Freshman Survival Secrets – Part 2

Ben Knoble, a 2016 graduate of Ardrey Kell High School in Charlotte and a first-year student at UNC Chapel Hill shared his wisdom about what was a very successful first semester; both academically and socially.

Last week Ben’s responses focused more on the academic transition from high school to college and this week I tried to understand the intricacies of adjusting to college socially.

  1. What’s the best tip you can give a student who is a little anxious about creating a social life on campus?

Get started early, if you’re really worried. You’ll find that there are students across the intro/extrovert spectrum, and more than likely there will be plenty of social events in the early days of that first semester. Challenge yourself to go out and try them, or to connect with your hallmates and plan a movie night. There will be, somewhere, a group that you enjoy.

  1. What would you say to students who are concerned about being around too much partying?

You can avoid it if you want to. It’s really that simple–you’ll either know where all the parties are or (like me) you won’t have a clue what’s going on during the weekend because you haven’t been looking for it. 

  1. How easy/difficult has it been to find “your people?”

Finding my people was as simple as connecting with my floor and my classmates. They’re all passionate and driven, but most important their supportive and willing to listen to each other’s passions. 

  1. Have you joined any clubs/activities? If so, which ones and why?

Yes. I joined a Presbyterian campus ministry group because when I visited their church the students were welcoming and friendly and, frankly, “my people.” I also participate in EASE, which is a group centered on UNC’s foreign exchange program. We welcome international students as they arrive, act as their guides and point of contact for social activity, and generally just get to know everyone and make sure they have a good semester. I did it kind of on a whim, but it’s turned out to be an amazing source of intellectual conversation and friendship.

  1. Is managing your money challenging for many freshmen?

For some, I’ve seen it be challenging, while for others it’s been simple. One piece of advice I have is that, if you’re worried about your money-management skills, start practicing your junior or senior year. Start getting used to being responsible for yourself, and by the time you get to college it’ll be second nature. 

  1. How important are time management skills for freshmen?

On a scale of 1 to extremely, beyond extremely. Keeping your workload light that first semester can help you develop those skills if you don’t have them, and there are plenty of on-campus resources to help develop them. Planning your breaks in between classes to get work done is helpful as well, but not a necessity. The most important part is simply to stay on top of the work–don’t put it off if you can get it done early. 

  1. You stayed pretty close to home; in retrospect, was that a good decision? Why?/Why not?

Being this close to home has its advantages: when I need to be home for events, it’s far more doable than if I was in, say, California. However, I am just far enough away that I don’t feel like my parents are breathing down my neck. It’s a combination of nearby safety-nets if needed and a good deal of freedom when they’re not.

  1. What are your biggest “lessons learned” that you’d like to share?

Don’t let your laundry pile up! If you wait too long, it can be really difficult to get it all done, and you’ll run out of clothes in the meantime. And while we’re on the subject, try to do your laundry at odd times. It’s really frustrating to want to do laundry and all of the machines are full. 

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