Combat freshmen faux-pas with these 5 tips

University of South Carolina students return to the Columbia campus in August 2015. File photo by

It’s easy to be overwhelmed as a freshman. Everything is new, it feels like you’re making first impressions every minute of every day, you’ve gotten lost six times returning to your dorm from the library, you’re intimidated by the course syllabus – “do they really expect you to read 1,000 pages a week?”– and you think you’re the only one who feels this way.

You’re wrong. Just look around: Every other freshman is stressed out, too. Transitions are tough.

Here are some tips to make your adjustment a little smoother:

  1. Register for the best classes for YOU. Make smart choices based on what you think you’ll like and, yes, your body clock. Don’t sign up for the 8 a.m. classes if you know that waking up and arriving on time is going to stress you out. Don’t listen to and do what everyone else is doing. Even if you placed out of Bio 101 and Bio 102, you may want to think twice before signing up for Bio 201. General advice is to take a lighter load first semester. Pick classes that interest you and hopefully satisfy some requirements but won’t overload you. Don’t forget you’re going to want to get involved in extracurricular clubs and organizations on campus. It’s challenging to be a happy freshman if you’re feeling like you can’t keep pace academically.
  2. Shop around before you make purchases. Save a little money on the things that don’t matter as much. Remember you’re paying for convenience when you shop at the college bookstore. Check out online options and what’s in the surrounding area.
  3. Strike a balance. It’s impossible to pledge a sorority or fraternity AND play a varsity sport AND have an internship AND have a part-time job AND go home every other weekend. Figure out what’s most important to you and prioritize your activities. Accept that you won’t be able to do everything you want to do that first semester.
  4. Be responsible socially. Enjoy your independence with no curfews and few rules, but staying up late every night, skipping classes and not doing your homework will land you back in your parents’ home faster than you’ll get an “ahh” watching a cat video.
  5. Appreciate the transition. Accept the fact that all freshmen will be homesick at one time or another. Recognize that everyone deals with change differently. Some of your friends may be very emotional and feel the need to share every miserable detail, and others will be frighteningly stoic. Don’t be afraid to bring up the subject and share your own thoughts because the odds are it will end up being a bonding experience.

Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:;