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Aug 16

Written by: kmurphy
Tuesday, August 16, 2011 

As students begin the process of packing up all of their belongings for their first semester at college, I thought that I would share a few tips from seasoned college students about surviving your first semester. While there are many great articles and books touting survival skills, I thought that you might want to hear from 'real' students. Thanks to all my former students who contributed to this massive advice column!

What to Bring
- I would tell GIRLS not to pack everything. Honestly, a dorm is tiny and you won't use half of what you bring. That was definitely the biggest one for me.
- I would say definitely bring running shoes! The freshman 15 is very real!
- Things for dorm life: pillows and comfy things for the bed!!! as the room is so small, there's really no room for furniture like a couch so i found that besides sleeping on my bed, i sat on it while studying or socializing. a lot of time is spent on that so make it comfy!!!!
- Pictures from home are nice, because missing friends/family is normal. If you have their picture on the wall next to you, it won't feel as if they aren't there. Also, it's a nice conversation starter to tell your new friends about your friends from home.
- Besides pictures, decorations are nice--make your room nice because then you won't feel so bad about missing the home that you left. Coordinating colors and decorations are a fun thing to do with your new roomie before you start school or right in the beginning--good bonding experience!
- Because the room is so small, I know that Target or Bed, Bath, & Beyond have really cool storage compartments that come in all sorts of fun colors--compartments/drawers REALLY help. Not only do they keep you organized, but they save a ton of space in the already-crowded room.
- Having a fridge and a microwave in my room was very convenient for the times that I didn't feel like leaving my room due to studying or laziness, and the times when I would be too sick to leave...storing up on ramen and Mac and cheese and other storable food is a must-have, because then you can just make it in your room. This is good for when the cafeteria is closed and you get hungry and you don't feel like spending money by going out.
-FEBREEZE!!! or any other type of air freshener is nice. One of my roommates wasn't concerned with her hygiene, so the Febreeze definitely helped!!!
- A shower caddy is necessary! It's just a small basket with a handle, with holes in the bottom, to place your shampoo/hair products and soap so when you go to the communal showers you can just place your shower caddy next to you with all of your stuff in it. It's very helpful.
- A small lamp that you can have next to your bed or on your shelf is nice too--this comes in handy when your roomie wants to sleep but you still have studying to do or you just want to stay up in general, instead of having the main light on (which is insanely bright) you can turn that off and turn on your small soft light lamp, just bright enough to see yet soft and dim enough for your roomie to be able to fall asleep. You can also try stringing Christmas lights or cute small lanterns around your room--not only does it offer a very cool atmosphere for decoration, but once again they offer dim light in case you want to give your eyes a rest from the severe lighting provided by the dorm.
- Headphones with a mp3 player!! When your roomie is annoying you or playing loud music, you can just plug in your headphones and listen to your own music. Or, if you want to watch a movie or something on your computer, just plug in your headphones so you don't disturb your roomie. In any case, headphones are an absolute must for common courtesy.
- I didn't have a TV, because it took up too much space, and honestly you can stream movies on your laptop (which is a must-have for college life) or watch streaming entertainment...a TV is not necessary, but a laptop is!

Roommate Rules
-Hang out with the roommate--get some time to get to know them, hang out with them, etc. You're going to be living with them for awhile, so it's important to establish a connection there, too. Also, this is a good time to sit down and create guidelines for your room (like what's the policy of bringing friends over, how long can they stay, when would you like quiet hours in your room to begin, what's your policy of drug use and is it ok to bring that kind of behavior into your room...what's the policy of bringing guys/girls over to spend the night, etc.)

Use Your Free Time Wisely
- With regards to school work & classes, I would advise them to really use any free time they have (especially between classes) to their advantage. Use that time to catch up on some class readings or homework, so you can have more free time later. By getting some of your homework done during the day, you won't have a huge pileup of homework when you go to finish it later.

Be Your Own Best Friend
- You have to take care of yourself. There is no one to tell you when to go to sleep, whether or not to go to class, when to get your homework done, or not to go out at night. Be smart, make good choices, be responsible! In the end it's totally worth it.
-It doesn't hurt to go running every day or even a couple of times a week. Especially going to school in southern California we've got to stay in shape for bathing suits! Also exercising is an amazing stress reliever. College is definitely stressful at times, and getting in a quick workout can do great things.

Go To Class
-I know a lot of people think that college means that if you don't go to class, then no one will care. However, it is SO important to attend classes! Since most classes aren't every day, if you skip one, you will most likely miss enough material to cover two or three days.
-A lot of grades greatly depend on attendance to class. Going is half the grade. So if you go you know you'll pass the class. so definitely GO to class!

Be Friendly
-I think it's really important as a freshman to try and meet as many people as you can during that first week of school. It may be awkward at first to randomly introduce yourself, but remember that everyone is going through the same process. Most of my best friends now are the ones that lived on my floor freshmen year.
- I would suggest they make sure they get to know there roommate, going a year with a roommate you don't know is awkward.
- Upon arrival at their new 'home', they should attend all the social mixers, regardless of how stupid it might look. Establishing a network of friends is a number one priority in order to feel like you 'fit in', and besides, the other kids probably are nervous and don't know anybody either so social mixers are a perfect way to have fun and to meet new people. I believe this is a number one priority.
-It's tempting to stay in your room and be on Skype with your friends from home and to decline going out with your new group of friends (usually it's your roomie or hall mates) but it's SO important to not hole up in your room (except finals week) and to get out and explore your new home with your new friends. Old friends are important, but don't get caught up in just talking to them--get out and enjoy your new chapter in life!!!!
- I would have to say my biggest tip if you're going to a college where you don't know anyone is to leave your dorm room open when your in there. that's how youre going to meet people. also if you're going to the gym or something, ask around and see if anyone else wants to go

Get Involved
- Try to get involved in a bunch of different clubs or activities. This way, you will be able to meet even more people who share a common interest with you. During the first week of school, many of the clubs will most likely be advertising themselves in some way, so make sure to look out for them.

Stay Connected
-Call your parents every now and then - doesn't have to be everyday but maybe once a week until they get used to you not being at home anymore. :)

Wise Behavior and Other Tips
- I believe it's important to have a first aid kit in your room at all times, complete with Advil/Tylenol, Midol, feminine products for emergencies, water and crackers for the time when you stumble in from a night of unexpected drinking, snacks in general just in case the power goes out and you can't leave your room for food (true story in my case) or you get sick, thermometer, cough drops, Band-Aids and Neosporin, flashlight with extra batteries, tissues, etc. ...... these were the things that I've always kept with me in my room and trust me they have definitely come in handy.
- Don't drink on campus unless it's a wet campus and your 21 or else it may come back to affect your classes/job.
- Don't use hair spray to kill bugs in your room, it sets off fire alarms and makes no one happy.
- If you get hurt don't be afraid to call the campus security or department of public safety, they are there to help you and if you don't seek help it could get worse.
- Use campus escort services when walking alone at night, not with a big group of burly guys.

For more essential tips, please check out:

Dorm Life
What I Wish Someone Had Told Me Freshman Year
College in a Can
The Naked Roommate and 107 Other Tips for Surviving College – available in most retail bookstores
U-Chic – The College Girl's Guide to Everything – available in most retail bookstores

Safety Tips
21 Safety Tips for College Students

Moving In
Move-In Day Tips

Letting Go and Empty Nesters
Letting Go: A Parents Guide to Understanding the College Years – available in most retail bookstores
Letting Go: Tips for Parents of New College Students

Textbook Rentals
The Latest Scoop on Textbook Rentals

Countdown to College
12 Things College Freshmen Should Be Doing Now 

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