6 Tools to Help You Get through Freshman Year

classroomWell, you did it. You’re finally here. 18 years of life, 12ish years of school, all leading up to this: college. Maybe you’re going to school in your hometown or maybe you’ve moved across the country, but regardless of your individual circumstances, this is going to be a big adjustment. We’ve assembled six of our favorite tips to help you hit the ground running.

1. Google Drive for Collaborative Note-Taking

First of all, if you’re not on board the Google train already, Google Drive is a free suite of online office software designed to compete with Microsoft Office. But it’s so much more than that: with Google Drive, multiple people can work simultaneously on the same document in real-time, making it perfect for collaboration with classmates.

Here’s how you do it: when you join a class, seek out some likely classmates who you believe you can rely on. If they’re already your friends, great, if they aren’t…well, get out there! You should be making friends anyway!

Once you’ve assembled your study group, create a Google Drive Folder and share it with them. Just like that, you’re all working on the same document. This allows you to work on a master notes document. With three or four of you following the lecture at once, you’re sure to get everything the professor mentions. Best of all, you can be sure that you have access to the notes even if you happen to miss a class.

2. Whatsapp for Free Text Messaging

Cell phone plans can be very expensive, especially for a student on a limited budget. Luckily, as the world becomes increasingly data-driven, alternatives are starting to crop up. WhatsApp is an app you can use to send texts and pictures using your data connection, which means that you aren’t using up your monthly text message allotment. Best of all, if there’s a wifi connection available, it will use that, saving your data for when you’re on the go. Since most universities blanket their campus in wi-fi, you’ll be free to text to your heart’s content.

teacher3. RateMyProfessors.com for Investigating Your Professors

Would you go to a restaurant without looking it up on Yelp first? Then why wouldn’t you check out the professor before signing up for a class? RateMyProfessors.com is an indispensable service for college students, allowing you to read ratings and comments about professors before you sign up for that class. No surprises here!

4. Amazon.com for Used Textbooks

Textbooks are one of the major expenses of going to college. Before you buy books at the on-campus bookstore, check out their price on Amazon.com. If the book is a few years old, you’re likely to find a used one for substantially cheaper than at the bookstore.

5. EasyBib.com for Compiling Bibliographies

You know what’s annoying? Losing points on an assignment because of small errors with your bibliography or works cited page. EasyBib.com makes it super easy to create and download a complete works cited page for your paper—just add the books, websites, and articles you use as you go, and download it at the end. You can even use your phone to scan a book’s barcode to add it that way. Never waste time on a bibliography ever again!

6. Petition for What You Want

The petition is one of the most underappreciated tools in the enterprising college student’s arsenal. Think you deserve a Fine Arts credit for that literature class you did the summer after your junior year of high school? Go to your advisor and explain yourself. If you can clearly and logically explain why you think you deserve the credit, your university will usually be happy to oblige you. You never know until you ask.

Making the Most of It

No one goes through college absolutely certain they’re doing it exactly right. It’s a time of rapid change and uncertainty for everyone. These tools are sure to help you get through your freshman year, which in many ways is the hardest.

But wait! There’s just one final tool we want to give you. You can’t download it and it’s not available to be purchased in any store: it’s open-mindedness. Remember, college is a time to experience new things and grow as a person. Get out and get involved. Try not to spend too much time pent up in your dorm room, and when you are there, leave your door open in case a new best friend walks by. Practice saying “Yes” to things. This is your new life—now go live it!

Russel Cooke is a journalist and business consultant based in Canyon Country, CA. and Louisville, KY. He thoroughly enjoyed his time spent in college, and considers it his best series of learning experiences to date. You can follow him on Twitter @RusselCooke2.

Image credits: Shutterstock.com

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