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The time is finally here! You are ready to begin your first semester of college. Exciting things lie ahead, but there will be a lot of challenges too. Here are a few tips to help you avoid the common pitfalls of the first semester of college.

Get Established

Take time to get comfortable in your new environment. It is important for you to become familiar with the area. After all, it is your new home! If you are attending college in a new city, explore the area’s attractions and eat at local restaurants. Students who are new to Northeast Florida or are looking to expand their experiences here can find relocation tips, cultural events and involvement opportunities at Sign up for a campus tour and visit all your classrooms. Get settled in your dorm room by making it feel cozy and welcoming. You may have a roommate or suitemates who share a space with you. Start those relationships on a positive note and talk through any necessary boundaries.

It can be difficult to move away from home, friends and a familiar environment, so getting established in your new setting is a key first step to success. Avoid going back home for the first several weeks of the semester if possible. It is natural to miss your family and friends—they miss you too! However, it is better to stay in touch through phone calls and video chats while you are still adjusting to your new environment. Occasional visits home are good and encouraged, but leaving too often may mean that you are missing out on opportunities, events and relationships at your school.

Attend Social Events

College campuses bustle with activity during the first few weeks of the school year. Many colleges have a lineup of events to welcome freshmen to their first semester of college, ranging from group orientation to free dinners. Clubs and organizations will hand out flyers and goodies to invite you to join. Students interested in joining fraternities and sororities go through rush near the beginning of school.

With an abundance of options, it might be difficult to decide which groups to join, or you may not know where to start. Think of your interests and hobbies. High school involvement in sports, chorus or student government easily translates into college intramural teams, singing clubs or leadership organizations. Also consider important parts of your identity, such as your religion, ethnicity or gender, and find organizations that support and unite people with these commonalities. No matter where you choose to get involved, the important thing is that you find community and get plugged in.

Prioritize School

Being in a new environment and attending social events can be really fun, but you have to be careful to not let your education fall through the cracks. College is a time of growth and learning, but your main reason for being there is to earn a degree. Your first semester of college sets the trajectory for the rest of your educational journey. The study habits and methods of engagement you use will likely carry over into future semesters.

Although the first semester of college is important, remember to give yourself grace. Even students who excelled in advanced classes in high school may have trouble adjusting to college courses. Much of your learning is done outside of the classroom through reading assignments and hands-on projects. Plus, your grades are decided by a handful of tests rather than many homework and participation assignments. If you are performing poorly and feel overwhelmed, talk with your academic advisor about how dropping a class or changing your major may affect your graduation date and scholarships or grants.

Take Care of Yourself

Lastly, it is important to take care of yourself during this time of transition. For some freshmen, college is the first time they have to make decisions about what to eat for dinner and when to do laundry. Most freshmen have a newfound sense of independence as they decide how late to stay out, what to do for fun and who to hang out with.

While this is exciting, it can also be intimidating. Balancing schoolwork, socialization, jobs and sleep as you adjust to a new place can be a struggle. The obligations of education and involvement—and the freedom of doing what you enjoy—are important, but none of those can be done well if you are not caring for your health and hygiene. To help you excel, surround yourself with a support system of positive influences. Look to upperclassmen, professors and counselors for guidance, and appreciate the gentle reminders from your parents. Although you are off at college and growing into adulthood, it takes a village to avoid the common pitfalls of the first semester of college, and it is good to accept advice that will help you on your journey to success.