold and introducing yourself to strangers may result in a great friendship you never knew you needed.
Tip #3: Take initiative, extend yourself, and invite people to things with you. Plan a study group, a movie night, or a game night in your dorm. People love being invited to things, so a simple invitation may result in 30 people drinking tea in your common room at midnight. You never know!
Additional Advice from Fellow Owls
I asked friends at FAU for personal advice they’d give to their freshmen selves, so here are some words of wisdom from them as well!
- “Whenever you feel you're the only one who feels a little homesick or is not going to a party, just know everyone else is in the same boat. They might just feel it or express it a little differently. One thing about college is you get really personal with people at some point, so don’t be afraid of telling your roommate or friend you need a hug because, trust me, at some point they were crying in their room too, but didn’t want to say anything.” -Cami R. '24, marine biology
- “Don’t be discouraged if you find your classes harder than you did in high school; that’s the point of college. You’ll be pushed in ways you aren’t used to and that’s a good thing! Just make sure to ask for help from friends, professors, and tutors when you need it. I promise no one will think differently of you just because you need help.” -Marissa S. '22, biology
- “The library and burrow are your best friends during exam times. Whether you want the quiet or to find someone who can help you, you’re likely to find both there.” -AJ S. '22, psychology
- “It isn’t worth stressing over an exam you have or haven’t studied for. Remember that even if there are a million assignments to do, if you fail one, you are still living. Nothing ends. Maybe a new door will open through that failure. It’s not uncommon for people to change majors, so don’t feel bad about it. The future can worry about itself. You are in the present, so worry about the present. If you aren’t sure what the future holds, no worries. Many people in their late 20s or 30s come back to college to get a different degree.” -Calvin D. '25, biology
- “Sandals are your best friend because they are comfy, easy to put on and take off, and they can be uniquely stylish if worn correctly.” -Paolo B. '23, environmental studies
- “In college you will meet lots of different individuals and bond in many different ways. Joining an organization or club is always a fun way to get involved but personally, I get it. If that sounds scary or like it is piling on extra things to do in an already new and busy time, joining a new club can wait. At orientation, I made friends who I am still close with today. Try starting a conversation with someone and asking them why they chose their major or specific university. Typically these conversations end in a polite “Okay, nice meeting you!” Or, they go on to become an intense conversation about why Ant Man could have defeated Thanos single handedly. (Or something like that 😉) But as time passes, friends are made. College is full of like-minded students and it’s super fun to get to know your fellow classmates.” -Elizabeth C. '23, vocal performance
Other Relevant Thrive Blog Posts…
- Comparison: https://www.fau.edu/thrive/students/thrive-thursdays/social-comparison/index.php
- Homesickness: https://www.fau.edu/thrive/students/thrive-thursdays/homesickness/index.php
- Mentally Healthy Morning Routine: https://www.fau.edu/thrive/students/thrive-thursdays/morning-routine/index.php
- The Secret Solution to Procrastination: https://www.fau.edu/thrive/students/thrive-thursdays/procrastination/index.php
- When to Go to Therapy: https://www.fau.edu/thrive/students/thrive-thursdays/when-to-go-to-therapy/index.php
- 5 Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep: https://www.fau.edu/thrive/students/thrive-thursdays/sleep/index.php