An Open Letter to the Future College Student

Dear Future College Student,

This will be your first semester living out your college experience. It will be different from high school, middle school, elementary school—and pretty much everything else you’ve known. It’s okay to be nervous about that.

Going to college is a big decision and an even larger change. While it is a new journey, college is filled with fun times, growth opportunities, and experiences you’ll never forget. Here’s some advice as you prepare for your first semester at college—from a college student who’s been there herself.

The Social Side of College

A lot of the college experience is the social aspect—making friends, creating memories, and living in the dorms. It can feel very overwhelming at first with meeting many new people and learning how to share space with a roommate, but these experiences will prepare you for the future—whether personal or professional. Here are a couple of tips:

1.  Get to know the people next to you.

Meeting people and making new friends can seem impossible, especially at a bigger college. Most colleges offer many opportunities for you to connect with new people, whether through events, clubs and organizations, Bible studies and discipleship groups, or even just living in campus housing. Take advantage of these opportunities!

If you live on campus, get to know your neighbors and the other people on your floor. (At Bethel, attending Shift, a floor-specific discipleship group for first-year students, is a great way to do this!) Then you can expand and meet others in your dorm building. Make a goal to introduce yourself to four people in every class—the people sitting behind you, on either side of you, and in front of you. These could be your study buddies—and perhaps even life-long friends!

2.  Communication is key.

Living in a dorm is a big change for most people, but arguably, one of the most meaningful experiences college has to offer. Remember that your roommate is experiencing a new living situation too, so it is important for you to communicate with each other. While you may not end up being best friends, communication is key in any relationship, especially when you are living with that person. Talk together and discuss each other’s expectations about cleanliness, other people in the room, noise, and other things that may affect your living space. (Check out this post for more tips on getting along with your college roommate!)

The Academic Aspect of College

Some students have the opportunity to experience a college-level class in high school or even attend a college class through programs like PSEO. But even if you haven’t had the chance to experience college courses, know that college academics are nothing to be scared of. Use these tips to help set you up for success:

1. Meet your professors and build relationships.

Professors in college are there to support you and help you grow. Most hold open office hours so you can ask questions or ask for help with your studies. Your professors understand college, and most have lived through the whole college experience. Take the time to interact with them outside of class. In the long run, you will have created a meaningful relationship—and they might even become lifelong mentors. Most professors want students to interact with them and approach them, so don’t hesitate to reach out.

2. Stay organized.

Learning how you learn in class and how you study is important for your success in college—and staying organized can help. Figure out what works best for you early on, so you don’t start falling behind. Here are a few ideas on how to stay organized in classes and study sessions:

  • Keep a planner: Having a planner will help you organize all the homework that you have, plus other projects and activities outside of classes. You can use an actual planner, a notebook, or even an app on your phone!
  • Highlight the important stuff: Whether it is in a book, your notes, or in your planner, be sure to keep track of important details. This will help you study better, and for some of us, our brains are more likely to remember details in bright colors.
  • Make flashcards: Some people can remember information by reading over notes, others need to write it all out. Whatever works best for you, make sure you use it when studying. Flashcards are a great tool for any study type. Your brain will be more likely to remember facts that are re-written down, and using flashcards can help you practice memorization as well!

The Self-Care Element of College

College is a time filled with memories, experiences, and learning. While it is fun, it is important to remember to take care of yourself.

1. Take care of your physical health.

Make sure you’re eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising. This will help you bring your best self to class and to the new relationships you’re forming. Your college may offer resources on nutrition or fitness facilities—take advantage of those!

2. Take care of your mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

Journal, talk to people, spend time in prayer, and find ways to release your stress. Many universities have offices dedicated to helping you practice self-care in this area by providing counseling services or general wellbeing-related resources. Christian colleges like Bethel University also provide a variety of ways to support your spiritual health and growth, too. For example, at Bethel, you’ll have the option to attend Chapel and Vespers, participate in Bible studies and discipleship opportunities, and connect with our campus pastors who are here to support you on your faith journey.

So, Future College Student… It is okay to be scared, but you’ve got this. Not to mention, you have a huge network of people (both at home and on campus) who want to help you succeed. Enjoy your college experience—and lean in as you become the person you were created to be.