How to Succeed in University: 5 Tips for Your First Year

Hannah Doyle is an intern at the U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Norway. Back in the United States, Hannah is a third-year undergraduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Your first year attending a U.S. university may seem daunting, but have no fear – here are 5 tips to put you on the track to success!

Tip 1. Get involved on campus

School work is obviously important, but so much learning takes place outside of the classroom. Joining on-campus student groups (my university has over 900!) is a great way to explore your interests and make new friends.

There are clubs for everything – whether it’s hiking, skiing, debating, eating ice cream, watching movies, or appreciating Beyoncé. I guarantee there is something out there for you!

College basketball stadium
Be sure to embrace the school spirit and check out sporting events too!

Tip 2. Get off campus

This probably sounds contradictory to the first tip, but hear me out. When you are living and studying on-campus 24/7, it can be easy to forget that life exists off-campus.

Explore the area surrounding your university – after all, it’s your home for the next few years! Immerse yourself in the local culture and take a break from campus. Try new foods, attend community events, explore the neighborhoods, and make the most of your time in the United States.

Seattle, Washington, home of the University of Washington
Whether your university is in a big city or small town, adventures are everywhere

Tip 3. Talk to your professors

Don’t be afraid of your professors! Professors are people too, and they appreciate it when students take a genuine interest in course content. Make an effort to stop by office hours and talk about the course, ask about their research, or seek advice about opportunities in their field.

Students meeting with university professor
Even if you feel nervous, just go to office hours – you won’t regret it!

Tip 4. Address small issues before they become big issues

No matter the problem, there are resources available on campus to help you. Not understanding course material? Form a study group, go to the tutoring center, or speak with your professor. Having issues with your roommate? Speak with your roommate directly or contact your residential advisor. Struggling? Seek out advising or counseling services.

Your university wants to see you succeed (that’s why there are so many resources!), so never be embarrassed to get assistance.

Don’t end up like this guy – fix problems early!

Tip 5. Prioritize and plan

College is a constant cycle of juggling your academic life, social life, and personal life. From homework assignments to extracurricular activities to maintaining friendships to sleeping, there’s a lot to balance.

I highly suggest keeping a planner to track deadlines and priorities. Having all of your commitments and obligations organized in one place is helpful for reducing stress and staying on-track!

Two college essentials: planners and notebooks
Planners and notebooks are college necessities

But most importantly: keep an open mind. Take the opportunity to immerse yourself in American culture and actively engage in the community. Push yourself to try new things and expand your worldview – I promise it will be rewarding!

Good luck with your first year of college!