Your first semester or quarter in college can be both exciting and overwhelming. You may be looking forward to the opportunity to be independent and you may be worried about how to navigate a college campus on your own.

It’s common to hit bumps in the road, as you’re adjusting to college life during your freshman year. The great thing about a college campus is that you’re not alone.

A college is a small community that is geared to provide support and resources for students. You can set yourself up for success, if you use self-imposed structure to guide your day. You can also seek the help of an advisor or counselor. Be open and ready to meet new people and develop a new support network. Soon, college will feel like your new home away from home.

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1. Stick to a Set Schedule

High school offered a set class schedule and even structured study halls to help you stay on top of your academic obligations. In college, the choice to go to class or study rests solely on your shoulders.

An important tip in your college life guide is to buy a day planner or use an app on your phone to plan out your academic schedule. Insert your classes and block out specific times to study, work-out and have fun with friends.

It’s ok to be flexible with your schedule, but be sure to stay true to your academic obligations. Stay committed to following your schedule and you’ll soon be an expert time manager.

2. Avoid Going Home

Resist the urge to go home on the weekends. Force yourself to wait until Thanksgiving break to reconnect with hometown family and friends. It’s important to develop a new social circle and support network in college. If you rely on old friends and family, it may be difficult to create a new friend group.

Start by hanging out with your roommate and the other students on your floor. If you don’t find an ideal friend match, try to connect with students in your classes or join a club that aligns with your interests. You may have to move outside of your comfort zone, but it will be worth the risk, once you find your new best friend.

3. Get Involved in Campus Life

As a student, make a point to join a club or organization during your first week on campus. Visit the student activities office to learn about student groups that may interest you. Most campuses have a student involvement fair at the beginning of the quarter or semester to introduce students to involvement opportunities.

Invite someone from your floor to go with you to a student organization meeting, to ease the awkwardness of trying something new. Once you get involved on campus, you’ll have an instant peer group with similar interests.

4. Practice Wellness Habits

In addition to adjusting to academic and social differences, you’ll have to make decisions about what you eat and when you sleep. It’s tempting to enjoy the all-you-can eat option in the cafeteria, but you may quickly become a victim of the freshman 15.

Similarly, staying up all night makes it difficult to get to an 8:00 a.m. class. It’s also important to incorporate daily exercise in your schedule. Adjusting to college life in your freshman year means practicing healthy habits that will help you function at the top of your game.

5. Meet With a Counselor

It’s normal to seek the help of a trained professional if you’re struggling with the adjustment to college life. Visit the counseling center or talk to one of your professors to share your thoughts and feelings. Most campuses offer free counseling services to students. You’re likely to feel better just by talking about the transition with someone else.

About the Author

Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.