First Day of College: Your Freshman Survival Guide

Ana-Marcela Lopez / Colleges of Distinction »

It’s okay to feel a little nervous about your freshman year. And if you are, you’re in good company. Every year, millions of students step foot on a college campus for the first time ever. Chances are that most of these students are just as anxious as you. 

Everyone is at least a little scared, but there’s no need to get caught up in the anticipation. You can start your college experience on the right foot as long as you know what to do.

What resources can you access on your first day? Where should you go? Who should you meet, and how can you make friends? Answer these questions and you will be able to have a smooth start to your freshman year. Keep reading for our tips to surviving the first day of college.

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Attend Orientation

Most students’ first day on campus isn’t actually the first day of classes. That’s the point of freshman orientation! For a few days over the summer or directly before classes start, freshmen can attend a series of events that introduce them to their new community and familiarize them with the resources they will use throughout the year. This is to make sure that nobody has to do school work or rush around to class before knowing who anyone is or where anything is.

At Adelphi University, students begin to get acclimated to the university as early as June when all first-year students are paired with a Peer Assistant Leader, or PAL. The role of a PAL is to serve as a link between incoming students and the University to assist in the transition into the college experience. These student leaders help familiarize new students with the resources that are available to them, plan programs dedicated specifically to first-year engagement, and altogether help them feel more comfortable in their role as college students.

Students at Adelphi participate in virtual programming throughout the summer and then meet their fellow Panthers on campus during Welcome Weekend. This 3-day experience before the start of the semester helps students get acclimated to campus, make friends, and find opportunities to get involved.

Have School Supplies

You should have pens, pencils, and notebooks with you. Especially in freshman-level classes, professors tend not to make any assignments on the first day. They will, however, hand out the class syllabus and go over what to expect for the semester. Take notes in order to keep track of all the information you’re given in one day.

You may want to have a laptop with you, but be careful with it. Some teachers do not allow laptops in their classes, or they require you to turn off the internet connection. If you take notes on your computer, type quietly and use a document you save on your desktop.

College dress codes tend to be a little less strict than those in high school. Regardless of whether your school has a dress code, however, you put effort into dressing appropriately. There’s no need to show up to class looking like a character on Mad Men, but a clean appearance shows your professors that you respect them and care about their class. Speaking of dress codes, at Adelphi University we show our Panther pride by wearing Brown and Gold every “Wear It Wednesday.” Don’t forget to stop by the Campus Bookstore to pick up some Adelphi gear of your own.

Explore the Campus

Some colleges offer tours for freshmen to explore the campus. You should take one, even if you have been on a tour before. You can also go with a friend to different spots around campus.

Find a map of the campus so you know where the major buildings are. At some point, you should go for an informal walk and see where everything is for yourself. You can go inside buildings and look at where your classes are and what the classrooms are like. 

Try to find where the dining hall, faculty advisor offices, and college and career center are. You can also look for the fitness center and other resources you may use during your college experience. 

Meet the People in Your Dorm

Hopefully by the first day of school you have at least met your roommate and resident assistant (RA). Keep it going! Stay open to having a conversation with other people on your floor. You could try setting up a time to meet for lunch or coffee, or maybe you’ll find comfort in having a few extra friendly faces nearby.

Many college freshman dorms have mandatory meetings you must attend. You can learn more about what to expect for the year ahead as well as who your neighbors are. At Adelphi, for instance, all residential students are required to attend a mandatory floor meeting during Welcome Weekend, but they’re also encouraged to attend additional programs throughout the weekend hosted by the Department of Residential Life and Housing and the Resident Student Association.

Eat Good Meals

Many people are so nervous on the first day that they forget to eat. You can prepare breakfast in your dorm, though you can also buy a protein bar or a cup of coffee at a café or vending machine. For lunch, you should try to visit your school’s dining hall

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It’s okay if you feel anxious as you enter the dining hall. You can eat by yourself, but feel free to sit down anywhere and talk with the people at your table. You can go to the dining hall as part of a group from your dorm building as well. 

For dinner, you can visit a restaurant on or near your campus. This lets you get a sense of what else your campus has to offer. 

Adelphi’s commuter students are also encouraged to enjoy campus dining thanks to its Dine + Connect program. The Dine + Connect Meal Plan was created to make commuter students’ campus experience easier and more enjoyable as a first-year Panther. With $250 Panther Dollars to use at any of the University’s dining locations, this plan offers convenience and flexibility with you in mind.

Students can also learn more about healthy dining choices by meeting with Adelphi’s campus dietitian. Services like these can help you learn how to care for your health during the transition away from home.

Attend Extracurricular Meetings

Extracurriculars are another opportunity to make friends. They also fill in the extra hours of your day and let you develop soft skills you can use for jobs and hobbies. 

Some clubs organize meetings for freshmen to visit—attend as many that interest you as you can! You don’t have to commit to anything just yet, but stay open to learning about what fun can be had outside of the classroom.

Lots of schools host a club fair for new students to browse their options. Visit a few different tables and talk to the organizers about what the clubs are like. 

Students who get involved are more likely to experience academic success and have a more positive experience on campus. Adelphi University is home to over 80 organizations, ranging from diversity and faith-based clubs to academic societies. There’s something for everyone!

Enjoy Your First Day at College

Your first day at college is one of many exciting days ahead. Take a deep breath and trust that you will fit in in time. Whatever happens, stay optimistic. With every passing day and every semester to come, you will get more confident as a member of your college community.Looking for more tips? Check out Colleges of Distinction’s Advice section for more information about the college experience!