advice for first-year college students

Navigating Your First Year at College: Advice for Incoming Students

Whether you are going to college straight out of high school or beginning your higher education journey after living for a period as an adult, a student’s first year at college is an equally exciting and challenging time.

The first year at college often means independence, freedom, and excitement about being on your own. Yet, it can also be stressful as you navigate being on your own, making new friends, and handling your course load.

It’s these reasons that many students and parents alike constantly seek college advice and tips on navigating college for the first time.

This is why today’s article will discuss tips for navigating a first year of higher education so that you are prepared and ready for your first year at college.

Who is a First-Year College Student?

Generally speaking, a first-year college student is one that attends any college, university, or institution for the first time at the undergraduate level. These students have finished high school or obtained their general education development (GED) equivalency. Additionally, students can be considered first-year college students whether they attend college immediately after high school or after working full-time.

First-year college students can also be first-generation college students, meaning not only are they attending college for the first time, but they will also be the first in their immediate family to graduate from a four-year college or university.

Individual educational institutions may have different definitions of both first-year college students and first-generation college students, so all students should check with their schools to see what programs and resources are available to them.

Four Tips For Navigating Your First Year At College

Feelings of self-doubt, loneliness, and anxiety over your ability to juggle class assignments, social activities, and physical and mental health can take a toll on many first-year college students.

However, there are plenty of tips, tools, resources, and habits to ensure you thrive in college and beyond.

Tip #1: Build a Manageable Course Schedule

While it’s tempting to overload your schedule with courses to get ahead, or create a schedule so light or sporadic to maximize your sense of freedom, both pathways can lead to trouble.

Instead, set a realistic and manageable course schedule so you know you’ll be able to attend classes on time and not miss any lectures. For example, if you are not a morning person, signing up for an eight A.M. class every day of the week would be a bad idea. Of course, sometimes courses are only offered at certain times, so check with your college or university and contact your advisor for further assistance.

Ultimately, knowing when you work best, your learning style, and setting up a manageable schedule will make it much easier to keep your grades up and ensure you have time to make friends, coordinate meals, participate in extracurricular activities, and attend social events.

Tip #2: Check Your Student Email and Academic Portal Regularly

In addition to making announcements in class and at orientation, professors and school officials alike will use a student’s email and academic portal to provide information about tests, assignments, campus life, on-campus opportunities, and more.

The academic portal is also where colleges and universities will store all of a student’s information, including their schedules, credits, financial aid, academic advising, and the ability to make appointments with many of the aforementioned offices.

First-year college students should log into their email and academic portal before the semester starts. Instead, learn how to navigate and familiarize yourself with these resources to ensure you can receive and respond to your professors, peers, and faculty.


Looking for a convenient way to learn about UB before you apply? Check out our Prospective Student Hub to take a virtual tour, learn about financial aid, and more!


Tip #3: Embrace Time-Management Tools

If you were someone whose parents or teachers were heavily involved in helping you keep track of assignments and commitments in high school to ensure you graduated, you might be confused about how to manage your time efficiently and effectively, especially in the early days when you are finding your routine, rhythm, and schedule at college.

However, balancing the academic and social opportunities college provides is not impossible if you do the work to understand how you learn best. Plus, with more digital tools and apps that can limit your time spent on social media and help you maintain your study schedule, staying on top of your studies is easier than ever.

Students should also check out their college or university’s comprehensive student support services available. For example, at University of Bridgeport, our students have access to our Heckman Center, our holistic student development experience center that offers resources and opportunities to foster our students’ academic, personal, social, and professional growth. Services include:

  • Academic Advising
  • Career Preparation
  • Civic Engagement
  • Student Support Services
  • Tutoring and Learning Center

Tip #4: Be Open to Joining a Club or Taking Part in Campus Activities

While you are at college to get a degree and students should stay focused on excelling academically, they should also enjoy the social aspects of college, like making new friends and joining extracurricular clubs, organizations, and on-campus activities.

Getting involved helps students feel less alone, mitigate their worries of not fitting in on campus, and increase their sense of belonging through the lifelong friendships they can find in these groups.

Furthermore, being involved in your college’s community, especially in leadership positions, is attractive to many employers who are looking for natural leaders with the experience to back their skills up.

The first year at college and your entire collegiate journey, is a fantastic and life-changing time to grow, develop, and learn about yourself, but it can also be challenging and stressful. Thankfully, you are never alone, especially at University of Bridgeport, surrounded by supportive and passionate faculty, staff, and students.

We are committed to ensuring you have the best college journey possible, so never hesitate to contact us to learn how we can support you as you achieve lifelong personal and professional success.

Apply today to join the Purple Knight family!