How to Set Yourself Up for Success Your First Year of College
Congratulations on starting your first year of college! It’s an exciting moment, but it’s also normal to feel unsure and overwhelmed, so we’ve created this student success plan—use it as a checklist to help you through your first year of college.
1. Create a weekly schedule
Classes are your central activity, so build your weekly schedule around them. Read your syllabi and use deadlines and test dates to build out study and homework time. Check in with your college’s academic support office to participate in a time-management and/or study skills workshop.
2. Attend office hours
Attending office hours can give you valuable time to better understand class content and your professors’ expectations. Check your syllabi for information on when and where your professors hold office hours and make it a goal to attend office hours in each of your courses at least once by midsemester to check your progress. Learn more about getting to know your professors.
3. Stay on track for graduation
At most institutions, 15 is the magic number of credits students need to complete each semester to graduate on time. Register for 15 credits each fall and spring (30 credits per year, including summer and winter), and complete your math GE credit-bearing course by the end of your first year.
Declaring a major early in your college experience will help you earn your degree on time. Meet with your academic adviser to find out what you need to do to declare a major and create a graduation plan—a clear semester-by-semester breakdown of the curriculum required to complete your degree. Before registering for courses each semester, check your graduation plan and work with your academic adviser to ensure appropriate credit completion for on-time graduation.
4. Renew the FAFSA
You must submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) for each school year you want to be considered for federal student aid. You can renew your FAFSA starting October 1. Schedule time with your parents/guardian and/or the financial aid office to complete your renewal. For additional help, visit the Federal Student Aid Help Center.
5. Check in with yourself
You must take care of yourself to do your best. Your college will likely have a variety of resources to help you.
Additional campus resources
Most colleges offer services you can use to get help with academic, personal, social, health, financial, or other issues. Here are some examples:
Academic support office
Colleges offer a variety of resources to help you succeed academically. Your college’s writing center can help with writing papers or improving your writing skills. The tutoring center can give you additional support in any of your courses. In addition to writing and tutoring support, many colleges offer workshops on topics like time management and study skills.
Career centers can help you find careers that match your interests and provide information about the types of jobs available to graduates in your field. Career centers offer guidance on writing résumés, practicing for job interviews, and often aid students seeking their first job. They usually maintain a job board and other employment resources.
If you’re having a tough time coping with stress, speaking with a mental health counselor at your college can help. Reach out if you feel isolated or depressed or have other personal issues you want to work through. Colleges generally offer free counseling for a set number of sessions or semesters.
Financial aid office
Financial aid officers can help explain your financing and loan options. They can also answer questions about the Federal Work-Study Program, which offers some students the chance to have a part-time job as part of their financial aid package.
The doctors and nurses at on-campus health centers provide medical services and education. They can treat illness and injury, give immunization shots, and perform medical tests.
Dorms and other campus housing options usually have resident advisers (RAs). Your RA can talk with you about any issues you’re having, in or out of class, and direct you to campus services that can help.
Many colleges offer a variety of recreational programs, religious centers, and other student-led clubs and organizations, as well as services for students with special circumstances, such as international students and students with disabilities.
Most community colleges offer advising to students who plan to transfer to a 4-year college. If that’s your plan, contact your community college’s transfer advising office before you register for classes. The advisers there can help you choose the best classes to prepare for this path.
For more information and resources, please visit Campus Services: There Is Support When You Need It. We wish you success in your first year of college.