Five Things I Wish I Knew Before My First Semester of College

This image shows three students walking on campus with a text overlay that reads "Things I wish I knew my first semester of college."

Beginning the first semester of college is the start of an invigorating chapter, but it is also overwhelmingly terrifying. Personally, I had no idea what I was doing. As the oldest child in my family, I would be the first of my siblings to go to college away from home.  

To calm any initial fears, the U is amazing—I love it. I love the intersection of urban and natural environments along with the culture and community the university creates. However, there are some things I wish I would have known during my first semester. To combat any future trouble incoming students may have, here are the top five things I wish I knew: 

1. It’s Okay to Ask for Help 

In my first semester, I took sixteen credits, completed an internship and a study abroad course, and put in the work to be physically healthy. I was taking some general classes that I just didn’t feel good about; math specifically was a beast. It was hard, but I never asked for help!  

Finally, the weight became too much. I called my mom bawling, and her advice was to reach out and ask for help. I took it hesitantly. I was proud to be independent, and this made me feel vulnerable.  

I swallowed my pride and took action. I went to the Learning Center for help with schoolwork, the Writing Center for help with my English class and the Counseling Center to speak with counselors when things got hard. My semester suddenly became more manageable with extra support, and my mental health was no longer declining.  

2. Don’t Take Early Morning Classes… Unless 

While planning my first semester, I was convinced I would get up early every day and start my day off with a bang. I scheduled early morning classes at 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. every day of the week. While I loved one of them, I was impartial about the other. One morning, I would wake up excited to go to class, but the next day would be a drag.  

I would recommend not doing this. Unless you know you’re going to love a class, don’t take it in the early morning. I missed a lot of lectures and fell behind in my work as I stayed up late to catch up on homework for my other classes.  

3. Use USafe 

I found myself studying late into the night at the library. My favorite study spots were on the first and third floor. While this helped my grades immensely, I also happen to be terrified of the dark, so walking home at night presented a new dilemma.   

Everything changed when I learned about USafe. My friend described it as “a campus Uber, but free!” USafe begins running at 6 p.m. every evening. By downloading the app TransLoc, a user can call a USafe, look at shuttle schedules and be in the know about campus transportation.  

4. Don’t Take Too Many Credits 

Another thing I wish I had had advice on was the number of credits to take. As mentioned earlier, I took sixteen credits while doing an internship and a study abroad course—it equated to eighteen credits.  

 Spare yourself the coursework overload during your first semester. If you find yourself wishing you took more credits, get involved in an extracurricular. Your first semester should transition you into campus life and help you build habits and relationships to succeed in the semesters to come. I recommend finding the sweet spot; anywhere from thirteen to fifteen credits is where I found mine. This way, I have time to get involved and have free time to nap and read books, and I’m never bored with my classes.  

5. Get Involved 

There are lots of ways to get involved on campus. From intramural sports, group fitness activities or anything on the campus calendar, getting involved is the best way to make friends and engage in college life. Don’t be afraid to take a chance! Everyone is in the same boat, especially first-years, and we’re all looking for those lasting friendships.