Freshman Year Tips from a Stanford Junior

Now that I am going into my junior year of college, I wanted to share with all of you some of my favorite tips to survive your first year of college!


1. Limit the small talk.

I can’t tell you how many times people asked “What’s your major?”, “What dorm are you living in?”, “What classes are you taking?” during my New Student Orientation. Answering these questions was okay the first 20 times, but I lost interest in the superficiality of most conversations quickly after. I am not saying that you should have deep meaningful conversations (DMCs) with every person you meet, but try to have some interesting questions under your sleeve before integrating with others.

2. Leave your dorm door open when you are in there.

An open door will let your dorm mates know that you are a friendly person who is *open* to meeting new people. So many of my friendships started because one of us just decided to stop by and say hi when there was an open door.

3. Actually go to class.

I shouldn’t even have to say this, but how do you expect to learn if you don’t attend your lectures of discussion sections? Your professors and classmates are so knowledgeable and it is important to seize every opportunity to learn from them.

4. Go to office hours.

I cannot stress this enough. TAs and professors will always be willing to help you if you do not understand the material, and one-on-one lessons can be more helpful than lectures. During office hours, you can also get help on your essays or problem sets, so do not miss these opportunities to improve!

5. Learn how to file your taxes and fill out the FAFSA/CSS forms. 

College is the time to start being *somewhat* independent. It is important to start acquiring some life skills and  in order to be prepared for life after school.

6. Put your phone far away from you when you go to sleep.

Doing this has two huge benefits. One: you won’t be tempted to waste time scrolling through Instagram or Facebook when you know you should be sleeping. Two: it will force you to physically leave your bed in the morning to turn off your alarm.


7. Text and call your family even if you do not feel homesick.

They miss you a lot and might be hesitant to constantly call you because they know you are busy. Take initiative. It will make them happy. And deep down, you know you miss them, too.

8. Go out on Friday nights.

This one hits home because I used to be so stressed out all the time and never made time to have fun with my friends. But I learned that essays, problem sets, and readings can wait. Make midnight runs into the city with your friends. Party until 3am. Destress yourself. Make memories that will last you a lifetime.

9. Exercise.

Thankfully, this getting some form of exercise at Stanford is so easy since you have to walk or bike everywhere. But this is not a joke. There is so much food on campus, and you will not be able to avoid it regardless of how hard you try. Eat it, but make up for it by exercising often. Plus, physical activity is proven to boost your mood.

10. That being said, it is okay to eat that cookie or milkshake during late night.

Eat a little snack while you are hard at work to reward yourself. Just do not make a habit out of it.



11. Rent your books if possible. If not, buy them used and resell them.

I made the mistake of buying new books fall quarter of my freshman year and I ended up spending a fortune on books for 3 classes. This is totally unnecessary. I quickly learned my lesson.

12. Bring shower flip-flops.

I don’t want to say too much, but dorm showers are gross.

13. Learning is sometimes more important than earning good grades.

You will not earn an A on every single assignment, and it will suck at first, but you will survive. College is meant to be more difficult than high school. Your professors and TAs purposefully grade on a harder scale, so you will have to work twice as hard to earn As and beat the curve. Even if you tried your best and still did not get an A, it is okay as long as you feel like you learned. There will always be another opportunities to improve.

14. Do not leave your clothes in the washer or dryer for too long.

There is a limited number of washers and dryers in the dorm, and chances are that if you leave your clothes in there for too long, you will find them on the floor when you finally remember to get them.

15. Get out of your comfort zone. 

My friends and I have made a point of reminding each other to do things that scare us, things that make us feel uncomfortable. We realized that we often limit ourselves because we are afraid of being in unfamiliar situations. But college is all about trying new things, about learning how to be comfortable eating a meal alone, about talking to that cute guy you’re crushing on.

Love, Azu





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