Last week, I took the last final for my first year at University. Looking back, I had a pretty good year, but there are definitely some things I would have done differently. Here is some advice I have for incoming freshmen.
1. Choose the Place that's Right for You
I live in Maryland, in the United States, where there is an abundance of colleges and universities to choose from. In Baltimore alone, there are 12 colleges/universities and in Washington D.C., there are 20. That doesn't include any of the other colleges in Maryland, including the University I chose. Although, the University of Maryland would probably look better on a resume, I chose to attend Salisbury University, a significantly smaller college on the East Coast of Maryland.
I chose Salisbury for several reasons, but the most significant one was the Computer Science program. As someone who was planning on becoming a Computer Science major, Salisbury had a lot to offer me. The study abroad program for Computer Science was unlike any program that another university had offered. Salisbury's program allowed you to travel abroad in Estonia during your Senior year of college. For those who may be unfamiliar, Estonia is the Cyber-Security capital of the world. I won't go into too much detail, but to CS majors like myself, its a technological utopia of the future. In addition, while studying in Estonia, the program offers the ability to intern at the Cyber-Command headquarters for NATO. And... if that wasn't enough, you can opt in to stay a second year in Estonia, and graduate with a Masters Degree in Cyber-Security in addition to your degree in Computer Science. This program made SU incredibly attractive to me. At the moment, if I complete this course, I'm on track to graduate ahead of schedule with a Master's in Cyber-Security, a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science, and a Minor in Mathematics and Art.
In conclusion, although Salisbury isn't the most "prestigious" institution at first glance, it's degree track is perfect for me, and the atmosphere of the smaller college fits me better than a larger university.
Before coming to college, most people have never lived with a roommate before. You may have shared a room with a sibling, but trust me when I say that living with a roommate is very different. In college, your room is very different from your room at home. At home, my room was used pretty much exclusively as the place I slept. I had my desk and computer in there, and I would do homework in there, but other than that, I was never really in my room. In college however, your room is a lot more like your living room. It's where you'll sleep, but it's also where you'll do homework, eat (sometimes), hang out with friends, and relax after a long day. Because of how much more time you spend in your room at college, getting along with your roommate, or in my case roommates, is crucial. I had a lot of friends this year who had problems with their roommates, and it made things very complicated. For example, I had one friend (we'll call her Meghan), who's roommate never spoke to her. I'm not exaggerating when I say that... They never spoke. They had a few conversations the first week, but eventually whenever Meghan would try to make conversation, her roommate would just ignore her. Eventually, her roommate moved out, but it was hard to get things done between them, while she was still living with Meghan.
My best advice is to try and always be on good terms with your roommate(s). This doesn't necessarily mean let them walk all over you. The best way to stay on good terms is to communicate with them (unlike Meghan's roommate). If they do something you dislike, let them know, but don't attack them. Be honest and open in your communication. My second piece of advice is to get to know them beforehand. Before the school year starts, your university will usually send out contact information for your roommate(s). When you get that info, call them up and have a conversation. Don't just text them or something. Actually call them, and if possible maybe even meet up with them. I did this with one of my roommates and I feel like it really helped us get to know each other before we came to school.
3. Meal Plans
As an incoming freshman, most institutions will require you to have a meal plan for your first year. At Salisbury, there are several meal plans available, one of which is an "Unlimited Plan" which is exactly what it sounds like: Unlimited visits to the dining hall. The next one below this is "21 Meals a Week" (3 meals a day). Personally, I chose the Unlimited Plan, because I eat a lot (usually 4ish meals a day). However, what I found out is that the dining hall food can get old very fast. Even at Salisbury, which has one of the best rated halls in the country, I found myself getting tired of the same, or similar things everyday. Therefore, I would advise you to buy one of the cheaper meal plans that offers less meals a week, and use the money you save to eat out a few times a week. Usually college towns have a lot of fast food/chain restaurants. In Salisbury, there's a IHOP, Five Guys, Chipotle, and Cookout all within walking distance of campus, and a Chick-fil-a on campus.
4. G E T I N V O L V E D
You are going to hear people tell you this a lot during your first week on campus. It'll be on of those things that you'll kinda shrug off, saying "ok, thanks mom, but I got it from here". However, my biggest regret from my first year at college is that I did not get involved more. I certainly did get a little involved. I joined the campus Acappella group and the Indie Game Development Club. However, at times, I would get so caught up in schoolwork that I felt like I didn't have free time to attend meeting. Looking back, I probably could have found more time, and I really regret not attempting to do so, as the friendships I made at these clubs are fantastic.
College, if you decide it's right for you, will be a big step. It's the first time you're trying out "Adulting". It's going to be a great time living by yourself, but you're not invincible. If you need help, don't be afraid to reach out and ask for it, from your friends, professors, counselors, or even from your parents. After you leave, they're going to realize how quickly time has gone by, and they'll love any attention they get from you. So don't forget to call home once a week or so too.
If you have any other questions about my first-year experiences that I didn't address here, I'd love to answer them below. Thanks for reading.