15 tips from a professor for new college students

Adam J.
4 min readAug 21, 2019

If you are moving into college this week or starting classes at #UA here are some tips from me a current college professor about to start year 5 of faculty life:

1. Clean your room before you leave. Your parents will have a hard enough time dealing with the fact that you are not going to be part of their daily lives anymore without having to deal with the tornado you left behind because you were moving out in an absolute hurry.

2. The day before classes start, go around and find the ROOM where your classes are. Academic buildings have numbering systems that make 0 sense and it will take you at least 30 minutes to find the room you are looking for.

3. Arrive early and pick a spot in your class towards the front. Yes, this makes you look like you are trying. That’s a good thing now that you aren’t in high school.

4. Nod and smile when the professor says something, they’ll appreciate you forever. We are either egomaniacs or incredibly insecure, this tactic works well for both.

5. Introduce yourself to your professor after class, tell them who you are and what you are thinking about the class. PRO MOVE- show up to their office hours in the second week of class and talk to them more, we will remember them more than the people who come in the last 2 weeks of classes.

6. You will get a syllabus from all your classes with all the due dates and the tests, reading assignments etc. Spend 1 evening going through them and writing down the big due dates in a planner or your google calendar. Then look at it for a second. Realize the week you have 3 papers due on the same week WILL be the week your significant other decides to break up with you, or your pet from home will get sick. Plan ahead and reduce your anxiety.

7. Avoid asking the question, “when will I need to do ______ for my job”.

Most things that are in a curriculum now, if they have a direct professional connection, take a few years to work through a curriculum. BTW most of the jobs you’ll have might not even be invented yet, so instead invest in learning a foundation you can build from. Your papers aren’t just papers they are ways for you to build up your confidence in things like synthesizing information, being able to make an argument, supporting your conclusions with evidence, and show your understanding of basic principles that you will have the chance to apply in any workplace. Your boss might not ask for a “paper” but they may ask “give me some advice on what we should do about ______ issue”. The execution will be the same.

8. Pick an organization to join that you were not involved w/ in high school, this is the ONLY time in your life when you won’t have to pay to broaden your horizons. Check out random things and you’ll be surprised where you end up.

9. The people you meet the first week of school or during orientation DO NOT have to be your best friends for the next 4 years. These are temporary relationships and most, if not all, of them will change. It’s ok to move on and to find yourself liking different things than the person you were assigned to at random. Don’t be afraid to confront this reality head-on.

10. You are the sum total of the people you spend time with. As you move through the semester ask yourself: are these people making me better or worse?

11. If you are struggling, it’s not because you are stupid or a failure. It’s because you need help to learn, that’s WHY YOU ARE IN COLLEGE. So reach out. Don’t be afraid to go to your professor after class and say “I didn’t get anything you just said” or ask “what am I supposed to take away from the reading last night, because here is what I took away”. Be honest about where you are struggling and when. I promise more likely than not there is an entire office of people whose job it is to help students like you, but they don’t know how to get to you. The biggest difference between success and failure for students I’ve seen is the students who succeed know how to use and are comfortable with using resources.

12. You can and will party after you graduate, don’t let that be the only thing that defines your time here.

13. If you are willing, there are usually ways to get free food at least once a week.

14. Be nice to departmental administrative assistants, they know EVERYTHING.

15. Some of the best people you meet will be folks you strike up a conversation with while waiting for things, don’t be absorbed into your phone the WHOLE time.