Surviving your first year

The intern’s guide to getting it right
By MELISSA NELSON  |  September 12, 2012

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I made it through my first year at college, and am beginning my second now — so my memories are still fresh, as well as the lessons I learned along the way. (Some by doing; others by watching my fellow students either thrive or crumble.) After a summer of reflection — and interning at the PortlandPhoenix — I can share with you the top five tricks to making it through your first year not just alive but well.

1. Even though college is your last four years of freedom and you'll meet some of the most incredible people of your life there, remember — your primary job is as a student. WORK FIRST PARTY LATER. Likewise, if you're the more motivated type, make sure you allow yourself some time to relax and have fun. Regardless of your drive you should find a way of doing things that works for you: A morning person may enjoy taking their laptop to the dining hall bright and early to drink some coffee and whip out some assignments; a person who plans on going out at night may spend some time in the middle of the day doing work. Study groups are great — but don't feel bad telling your friends that you'd rather study alone.

2. Remember that YOUR TEACHERS ARE THERE FOR YOU. Even if your professor isn't as caring or inspirational as Robin Williams's characters would lead you to expect, they still get paid to teach you (and they really do want you to succeed). If you don't understand the material, go to the professor's office hours sooner rather than later; if you feel overwhelmed or are having personal issues at least try asking for a due date extension, and never be afraid to ask questions.

3. Walking up that hill to class twice a week isn't going to keep off the freshman 15, so TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF. The unlimited meal plan doesn't mean you should eat until you can't breathe. And empty calories aside, just don't do things that are bad for you in general — being at school isn't an excuse. Also: shower, do your laundry, brush your teeth. Mental health is incredibly important too, so pay attention to tip #1, and don't let the little things weigh you down.

4. I know you think you look suave and mysterious scowling in the corner but DON'T BE AFRAID TO BE NICE. Seriously, everyone on campus is trying to make new friends. Don't worry about keeping cool — the best you could do is be friendly.

5. IGNORE THIS — DO YOUR OWN THING. Go out there, figure out what your "thing" is, learn from your own mistakes, have fun, go hard.

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