USA TODAY interns share what they wish they knew as freshmen

By Sara Moniuszko, Collin Brennan, Trisha Thadani, Zach Walters, Zolan Young, Isaac Teich, Waldy Diez (USA Today College) – Move-in day is set.

You have your list of must-haves, you’ve stalked your class’ Facebook page, you (most likely) know your roommate’s name and you’ve memorized your class schedule. You have done everything you can to prepare for the unknown, but the butterflies in your stomach continue to churn.

To calm your nerves, we asked current USA TODAY interns about the things they wish they knew as freshmen and — believe me — their advice cannot be found in your college brochures.

EVERYONE PROCRASTINATES. JUST DON’T GO OVERBOARD.

“It’s really tempting to get home from class, get to your dorm and watch tons of Netflix.”    — Sara Moniuszko

Whether it’s Netflix, Reddit or some other website that you can get lost in for hours at a time, procrastinating and waiting to last minute is a part of the college experience.

A 2007 meta-analysis by University of Calgary psychologist Piers Steel found that 80-95% of college students procrastinate when it comes to completing their coursework.

The bottom line is everyone procrastinates in college. What’s important is how you well you manage your procrastination, which leads nicely into our next lesson…

SCHEDULE AND PRIORITIZE EVERYTHING.

“Google Calendar is bae.” — Collin Brennan

Chances are you are going to be very busy the moment you step foot on campus. Between your various extracurricular and social obligations and actually going to class, your time can fill up quickly.

The key is prioritizing your interests. As crazy as it sounds, putting together a schedule of your day can go a long way in organizing your life.

By slating out your time, you’ll be better prepared for the chaos that is college, less likely to forget assignments or social engagements and better equipped to manage your procrastination levels.

SLEEP IS YOUR LIFEBLOOD. AVOID 8 A.M. LECTURES.

“Don’t take an 8 a.m. because you will not wake up.” — Trisha Thadani

“Drink lots of coffee before your morning class because it is going to be rough and you are probably going to regret [taking the class] the rest of the semester.” — Zach Walters

For many freshmen, there is little choice in picking your schedule for the first couple semesters. You’ll likely be fighting the upperclassmen for the leftover class spots like a pack of wolves.

If that is the case, classes starting at 8 a.m. might be an inevitable fate, but if you are lucky enough to have a choice, it’s best to avoid them.

Staying up late is a lifestyle in college, so no matter how much of a morning person you may claim to be, 8 a.m. classes will only become that much harder.

They may also have an effect on your health and grades.

A 2014 study authored by University of Michigan researchers Shelley D. Hershner and Ronald D. Chervin found that 50% of students report daytime sleepiness and 70% get inadequate rest. The study also found that irregular sleep patterns and poor quality sleep can lead to poor psychological and physical health as well as academic failure.

In a setting where late-night homework sessions are the norm, later classes offer an opportunity to balance out sleep.  So, when you are filling out your schedule, be sure to think long and hard about taking that 8 a.m.

LESS MONEY, MO’ PROBLEMS.

“Pretty much everything you do in college comes down to finances…” — Zolan Young

Between tuition, room and board, books, a meal plan, laundry, a parking pass and recreational activity fees, college is costly.

A nationally representative survey published in 2015 by financial aid company Higher One and education technology company EverFi found that college students are increasingly less likely to practice responsible fiscal behaviors, including keeping a budget, paying credit card bills on time and balancing a checkbook. Yet these behaviors are crucial to avoid the nightmare scenario of going to an ATM and finding that you have insufficient funds.

WATCH YOUR EATING HABITS.

“The dessert line, although it tastes great, is not nearly as nice [an option] as the salad line at the buffet.” — Isaac Teich

The “Freshman 15” has been engrained in our collective cultural psyche for some time, but the phenomenon may be a little exaggerated.

According to a 2008 study published in the Journal of American College Health, the average weight gain of freshman college students is actually 2.7 pounds. Despite the exaggeration of the “Freshman 15”, the study stresses that gaining weight in college is a real possibility. According to their study, freshman weight gain was 5.5 times greater than that experienced by the general population and men were more likely to gain weight than women.

While the endless buffet at the cafeteria may seem like a dream come true, it is important to establish healthy eating habits to properly fuel you and ensure overall wellness.

GET INVOLVED.

“You will find friends and you will find the things that you like through trial and error, but you can’t do anything if you don’t try first.” — Zach Walters

It may sound cheesy, but when it comes down to it, college is about finding your passion. There are going to be times where you are broke, maybe not in the best physical (or mental) shape and your stress levels are at an all-time high, but if you find that one thing that makes you stick with it, it can all be worth it.

Sara Moniuszko, Collin Brennan, Trisha Thadani, Zach Walters, Zolan Young, Isaac Teich and Waldy Diez are summer 2015 USA TODAY interns.
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