8 Things You Need to Know Before Your Freshman Year

cap and diplomaExcitement is in the air. High school graduation is just around the corner. You have received the highly coveted college acceptance letter, senior week is coming up, warm weather is rolling in, and soon you will find the freedom you have always desired. Not so fast, seniors! First, let’s conquer the must-have knowledge before you start your freshman year! For you upperclassmen, it’s not too late to read this list! See what skills and knowledge you’ve been missing out on, and get in tune with the ways of a successful student!

1. Financial Aid/FAFSA

It’s time to address all of the questions surrounding financial aid and FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid), including the how to, where to, when to, and why, too!

For the record, grants given through the government and scholarships are not loans, and they do not need to be
paid back! It is essential for students to find excellent financial aid before taking out loans! FAFSA can be a frightening process for newcomers. Honestly, it does take a good amount of time to complete, and students will need access to documents such as their Social Security number, and their parents’ income. If the forms are confusing, there are websites to help walk applicants through the process.


Never wait until the FAFSA deadline to complete the paperwork. The sooner that it is completed, the larger amount of aid a student can receive. Filling out the FAFSA must be done yearly to be rewarded government assistance with aid. Understand that the amount given in one school year might be completely different from the next year. Do not be embarrassed to receive grants from the government! College is very expensive, and most young people do not have the funds available to pay for university classes out of pocket! Don’t just wait around for grants from the government; check your school’s website and other websites for scholarships!

2. All About Student Loans

Loans differ from financial aid packages because all loans must be paid back. Learn the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans. “The U.S. Department of Education pays the interest on a Direct Subsidized Loan while you’re in school at least half-time, for the first six months after you leave school [after July 1st, 2014] and during a period of deferment (a postponement of loan payments)” (U.S. Department of Education). That means that, if you are able to receive subsidized loans, they should be your first choice because you do not pay the interest accrued while still in school and soon after leaving school!

Learn the difference between federal and private lenders, along with more tips about financial aid and student loans!

3. Apartment-Etiquette

When you move into your first apartment, you will learn that your roommates are not your siblings, and for the next year you will be sharing space with someone that you must show respect. Within the first few days of moving in, roommates should go over house rules. For example, address the rules of common areas such as the living room and kitchen, agree on guidelines regarding responsibilities and cleanliness, and create rules that respect everyone’s wishes and beliefs regarding the opposite sex (are they allowed to sleep on the only couch, is there a certain time which they must be out of the dorm, and are they allowed in the dorm room at all?)

Peace of Mind

By establishing these rules within the first week, roommates create a bond of trust. Because there is a basis for their apartment’s etiquette, all roommates are aware of what is expected. Remember, there are no maids or moms in your new apartment. Pick up after yourself, wash your own dishes, and take your clothes out of the dryer. Oh, and do your best to avoid creating an apartment horror story.

4. Learn Real-Life Skills

You will quickly learn the need to possess real-life skills, such as grocery shopping, ironing, and cleaning your own bathroom. If you’ve never been assigned chores at home, it is time to grab that vacuum and start practicing! The Huffington Posts suggests students should learn to “wash, dry and iron clothes; decide if/what/when to take clothes to the cleaners; cook basic meals, as in boil or fry eggs, make spaghetti, cook hamburgers or other favorite foods; brew a cup (or pot) of coffee or tea; [and] buy toiletries” (Shaevitz). Aside from household responsibilities, students must understand that budgeting is crucial. No, your meal points are not endless, and yes, you will starve at the end of the semester if you buy too many Oreos now.

5. Studying and Notes

For some students, high school consists of Spark Notes, passing notes, and playing notes on the tuba with the marching band. However, it is time to acquire a new skill: taking notes in class. This skill will greatly enhance your success in college (and beyond) because notes will help to keep you updated, organized, and informed. In college, you will not receive busy work and hand out sheets to complete! A typical day in a college-level class might start with the professor delivering a PowerPoint presentation and end with a class discussion based on a particular theory addressed in the assigned reading.

High School vs. College

Campus Explorer reviews the difference between high school and college note-taking, stating that, “Good note-taking habits also include reviewing notes regularly, reciting key concepts from class and connecting the lecture to the reading material. In high school, the teacher may have handed out notes, so all you needed to do was highlight a few items and scribble in the margins. By contrast, professors rarely provide notes to students, instead giving information only via lecture” (Campus Explorer). Read their pointers on great note-taking!

6. Get Involved!

Do not get overwhelmed. If you have free time, or you just need a break from studying, go to a football game, join an academic club or honor society, host a game night with your friends and roommates, and go discover your college-town! If you miss out on these opportunities now, you might regret it later!

7. It’s Okay to be Unsure

You do not have to know what you want to do (but you have to start thinking about it). As you begin to plan your major, your career, and your life, you should honestly consider your goals and the motives behind them. Don’t just pick something because it sounds easy or because you are good at it! You realize that you like books and stories, so you decide to major in English. Great! Four years sounds like a long time, but college actually will come to an end, and you must consider your future. Perhaps your goal is to become an English teacher, an editor, or to go on to law-school. The most important thing to consider while deciding on your major is to figure out where you want to go on your journey!

8. Get to Know Your Professors

Imagine this: your senior year of college is coming to a close. You worked hard, studied, and passed all of your classes with flying colors. With an impressive GPA, you feel ready to browse the job market. As you begin to look at applications, you see most of them ask for an academic reference. Your grades are amazing and you have an excellent resume, but none of your professors remember you! If you do not make an impression on your professors, how can you expect them to recommend your value in the workplace?

It Isn’t as Scary as it Sounds

When getting to know your professors, you will learn that most of them are no longer the intimidating adults that you recall from your teenage years. No, professors are not your equals or your friends; they are your teachers. However, as you grow into adulthood, you will find that professors no longer “baby” students as some teachers did up to this point. Treat professors with kindness and respect, and stay after class to ask them about a theory or the science lab assignment. They will remember you.

Still don’t feel prepared? Check out more things you need to know before freshman year here!

Not satisfied? See what others have to say, too!

Now that you know everything you need to know before Freshman Year, learn more about Florida National University’sprograms and apply today to begin your college career!

Works Cited

Shaevitz, Marjorie Hansen. “30 Practical Things Students Need to Know How to Do Before Heading Off to College.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 03 June 2013. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.

“Taking Notes in College.” Taking Notes in College. Campus Explorer, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.

“The U.S. Department of Education Offers Low-interest Loans to Eligible Students to Help Cover the Cost of College or Career School.” Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans. U.S. Department of Education, n.d. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.

Wicker, Alden. “9 Things We Bet You Didn’t Know About College Financial Aid.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 24 Mar. 2014. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.