If we haven't met yet, I'm Ivy! I'm a wedding and senior photographer based in East Tennessee. I hope you'll relax, grab a cup of coffee (or a baja blast), and enjoy seeing my latest work, as well as getting an inside look at my life!
Enjoy this picture of me and my freshman year roomie…
I’m taking a break from my typical photo-blogging today because I really want to serve my clients. And a lot of my clients last year were high school seniors who are now getting ready to transition into college. For some people, that’s exciting. It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to them. For some people, it’s scary. There’s a fear of the unknown. Of being alone. Of simply growing up. For a lot of people, they’re happy and nervous all at the same time. But one thing is true: for most people, college is nothing like high school. It’s hard to plan for something you’ve never done. It’s hard to know how to prepare to go to a place you’ve never been before. So today, I’m offering a few tips for all the lovely people about to start their first year of college (based solely on my experience).
Disclaimer: This post contains lots of poor quality iPhone photos, and some photos I didn’t take.
This is probably more important than you’d think. If you’ve never had a planner before, I think college is the perfect time to start using one. Up until now, you’ve probably stayed relatively busy with extracurriculars, appointments, and assignments, but college is a different world. If I didn’t write down all my exam and homework dates in my planner, I’m 99.9% sure my GPA would suffer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked in my planner and realized the professor forgot to remind us in class, but we have an assignment due tomorrow. It is a lifesaver. It’s a good idea to write down every due date as soon as you get the syllabus for your class, especially if you’re like me and will likely lose the syllabus halfway through the semester. And if you have a job, you can literally plan out every single hour of your day to accommodate your work schedule! It helps you make sure you’re making the most of your time. Planners are a great way to make sure you stay organized & on top of your work – plus, they make really cute ones. Mine was under $10 at Walmart, and I love it. For the girls, if you’re willing to spend a little extra $$$, Lilly Pulitzer‘s planners are adorable.
This one sounds pretty simple, but you’d be surprised how many people feel lonely and struggle making friends simply because they don’t socialize with the people around them. If you’re living in a dorm, your RA is likely striving to create some type of community amongst you and your fellow residents. Especially at the beginning of the year, a lot of people on your hall will probably leave their doors open or send messages in the group message (unless only Lee has hall GroupMe’s?) asking if anyone wants to hang out. Knocking on those open doors to introduce yourself, or replying “I’ll go!” in the GroupMe is a perfect opportunity to get to know people without having to leave the comfort of your own residence hall. You’d be surprised how many people on your hall will be in your General Education classes, so you could very well find someone to sit with on the first day of class this way + help calm your nerves. While most people will be walking into the class not knowing anyone, familiar faces always help. Your hall will also probably hold events every now and then if it’s like Lee – so if that’s the case, go to at least one. Even just knowing the names of the people who live across the hall from you can make you feel a lot more comfortable. BUT also make sure to make time for fun things outside your dorm so you’re not trapped in a bubble!
This is likely your first time being out on your own, and you’ll soon start realizing how much your parents actually did for you – because they’re not there anymore. For example, bathrooms need to be cleaned. Soap has to be changed. Toilet paper runs out. Laundry needs to be done. You can’t forget to feed yourself. Personal hygiene is important. You might want to have some Tylenol and Pepto Bismol stored in your room. Make sure you don’t run out of toothpaste. This stuff seems like common sense, but it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself when you’re focusing on finding your place and making good grades! It’s important to make guidelines for yourself as far as hygiene, cleanliness, and even meals (hey, we’ve all forgotten to feed ourselves dinner before right?). Don’t let your social or academic life take precedence over your well-being. If you have to, make a checklist of things that need to be done every day or every week. You could even set a bedtime for yourself if it helps you to have a routine. This might even be a good thing to talk to your parents about before you go off to college. Ask them what they think you should make sure you do every single day or how often things need to be cleaned. In the beginning at least, a checklist might help you create habits out of all these adult things.
P.S. Wash your sheets at least every two weeks!
I know it’s so tempting to go out for doughnuts at 11 pm with your friends, but college is different from high school. For the most part, you’re probably paying to be there. You don’t want to let that money go to waste. It’s so important to develop good study habits at the beginning of college because if you start now, you’ll carry those good habits with you throughout the years. Find a method that works for you. A lot of my friends like Quizlet, which is both a mobile app and a website where you can create flashcards for anything. It has a lot of different options to help you learn the terms. My personal favorites are “Write” where you can have it give you the term or the definition and you type the answer, and “Learn” which incorporates regular flashcards, multiple choice, and writing. The good thing about “Learn” is you can type in your test date and it will help you study at a pace that works with the amount of time you have. Study groups can also be good – as long as you stay on topic – especially in subjects like history where you’ll have a lot of short answer and essay questions. I also have my own method of studying, which I may write a blog about later on if there’s any interest in that. Studying could really have a whole blog to itself.
One of my biggest freshman year regrets is that academics and photoshoots were basically my whole life. I wasn’t really involved in any clubs or settled into any type of extracurricular, which is crazy because Lee (and other campuses!) has so much to offer. If there’s such a thing as being over-studious, that’s how I was freshman year. It’s good to study and keep your grades up, especially if you’re trying to maintain a scholarship, but it’s also good to manage your time well enough to incorporate some fun. Rushing DZT this spring was one of the best decisions I could’ve made. Yes, it took up my time, but it finally gave me a home at Lee. I have a reason to go to school other than academics now. There’s a group of people that I belong in and that I love, and it makes school 10x more enjoyable to me knowing that I’m not just in for a semester full of work. I get to spend time with some great people. I only wish I would’ve rushed sooner! I’m not saying you have to join a club right away – in fact, for your first semester I’d recommend just getting a feel for college life in general and not over-involving yourself. But once spring starts to approach, I do suggest getting a feel for different clubs + organizations on campus and finding out what you could see yourself in. Having a community makes such a difference – you won’t be going through this thing alone anymore. So whether your place be Greek life, a service club, dance team, sports, or your pre-professional organization, I’m sure your school has something for you that will make your experience 10x better. I 100% recommend making time for a club, even if it means you have to work a little bit more on your time management skills. Luckily, you have your new planner for that, right? 😉
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. These are just 5 things I wish someone had told me when I started college. You don’t have to have it all figured out just yet. College is for figuring things out. But it helps to go into it with at least a little bit of a plan, right? I know some of this stuff seems like common sense, but in college, you have so much going through your mind at all times that you could literally forget to eat. It’s happened to me and several people I know. Let me know if any of these tips helped you! If you want to hear more about college life on the blog, or if you have some tips of your own, I’d love to read what you have to say in the comments!