How to Survive Your First Semester of College

5 min


We All Get Nervous

I am about to be a senior here at BYU-Idaho, so you could say I know a thing or two about college. I still remember my freshman year, I was so nervous. When I graduated high school I had everything planned out, down to my classes and where I would live. I was the one dragging my mom to the store to get all of my apartment decorations and kitchen items. I had probably been on the BYUI website a million times.

It wasn’t until a few weeks before school started that it hit me. I would be leaving home. I was scared. But within 72 hours of being there, I was so glad I didn’t beg my parents to come back and get me. Okay, maybe I did, but they didn’t listen. Today I have compiled a few tips and tricks to make your first semester go smoothly.

Find the Right Schedule

The nice thing about college is that you get to choose your own schedule! You also don’t have to go to school for eight hours a day. You could sign up for a lecture at 8 am, or you could wait to start class until 1 pm. The choice is up to you. You get to choose your teachers, what classes you take, and what you want to study. Everybody will be different, so you need to figure out what works best for you.

When you register for classes, really think about what you want your day to look like. If you normally wake up at 9 am, don’t sign up for an 8 am class. Be realistic. You also might not want to start your day super late. It can be hard to sit in class all afternoon. Personally, I like having my classes in the morning and getting them out of the way, but find whatever works for you!

Dedicate Time to School

Even though you might not be in class all day, you still need to spend a lot of time doing school, especially if you want to do well and get your money’s worth. First I would recommend learning how to use canvas. At most colleges, the canvas is used to turn in all of your homework assignments. This is where you can find the syllabus, your textbook, and the teacher’s office hours. There is lots of useful information so if you don’t use canvas, it will be very hard to succeed. All of your due dates are on the calendar, so you may not even need a planner. I would suggest taking a little bit of time to go through all of it and make sure you can use it correctly.

Talk to Your Teachers

Take advantage of your teacher’s office hours! The teachers at BYU-Idaho are so helpful and they truly care about your success! If you don’t understand something or you want corrections on your paper, they are there. Most classes also have a TA and they can help with anything! This semester I spent a lot of time with the TA in a certain class. I could not have done it without her. They have taken the class before and at one point they were in your exact shoes. They are also students, so if talking to your teacher intimidates you then maybe talking to your TA would be easier.

Learn how to Study

Having a study buddy helps you retain knowledge.
Photo by Explore Rexburg

It’s also important to learn how to study effectively. A lot of students come out of high school not knowing how to study. They just learned to memorize for the test. In college everything builds upon itself, so you want to make sure you learn one thing before you move on to the next. First, find a good spot to study. Not in your bed. You want your bed to be a sanctuary, away from school. If you need peace and quiet, I would study in the library. Find a spot or secret corner that you like and go there when you need to focus. I personally like to study in the student center. I can meet up with my friends and get lunch, but also take time to do school. You can talk freely without disrupting the quiet, and take breaks with your friends.

Find the Right Friend Group!

Some of the friends you make in college will become lifelong friends. You can branch out and meet so many more people than in high school. Nobody knows you, you could be a whole new person if you really wanted to. Meet as many people as you can in the first few weeks! There are lots of activities on campus where can socialize and meet new people, or just hang out in your apartment complex’s courtyard. After a few weeks, it will probably narrow down to a good solid group of people that are your new best friends. They’ll become your family away from home, especially if you moved 18 hours away like me. Make sure you find good people who encourage you to be a better person and appreciate you for who you are.

Find a Balance

When you get to college, you no longer have your parents telling you what to do. some kids go a little overboard and have no structure in their lives. It’s important to spread your wings and become an adult, but make sure you have a balance. Staying out all night and eating fast food will eventually get to you and school will be much harder. Make sure to still make your health a priority. Take time to relax by yourself. This is a time to truly be independent and find out who you are. That being said, don’t get too stressed out about figuring it all out.

Don’t Worry too Much

Once you get to college, there is a lot more pressure to figure out what you want to be when you grow up. Growing up is hard. You now have to think about your future and your purpose a lot more than you used to. It can get overwhelming at times. My advice is to work on it day by day. Figure out what you like and what you are interested in, and that should help you figure it out career-wise. You don’t have to know right away, but hopefully, as you take more classes and develop your skillsets, you’ll have a great portfolio to present to employers.

Lastly, winters are pretty tough here in Rexburg. Make sure you bring warm clothes, but here are some additional tips for surviving the cold. 

Someone once told me that college is the only time where your life is all about you. The only time you can be selfish. Before you graduate high school you live with your family and then once you get married it is about your new family. College is right in the middle. It is a time to truly figure out who you are and who you want to be. Make sure to have fun and make plenty of memories to tell your kids someday. Good luck!