Image Credits: Alyson Edie Photography

College is difficult. It can also be extremely stressful if you don’t take care of yourself or stay organized. As a freshman, I was lost, and wanted to move back home just after my first semester. By second semester, however, I turned things around and got my life together by being organized and doing things that made me happy. Here are 17 things to do to stay on top of your freshman year.

  1. Buy an agenda and use it

Don’t just buy that Lilly agenda because it’s pretty (even though it totally is). Buy one only if you know you’ll use it, and use it correctly. This includes listing everything in your syllabus, from quizzes to tests to homework. Highlight due dates and important events, or circle them–anything to make them stand out. Look at your agenda before every week to review what you’ll be doing, then every morning to see what you need to work on. Your agenda should really be your life if it’s hard for you to remember everything you need to do.

  1. Do not join every club

This is about limiting yourself. Sure, joining seven clubs could look good on your resume, but you have five, maybe more, classes to handle as well as eating three meals a day and getting enough sleep. Just because it looks good on paper, doesn’t mean it feels good on your body or is a good idea. Your first semester, at least, take it easy on yourself and feel everything out. No one gets used to college life overnight.

  1. Keep an open mind when it comes to your studies

I changed my major four times before even stepping foot onto campus. I was too nervous to major in what I actually wanted to do, which was writing. I found myself unhappy with every other major I had chosen, and it wasn’t until I finally took a writing class that I realized God was leading me toward this area of study. Keep an open mind, and if you find yourself hating every class in your major, you should probably drop it and explore something new. Most college students change their majors once or twice, so don’t feel alone if you do, too.

  1. Take your general studies first

This ties in with choosing your major and feeling things out first. Taking classes all across the spectrum will help ease your mind, too, because no information overlaps when getting used to college life. Not only that, but you may find a passion you didn’t know you had, and end up going that direction with your life.

  1. Check your email

For the love of God, please check your email. Every hour, check it at least once. That’s how your teachers and any important figure in the college will communicate. You absolutely, really need to get in the habit of checking your email. Not only do you need to check it, but make folders to organize each email you receive. When you just have 40 emails in your inbox and you’re trying to find that one email from your Spanish professor, it will look cluttered and disorganized. Keep your inbox clean and your folders full.

  1. Keep your workspace organized

Hopefully, you have a desk and that desk has drawers. Use those to your best advantage. Don’t just shove everything in, neatly place specific items in each drawer. Make sure you don’t buy random things to clutter your desk and drawers, only buy what you need. Keeping your desk neat and tidy will not only make you more relaxed, but make it much so easier to study and complete tasks.

  1. Set your own deadlines

Yes, deadlines given to you by your professors and their syllabi are more important than yours. However, if you have a huge paper due, writing it in parts and setting deadlines for those parts is very important. For example, a week before your paper is due, write your introduction and your conclusion, the next day, write your first paragraph, and so on. The extra days in between give you time to review and edit your essay. Do the same with big projects, and the work, although it will be every day, will be less stressful and less time consuming.

  1. Study in chunks

Studying in chunks may sound awful, but it works. The first step is reviewing your notes after each class, this will help you refresh what you had just learned, and maybe catch something in your notes you didn’t even know you wrote. Like writing a paper or doing a big project, it’s smart to start studying a week or two weeks before, depending on your type of quiz, exam, or test. Study chapter one or section one on the first day, two on the next, and so on. Then, start studying everything together until you’ve nailed it. Setting aside 30 minutes to an hour each day is better than studying for four hours the night before your exam.

  1. Do laundry weekly

First, make sure you have a hamper, and anything else you need to do laundry depending on what your school provides. Once in college, don’t take your laundry home for your parents to do. It’s a necessary thing to learn if you want to be an adult. Doing your laundry weekly may seem annoying, however, you’ll appreciate it once the load is much smaller. When your laundry is dry, immediately hang it back up or put it away. Putting it off will only result in a messy closet, and being unorganized means more stress.

  1. Don’t take your entire closet from home

Speaking of closets, make yours smaller. Odds are your closet at school will be minuscule compared to your closet at home. Not even a third of what you have at home will be able to fit. You’ll need to really decide what you truly need to bring. Also, think about seasons; you won’t need that winter coat in September, and it’ll take up too much room.

  1. Create a cleaning schedule

If you have roommates, split up the tasks. One week, you clean the living room while they clean the bathroom. Or, if you live by yourself, Mondays you can clean the bathroom, Tuesdays you organize your closet, Wednesdays you take out the trash, and so on. Stick to your schedule and you’ll have a spot-free room.

  1. Call home at least once a week

It’s pretty straightforward. If you chose a school far from home and can’t make it back all the time, calling is the next best thing. Calling a loved one means so much to them and trust me, people want to hear from you. Hearing from home will also help keep your stress down while away.

  1. Take advantage of your meal plan

If you have one, it’s best not to go out and buy a ton of food. Sure, snacks are okay, however, you paid for a meal plan while living in a dorm, and spending extra money on food outside of the dorm is a waste of a meal plan. Take advantage of it. If you’re worried about eating healthy, there are healthy options on campus. It may take more effort to scope them out, but every campus offers healthy and filling options.

  1. Schedule yourself

My agenda is constantly full. Other people can barely decipher it. It takes some work to do so, but in the end it’s worth it. Avoid stressing about homework or projects by putting in your agenda when you’ll work on them. If you know homework will take you a half hour, pencil in that you’ll finish it tomorrow by 10:30 am, and if you’re like me, you’ll definitely do it. If I have a “to-do” in my agenda, I must finish it, because I already have penciled in other things that I want to accomplish, so this really works for a busy person.

  1. Plan your outfit the night before

It’s as simple as it sounds. If you have early classes and like sleeping in or don’t like to waste time in the mornings, laying out your outfit for tomorrow before bed will help.

  1. Take great notes

Use notebooks and notecards during class. Don’t type your notes, unless you’ve found that it really works for you. Writing your notes out will help you remember them better. If your professor uses slideshows, printing them out and writing notes on that will also work. Pay attention in class, and review your notes after.

  1. Take up an exercise routine

Whether it be weight lifting, running, walking, or yoga, find something to keep you in shape that you enjoy. Working out can help relieve stress, plus you’ll feel better walking out of the gym rather than sitting on your couch wishing you would have worked out.

Amy G
Amy can't wait for the day when she has a big house in Texas, 7 well-dressed kids, 3 dogs, her high school sweetheart as her husband, and a job that allows her to write to her heart's content, wear Lilly and accessorize with Kate. Sophomore at SEMO with a double major and double minor.

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