In an article about adapting to life as a college freshman, a majestic academic building with a clock tower in front of an expansive green.

What College Freshmen Should Know

The hurdles of this transition aren't just academic! Here's how to adapt to university life with ease.
February 16, 2023
8 mins read

Movies characterize the college experience as easy breezy; dating is fun, parties are exciting and classes are painless. Yet they couldn’t be more wrong. Everything the movies have taught you about college should be thrown out the window, because the true college experience can be good, bad and sometimes downright ugly. While this might be intimidating for college freshmen who are about to leave the nest, they should rest assured that this rollercoaster of experience is perfectly normal. Whether you’ll be attending school out-of-state or remaining close to home, take the time for a quick reality check before jumping into your new environment.


Many colleges invite future students to an orientation that allows them to become familiar with the campus and socialize with other incoming freshmen. Unfortunately this isn’t very practical for those coming from out-of-state since they must drive or fly to their new campus. Orientation also doesn’t guarantee that students will immediately make friends with others. The size of your classes and campus can determine how often you recognize a familiar face — and whether you’ll ever see them again. It can be hard to make new friends as a college freshman but it’s even rarer that these friendships will last long after graduation. Class schedules, jobs and internships can make it hard for students to schedule times to meet and hang out with friends; it’s perfectly normal to spend most of your time on campus alone.

When grabbing a quick bite to eat at a nearby restaurant or dining hall, you may not always be able to enjoy your meal with friends. It’s completely normal to eat by yourself, but this can be stress-inducing if you’re not used to it. Never fear, you won’t be the only one eating alone. Many students use their mealtime to do additional homework, study or take a breather from school. For a busy college student, spending time alone can be more rewarding than talking with friends. No college freshman should be afraid to eat alone, because many college students regularly do; there is no judgment. However, if you want to make friends and socialize outside of class, try joining a club.


Many college freshmen find friends with similar interests by joining clubs their colleges offer. However, your major and the number of credits you enroll in will likely determine exactly how much free time you have outside of school. It is common for college freshmen to focus all their time and energy on classes, leaving no time for extracurriculars. Most college students find themselves working during their free time to pay off student loans or make a bit of extra cash. Nevertheless, if you can work out a proper schedule that allows you to effectively manage your workload, a club can be a great opportunity for you. For those who can’t fit a club into their schedule, it’s not a big deal, and it shouldn’t be something you stress over during your time in college.

Public Speaking

Many students get stressed out by the prospect of public speaking. This stress then turns into an irrational and seemingly inconquerable fear. Your stomach twists itself into knots, your throat dries up and your palms won’t stop sweating. Yet many college students find themselves not having to give a single presentation. On the off chance that you do have to present, it’s not that big of a deal. If you’re unfortunate enough to enroll in a class that requires public speaking or presentations, whether in a group or alone, there really isn’t anything to worry about. Throw away the classic trick of imagining the class in their underpants, and instead, keep in mind that no one cares. While that sounds quite harsh, especially if you’re presenting on a topic you are passionate about, the truth is that most students will tune you out. This could be because they’re preoccupied with their own presentations or simply because they aren’t interested in what you have to say. The next time you get up in front of a class, even if you’re not a college freshman, remember that many will ignore or simply forget both you and what you said.


Plenty of college freshmen understandably want to experience what a college party has to offer. These parties can lead to potential friendships or an incredible story to tell in the future. They also give students a break from their academic studies and allow them to ignore their responsibilities for the night. However, in doing so, they could be squandering time better spent studying or completing assignments. It all depends on the person and what they want to do during their time in college. For those who choose not to attend these parties, that’s OK. There isn’t much you’d be missing besides free alcohol, which can lead to severe consequences for underage students if the police or your college catch you drinking. Don’t feel pressured to go to a party you’re not comfortable with; partying can be dangerous if you’re not surrounded by people you trust. Have fun on your own terms, even if that means staying in.

The college experience can differ wildly for each freshman. You can’t experience the good without the bad, and vice versa; those kinds of things come in pairs. It’s vital to keep in mind that what movies and TV shows teach you should be heavily disregarded since their depictions of college life are usually unrealistic. Many freshmen come to college with high expectations that fall far from reality. It can be scary to come to terms with the truth as a college freshman, but if you tailor your experience to your needs, college can still be a blast.

Kirsten Kalebich, Arizona State University

Writer Profile

Kirsten Kalebich

Arizona State University
Major in English, Minor in Business

A dreamer who wants to become an author or editor. In her spare time, she writes countless stories on her phone and reads an insane amount of fiction.

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