This post documents how I survived my freshman year, and hopefully, it can help you survive too. 2022 edit: Welcome class of 2026-2027! Cya during RIT orientation!
1. Stick to a good sleep schedule
Your body, mind, grades, and public track record will thank you for it. You might miss some traditional college experiences like binge drinking and cramming, but the rewards are worth it.
Although it is okay to do those things once in a while (e.g., Halloween, the day before Thanksgiving break, or after finals), getting off schedule makes it challenging to focus on school, work, and clubs.
2. Join lots of clubs
It is challenging to maintain membership in lots of clubs. Luckily, most people do not want to be involved with every club after attending them a few times. I joined fifteen clubs at the beginning of the semester. I went to a few meetings and ruled them out one by one. Through this, I was able to find “my people” and my interests. As a sophomore, I remain a member of five clubs. However, my level of involvement varies depending on the number of meetings and my responsibilities within the club. Most people do not want to be part of five clubs and are happy with two or three.
Tip: Join club Discords before arriving on campus. You will make friends before school starts. Then, once you get to campus, you can see which communities you really want to hang around.
Here are a few Discord server’s I joined throughout freshman and sophomore year.
|RIT – All Servers (student hub)||https://discord.gg/qrjTEeNCnT|
|RIT – CS @ RIT (for tutoring)||https://discord.gg/eEcUcbTEbg|
|RIT – SEE @ RIT Mentoring||https://discord.gg/69fXUn4jCZ|
|RITSEC: RIT’s Cybersecurity Club||RITSEC: https://discord.gg/ritsec|
SPARSA Alumni: https://discord.gg/weK5F7T5Fq
|RIT Honors||Honors Program: https://discord.gg/QaE5uc4w5N|
GCCIS Honors: https://discord.gg/UfPRmAAyc2
Honors Lab: https://discord.gg/6rrYBm4rPv
|RIT User Experience Club||https://discord.gg/3QS9EeQH4Q|
|RITLUG: RIT’s Linux User Group||https://discord.gg/uhyG8a4aXH|
3. Use a calendar
If you want to do everything, you probably can if you can stick to a schedule. Besides making time for sleep, the most helpful thing that has helped me in college is my calendar.
I have a very detailed schedule: homework, sleep, class, assignment dates, office hours, clubs, and more. My schedule is so meticulous that some people get a bit freaked out. However, I accomplished everything (literally everything) I wanted freshman year because of my arduous planning.
I also think burnout is easier avoided when I manage my time. I believe that is why I have only been severely burned out ONCE in my academic career so far.
Tip: Learning how to use email filters before school starts is another way to keep organized. RIT sends hundreds of emails at the beginning the semester, and it is challenging to determine which are important.
4. Choose your friends wisely
Colleges are wonderful places with lots of friendly people. However, it is easy to think that you have been friends with someone forever after you have lived with them for a week. I recommend waiting a semester before calling someone your good friend.
5. Have more than one friend group
Sometimes drama occurs, and it is difficult to manage. If you have more than one friend group, you have a support system if something goes wrong.
🌸👋🏻 Let’s take this to your inbox. You’ll receive occasional emails about whatever’s on my mind—offensive security, open source, academics, boats, kittens, software freedom, you get the idea.
6. Department and faculty involvement
Participating in class or becoming a research or teaching assistant are great ways to make valuable connections, learn about the school, and surround yourself with people who can teach about professionalism and industry.
7. Live according to your rules… if you can
College is when you get to experiment with different lifestyles, belief systems, and friend groups. Thus, it is important to ensure that a group or person is not controlling your beliefs and whereabouts.
An example of this is roommates. I was lucky to get a single room. I do not think I would have earned a 4.0 GPA if I had a roommate. Having a quiet study place is everything. If you have roommates, you need to be considerate of them, which means you cannot always live according to “your rules.” In other words, you may not always be able to study, sleep, etc., because of your roommate. Even the kindest and most considerate roommates can be annoying at times. However, that does not mean they are not stopping you from achieving your goals.
Unfortunately, I do not have advice for having a successful roommate relationship because I have never had a roommate.
I also want to note that romantic partners and parents can negatively interfere with your life, but those topics are too deep for this blog post. However, the book I suggested in the introduction does an excellent job exploring those topics.
8. Get a co-op or internship freshman year
Contrary to popular belief, getting a co-op your freshman year is easy for many students at RIT. However, it largely depends on the field. Everyone I know in Computing Security who tried to get a co-op freshman year got one. I snatched a co-op at Deloitte’s 30 Rockefeller headquarters my second week of school. Two of my closest friends received co-ops: one at RIT (yes, you can co-op at RIT) and another at a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in New York City.
9. Pain is temporary; ____ is forever
My version of this quote is, “pain is temporary; GPA is forever.” I am a firm believer in this quote. It has helped me score scholarships and interviews. In other words, this quote helps me stick to my goals. If GPA is not your thing, replace “GPA” with something else. For instance, “health” or “money.” It does not matter if the word makes sense (e.g., “health” does not make sense because everyone will die someday); it just needs to be meaningful to you.
10. Joining the honors program (or varsity athletics)
The same is true for varsity athletes. However, I am not a varsity athlete.
The honors program allows its members to enroll for classes one day earlier, making it easier for honors students to get into the courses they need with the professors they want. Enrollment time is stressful for underclassmen because enrollment dates are determined by the total credit hours achieved. Freshman usually have the least amount of credit hours.
I hope you enjoyed this post on how I survived my freshman year. Another huge welcome to the class of 2026-2027! Cya during RIT orientation!
The title of this post is a reference to How to Survive Your Freshman Year: By Hundreds of Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors Who Did by Mark Bernstein, Yadin Kaufmann, and Alison Cowan. I highly recommend reading this book because it helped me prepare a lot for college.