5 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your First Year of College

You’ve finished high school. Summer is almost over, and fall is almost here. It’s the beginning of a whole new chapter as you start college.

You know where your dorm will be. You’ve started to pack for college. And you’re getting all the reading lists for your first college courses. But college isn’t just about what you do in the classroom. Living on campus means that what you do after class can be just as impactful as what you do in class. Here are five ways to get the most out of your first year at college:

1. Sign up for something new

Seattle Pacific University – Theatre Department

The great thing about college is that there is always something new and interesting. It’s a great time to join an intramural sport, a cultural club, a student radio show, or find new friends to go hiking with! If you don’t see something that you think would be fun, this could be your chance to start something new. If high school was about figuring out which of your friends had the same class schedule as you, college is about starting to make your own path and finding new interests and friends along the way.

2. Join a club or learn about something that will build your resume

So much about college is fun, but part of why you’re continuing your education is to help you land a great job in a career that fits you well. As you enter college, you may not know what that will be yet, and that’s okay! You can figure out what suits you and also prepare for a career by learning useful skills. Take a class on managing a budget at work. Learn basic HTML coding or enroll in an introduction to graphic design course. The classes might spark a hidden talent in yourself, but they will also give you the skills and experience to stand out among other job applicants. If you already know what you’re interested in, growing your professional network doesn’t have to be a scary thing — try joining a future educators club, a pre-dental society, etc. It can be a great way to meet like-minded friends and learn about opportunities in your field.

3. Pick something that will help you develop personally

It can be hard to juggle all the competing parts of the college experience. It’s not always easy to manage living on your own, balancing classes, and a social life. One of the best ways to keep each part of your life in perspective is to make sure to carve out time for yourself. That can look different for everyone: prioritizing time to unwind by reading a book or watching a favorite TV show; setting aside time to call home or reach out to old friends; joining a local church or small group; or speaking with a counselor (The SPU Counseling Center offers services to enrolled undergraduates free of charge). When you take care of yourself, you can make sure you’re ready to take on all that college has to offer!

4. Build healthy habits

mobile screen shots of a UX design case studyFor most college students, this is the first time that you’re living away from home for an extended period of time. Maybe you’re local to the area and can visit home regularly, but it’s still important to build healthy habits while you’re on campus. This includes things like setting a regular time to do laundry (not just clothes, but your bedding, too!), staying ahead of your classwork, regular exercise, and eating balanced meals. It’s easy to stay up late studying or watching Netflix or hanging out with friends, and stress eating during finals is a part of the college experience. However, developing healthy routines while you’re first living on your own will set you up for life and make your life a little easier when you are busy having fun or dealing with stress.

5. Be a tourist

Whether you’ve lived in Seattle your whole life or you’re showing up to a brand-new city, there is always something new and cool to do. Take advantage of friends, free time, and student discounts and get to know the place where you are living. Seattle is home to many amazing cultures, breathtaking nature, and groundbreaking technology and entertainment. Try a new bakery. Root for the local team. Get coffee somewhere new every Sunday. Dance all night at a concert, and get off campus to enjoy the wonders of the Pacific Northwest! Don’t forget to always check and see where you can get discounts and sometimes free tickets for having a student ID!

Four years will go by before you know it, but you can start yourself off on the right foot by following these five steps! There’s nothing like the first year of college — all the freedom… and also all of the responsibility. It’s a big year to grow and learn a lot about yourself, but don’t forget to have lots of fun along the way!

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