Top Tips for Becoming a New Fish in a College Pond

4075547422_112bac81a8_bNervous about college? Don’t be! Check out these top tips from San Diego and online tutor Sarah F. for surviving the transition and adjusting to college life:


It’s that special time of year when high school seniors are stepping into their last summer before college. While move-in day and orientations are still a little ways off, it’s important to start thinking about adjusting to college life sooner than later.

There are a thousand and one things a college freshmen will have to worry about – dorm life, stadium-style seating in classrooms, schedules, parking, and the dreaded but mostly inevitable “freshman 15.”

Of course, every student’s experience will vary from school to school, but looking back on the experiences of my friends and my own trials and triumphs, I decided to put together a brief list of helpful, handy tips:

  1. Be polite to your roommates. Even if they seem to be possessed. If they are doing something you don’t like, such as watching ‘80s TV shows in the middle of the night, politely ask them to turn it down or to turn it off. You’ll be surprised how much smoother relations will go if you ask for things politely.
  2. Get to know your professors. Even if you are one student out of 300 in a classroom (yes, this does happen). Make the effort to see them during their office hours or to meet with the Graduate Assistant. Not only does it prove that you are serious about your studies, it makes a personal connection with your professor, who may be able to open doors for you that you never knew were closed.
  3. Try to find the list of your textbooks on your course pages online prior to the first class meeting. You will want plenty of time between ordering textbooks and your classes starting, as professors will not wait for you to get the books. Usually your professors will post which textbooks they want along with their syllabus well in advance of the semester or quarter starting. I don’t recommend printing the syllabus, which is the course outline, just yet as they are subject to change (as a former professor myself, I can attest to that).
  4. Use websites like, or eBay to find your textbooks. Professors will likely ask for the latest and greatest editions, but let’s be honest – you’re a poor college kid and books are expensive. Ask your professor if earlier editions are acceptable and save yourself a lot of money. Look into options for renting your books, which is also significantly cheaper. And especially don’t forget the LIBRARY!
  5. When contacting your professors, be as professional in your emails as possible. There is nothing more annoying to a professor than receiving an email from a student asking why their grade is so low, when the email is written like a text between friends. Professors are not your friends. They demand and deserve respect, particularly when you are inquiring about a grade. If they ask for a certain subject line in an email, use it, otherwise your communication will be lost to the great netherworld of the internet.

Hopefully these five tips will help you as you’re adjusting to college and catching your bearings in the wonderful new pond that you or your college-bound child are about to enter. College is a wonderful experience and countless adventures await you both academically and socially. There are numerous ways to broaden your mind at college, but it is only possible with good effort and a little common sense.

SarahFSarah F. tutors various academic subjects in San Diego, CA, as well as through online lessons. She has been working as an educator for the last eleven years, and has been professionally employed as an educator since August of 2012. Learn more about Sarah here! 



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