An Insider's Guide to UGA: 8 Tips to Have the Best Freshman Year

Ah college, one of life’s most exciting, but lowkey nerve wracking milestones. New friends, new classes, new social life, new meal plan…all awesome stuff. I remember my freshman year vividly, probably because it only ended a few months ago. It was a year filled with game days, nights spent studying, nights out, and a whole lot of self discovery. I also remember feeling a bit overwhelmed when trying to navigate these new  experiences and changes. There are a lot of things I wish I would have known before freshman year which I had to figure out on my own, usually the hard way. With those things in mind, here are 8 tips to have an amazing freshman year (or any other year) and make the transition to college as smooth and seamless as possible!

1. Learn how to use the bus system. 

Oh boy, this tip is a big one. As you may have already noticed, UGA’s campus is huge. While walking is great and all, it can also take a really long time, not to mention that this August heat is just sweltering. On my first day of class freshman year, I frantically made the trek from SLC to MLC and I was very hot, sweaty, and stressed by the time I made it to my class. To make your life easier, spend the extra couple minutes figuring out how to understand the bus schedule on the UGA app. Trust me, it’s worth it. 

2. Find an organizational method that works for you. 

I was pretty organized in high school, but for whatever reason when I got to college I found myself randomly forgetting or misreading things a lot more than usual. I even missed an advising appointment… yikes. Nowadays, I like to use Google Calendar to plan out my days and then complete to-do list items during the periods where nothing like class or meetings are scheduled. I’ve used a paper planner in the past, but I’ve found that this system works better for me in college, especially when things are frequently subject to change. Whether you had a planner or something similar in high school, finding some way to get organized in college is crucial.

3.  Make staying healthy easy.

It can be difficult to keep a consistent workout schedule and eat healthy in college. Not only can it take forever to get to Ramsey and back, but there’s also the temptation of free unlimited ice cream at every dining hall! My advice for staying healthy and avoiding the dreaded ‘freshman 15’ is to make it a point to eat a few healthy things every day. During my freshman year I would try to eat at least one fruit at breakfast, and one vegetable at lunch and dinner. Make it to the gym when you can, but most importantly try to walk everywhere. Not only will you be creating a habit of being active, you’ll also probably get the best legs of your life just by getting where you need to go. Another pro tip—since it’s the beginning of the semester, it may be beneficial to start taking Vitamin C supplements now and building up your immunity before the freshman plague hits. During this dreaded time, literally everyone and their mother gets sick seeing that between the dorms and the dining halls and classes, there’s not a lot of personal space in college. Overall, the most important thing is consistency. Form positive routines at the beginning of the semester and you’ll be set.

4. Make UGA feel like home!

Being that UGA is a state school, I know that a lot of you are probably from GA. With that being said, I highly encourage you to avoid going home for the first few weeks to a month. Doing this forced me to explore campus and Athens more and helped me feel at home here. Being comfortable in your environment is so important, but in order to get to that point you need to make a conscious effort to make it happen. 

5. Go to the Niche!!!

If you ask any upperclassman what the best dining hall at UGA is, they’ll most likely tell you that it’s the Niche. Although it can be a bit of a pain to get there, either by driving or the Health Sciences bus, it is so so worth it. From custom sandwiches, pizza and calzones, to different varieties of pastas, salads, and desserts, it is absolute chef’s kiss. I think in general UGA has way better dining halls than a lot of other colleges, but the Niche is next level. Please do yourself a favor and go as much as possible while you still have an unlimited meal plan. 

6. Take risks!

In many ways, college is a fresh start for a lot of people and this can mean opening doors that you may not have previously considered. Try anything and everything that sparks your interest. Be friendly and open with people and see what types of people begin to enter your circle. Say yes to as many things as possible (within reason) because you’re only going to be a freshman in college once and this is your time to explore and be picky. Also remember that it is okay if you don’t continue with every club, class, or major you signed up for. It’s okay if your friends at the beginning of the year are different than your friends at the end of the year. It’s okay if you change and feel different. Whatever your path may be, do what you need to do to explore new options and come into yourself. 

7. S.T.U.D.Y. 

Look I get it. College is a lot of fun. You’re meeting lots of new people and suddenly everything is social and you want to experience that. At the end of the day though, the heart of college is education and as much as it sucks, grades do matter. It’s okay if they’re not perfect though. I was nearly a straight-A student throughout high school and got my first C during first semester of freshman year. While it was a huge blow to my ego and took a hit to my GPA, it was not the end of the world and I recovered. Just be aware that college classes can be harder than high school classes and it may take some time to adjust your study strategies while also adjusting to a brand new environment. Try your best and work smarter, not just harder, and you’ll be just fine. 

8. Remember that everyone is in the same boat.

If you find yourself feeling confused, lonely, anxious, stressed, scared, or lost, please remember you are definitely not alone in that. No matter how put together, assured, or confident everyone around you may seem, everyone has their own things that they struggle with. College is a really uncertain time period for so many people which can lead to a lot of discomfort. I really, really struggled with choosing a major and changed it  6 different times, and this caused a ton of inner turmoil. I also underestimated some of the difficulties of adjusting to being away from home and felt a lot of uneasiness about it. Despite any negative feelings that arise, know that what you are going through is totally normal. The best thing to do is just get comfortable with being uncomfortable and let things slowly fall into place with time. 

Whether you experience any bumps in the road or not, remember that UGA accepted you for a reason. You do belong here, you are smart enough, you are good enough, you are worthy enough. I really hope that these tips were helpful and in some way enhance your college experience. Amazing things are in store for you during your freshman year and the rest of your time here at UGA and I wish you the best of luck! GO DAWGS!