6 ways to survive freshman year

Vanessa Infanzon

Tim Mensa of Charlotte, who just finished his freshman year at North Carolina State University, advises new students to take time to evaluate new opportunities. Photo by Chloe Wells

Most college administrators and faculty agree that there is a learning curve the first year of college. But freshman year does not have to be impossible.

Here are six ways to survive the transition and finish the year ready for the next one:

Take advantage of the resources

Schools have numerous departments available to help students succeed in college. New student orientation is the first introduction to these resources.

Patrick Motter, assistant dean of student engagement at Queens University of Charlotte, explained that orientation is the students’ chance to begin the acclimation process to campus. “This is the first chance for students to live in a new student residence hall, share a room with another new student,” Motter said.

Departments like the health and counseling center, academic services, career center and student life offer programs and services that are often free or low cost to enrolled students. These offices can provide mentors and tutors, depending on a student’s needs. Motter recommended that students listen to their adviser; they can often direct students to the right department.

Make friends

There are many opportunities to meet new people and form friendships. At orientation, everyone is nervous and unsure about what’s next. The small group setting and ice breaker activities make it easy to meet people who have similar interests.

Once classes begin, student clubs, Greek organizations, on-campus jobs and residence life activities put students in a position to meet new friends.

Charlottean Tim Mensa, 19, completed his freshman year at North Carolina State University in May. He is studying communications with a concentration in media production. Mensa’s interest in music production connected him to a community of people interested in production and audio and visual design.

Tim Mensa is studying communications with a concentration in media production at N.C. State, where he found others who share his interests. Photo by Chloe Wells

Keep an open mind

New experiences are everywhere. Students can choose to try a class, student organization or program that might be different or out of their comfort zone.

Mensa said, “Don’t get too attached to any one idea. There’s a lot that comes at you. Take the time to see what any opportunity could offer you and how it could make you happier, even if it wasn’t what you initially had in mind.”

Steady your pace

With so many opportunities available, it’s hard to say no to joining clubs, attending events and trying something new. Students who pace themselves by joining just one or two things that first semester may have an easier time juggling their coursework with a new living situation.

Mensa said, “I would try not to put so much constant pressure on myself to keep moving forward. Sometimes it’s nice to just slow down and exist and appreciate the space I’m in.”

Change is inevitable

There are definitive times in a person’s life when he or she can look back and know a change has occurred. The freshman year is one of those times because a student is establishing an independence from family, forming new friendships and developing a stronger sense of self.

“Balancing my emotional needs while trying to keep people I cared about in my life was and still is very difficult for me, especially during such a pivotal time period for every student,” Mensa said.

Find time to reflect

Set aside time to think about what you’re doing, how you’re doing and where you want to go. Write about how you feel in a journal, start a blog or capture your experiences through photos – do something that allows you to reflect on this new journey. It may surprise you to see how you faced challenges, when you needed support and where your decisions led you.

Mensa said, “I learned that I was able to handle myself and stick with my convictions and what I wanted to achieve without getting sidetracked or losing sight of what was important to me.”


Vanessa Infanzon is a freelance writer based in Charlotte. In her former life, she worked in student life at Davidson College, UNC Charlotte and Queens University of Charlotte. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @morethanVMI