So You’re Starting College…

college survival guide

First of all, congratulations! This is a big step for you and I’m proud of all the work you’ve done to get to this spot. Whether you got into your school of choice or, if you’re like me, you’re taking it a bit easy and starting off with community college first–this is a crazy time in your life and it’s going to be great and wild.

Since there are so many people that follow me that are just starting college I thought it would be nice to put together a quick little survival post about how to survive your first semester of college.

1. Become Oriented With Your Campus

Nothing is more stressful on the first day of your semester than running around campus confused where Room 205 in building NE5 is. Especially when you didn’t even know there was a building named NE5. If you have the chance to visit your campus early and know where all your classes should be, I advise you go to each classroom just so you know how to get there. Even if you vaguely remember, it’ll be a lot less stressful than feeling completely lost and arriving ten minutes late to class. Also know where the administration building, student services, health office, and the cashier’s office is. You never know when you need to run some errands and it’s a lot more efficient to know where everything is. If possible, keep a map of campus handy at all times.

2. Buy a Water Bottle

If you’re starting your freshman semester at a school in the US, you’ll be starting in the summer and unless you’re in Alaska, summer is not a fun time to be when you’re at school. The heat is unrelenting sometimes and nothing is less fun that feeling dehydrated while you’re racing towards your next class. I highly advise that you buy a big and sturdy reusable water bottle. It doesn’t have to be crazy expensive, don’t break the bank over it. Just get something that you’ll be able to carry with a full day of classes. Hydration is important!

3. Get a Planner

Maybe you’re a bullet journal kind of person. I think this is great, but I personally found it extremely important to have a planner just for school. I’ve had to do this since I was in elementary school so maybe it’s just a habit that stuck. I’m one that remembers a lot easier physically writing down deadlines on paper rather than in a digital calendar. I recommend something on the smaller side that can be put in your backpack easily without taking much space. You can have a bigger one to keep in your dorm or desk for a bigger picture (for instance, I keep all of my show dates and deadlines in one place).

If you’re one who relies more on digital formats I recommend the app My Study Life. Since this is on the Play store, it should be an iOS app as well. You input all the information about your classes, exams, and assignments. The app sends you notifications for when classes and exams are coming up and it’ll notify if you have a late assignment. It’s pretty straight forward and the learning curve for the app isn’t big at all.

This will help you stay incredibly organized and you just started college, don’t start slacking now!

4. Pack Snacks

Buying food on campus is like buying food at the movie theaters. It’s incredibly expensive and usually it’s not even that great. Even if you’re blessed to have food just across the street like I am, sometimes you don’t have the time or energy to make the walk over. Try and keep some snacks handy in your bag. I like to keep nuts or crackers on hand. Things like trail mix and stuff is good to tide you over until you can get a good meal.

5. Make Friends (or colleagues)

This is probably a really common tip, but it’s so important. It’s easy to fall into a routine in college to really not talk to anyone. I’m really guilty of this myself. I can easily just go to class and not talk to anyone. I think if I wasn’t in theatre, I really wouldn’t talk to anyone *sweats*. It’s hard for introverted people or for people with anxiety, but this is such a key point of college. At least try and get to know one person per class. It’ll make it easier for you when you aren’t able to make a class because of a doctor’s appointment or if you’re out sick as a dog. Or, if you just need to have friends, go and join clubs! I’m personally not a fan of the greek system (sororities or frats for people who don’t know), but if that’s something you want to do, go ahead. I’ve heard that’s some of the most tight knit groups of friends from college.


*Unless you absolutely have to. I.E. scripts.

Welcome to the broke college student life. It all starts with textbooks (after tuition). These are ridiculously priced, they average about $100-$200 per book. If you’re taking a full load of classes that can stack pretty quickly and that’s not even including supplies (especially if you’re an art major RIP). Once you find out what books you need (my school lists the ISBN numbers and I’m able to find it easily that way), go to a site like BookFinder. This site will scour the internet for different prices for that same book. I’ve recently found all of my books for under $300 which is going to help since apparently I don’t apply for FAFSA anymore. If you have money put away for textbooks, use whatever you have left for a rainy day. Trust me, you’ll need it… like for that online service that makes you pay $75 so that the teacher doesn’t have to correct your math homework.

I’m still salty.

7. Find a place to study.

This is kind of a no brainer, but everyone studies differently. If you’re like me and needs to be out of the house (for instance a cafe or library), make sure you carve out some time for a good study session. If you’re someone who needs to be in the presence of other people, make a study group–though I’ve found that a cafe works just as well. The cafe I work at is full of students and I think there’s comfort in knowing that there are other people doing the exact same thing as you are. Make this into a kind of routine so that you automatically do it throughout the year (and not just the week before finals).

8. Take. Care. Of. Yourself.

Look, I get it, we get wrapped up in the million assignments and group projects we have to do during college. For me I have to balance school with a part-time job and doing shows during the semester. It’s really easy to forget about your health. If you feel yourself falling apart, take a break. If it’s possible, see if you can get a few days off of work. Take a nap or a walk. Make a call to a friend or your parents. Do something for a little while that has nothing to do with school. Trust me, I get stressed when I do that too. The thought of using my time on something other than anything productive has its own stress, but I find myself feeling more focused and a bit more energized once I take a small break.

Education is important, but you are more important.

I want this post to grow and change. If you’re going to college or graduated college, what are some tips you’d like to give? Did you find my tips helpful?


5 thoughts on “So You’re Starting College…

  1. Awesome post, Alexa!! Especially with the bringing snacks idea – I know I’m always hungry at uni! And the whole making friends thing – it’s so difficult at uni, compared to at high school, because I’m constantly seeing new people, but after making the effort to make some friends, it’s really worth it! They motivate me to actually go to classes most days :’)


    1. Haha yeah, I’ve found it to be a bit difficult ONLY because I pretty much live in one department so I need to fix that lol. I’m perpetually hungry at school. I really don’t know what it is, but I constantly need a snack and the campus delis need to stop taking my money.


  2. These are all very helpful and full of common sense! I just graduated, I’m starting university in New Zealand in early March and mostly excited but somewhat nervous. Thanks for this post!


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