This weekend, ACU will be welcoming the class of 2016 to our campus. It’s a transformative period for parents and students. We’d like to offer new students a few tips on how to successfully navigate the freshman year.

1. Start with a clean slate. College is a brand new start academically and personally. You have a shiny new GPA and an opportunity to make new friends. It’s a fresh start – make the most of it!

2. Get to know the ACU campus. Meet your academic advisors, professors, and campus staff. Find out where services on campus for things such as counseling, medical attention, tutoring, the library, post office, etc. are located and take advantage of those services when needed. You’ll be surprised at how much assistance is available to you if you just ask.

3. Get to know Abilene. Abilene offers diverse cultural activities and events and is home to some of the friendliest people you will meet. Go downtown to places like the Paramount, the Grace, or drive out to Buffalo Gap for some great steak. Find a church home and get connected with the college ministry or members in that church. Churches LOVE college students and you will find that many members enjoy having college students as part of their small groups, over for dinner, or involved in various church or community ministries.  Most of all, belonging to a church body gives you a home away from home and a group of people who will love and care for you while you are in Abilene.

4. Get involved on campus. Many new students feel a combination of homesickness and of not quite belonging to this new community yet. Make the most of the opportunities you have to meet new friends through activities such as Freshman Follies, Intramurals, and student organizations and clubs.  You’ll make new friends, learn new skills, and feel more connected to the ACU community.

5. Call, email, or text your parents. At some point in the first year, you may be homesick. That feeling may come out of the blue and hit you like a ton of bricks. No matter how busy you get with school, activities, or new friends, make time to talk to your parents and siblings. They miss you just as much as you miss them and want to know how you are adjusting to your new life.

6. Get organized and budget your time. Use whatever method works best for you to keep you organized, whether you use a large wall calendar, a day planner, your iPhone, iPad, laptop, etc. Write down assignment due dates and give yourself deadlines. Block off time to study and resist the urge to go out with your friends during that time. Learn to prioritize. Procrastination and cramming for a test or assignment are not a winning habit.

7. Manage your money. Create a budget and find ways to stretch your money. Don’t take advantage of the “free” gifts and offers that credit card companies send to you. Do everything in your power to stay away from debt for living or social expenses.

8. Eat healthy and work out. Your parents were right – you need to eat right and get your sleep! Go to bed at a decent hour, take your vitamins, eat a healthy diet, work out to fight stress, and feed your brain. Your grades will be glad you did.

9. Be prepared to feel overwhelmed. Freshman year may bring some change and you may have some moments when you feel overwhelmed and stressed. Be ready to feel unprepared for some of the rigors of college life but recognize that you’re not the only student who feels that way. This is a normal part of the growing process and the feeling won’t last forever. Before you know it, you’ll blink and be a sophomore.