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5 Ways to Make the Most of Your First Semester On Campus

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Stepping on to your college campus for the first time is a feeling like no other; however, with lots of schools taking online or hybrid approaches to learning this semester, students were left feeling less than thrilled. 


With the prevalence of an online curriculum, tons of students are left wondering if they made the right choice coming to campus. To combat these worries and make the most of the current situation, here are five things you can do right now to maximize your first semester on campus. 


Cultivate a Productive Study Environment 


It takes time to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Use this semester as an opportunity to generate a productive study schedule and to create a physical space of your own that works best for you. Maybe you need a brighter desk lamp so you don’t doze off. Maybe pictures of friends and family help keep you motivated to do your best. Maybe investing in that comfy desk chair would alleviate some of that back strain. Whatever it is, use this time in your dorm to experiment with different set-ups and compile a list of items that might be good investments. (Bonus points if that list includes some DIY items to keep you busy over the break!)


Learn the Lay of the Land


You’re on campus so you might as well use it to your advantage. Even if tours may not officially be happening this year, take some time (while enjoying the fall weather) to explore and discover buildings, study spaces, or hidden gems on your campus. If it’s possible and safe, reach out to tour guides or other upperclassmen to see if they wouldn’t mind giving you a tour! It’s a great way to connect with another student and learn about campus from the people who know it best. 

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Get Intentional with Relationships 


Coming to college, everyone craves building new connections. While this semester is different in a lot of ways, this isn’t one of them. Students, new and old, are looking for ways to create meaningful relationships and be in the company of others. In other words, you are not alone in feeling…alone! Don’t be afraid to reach out to classmates, floormates, or anyone on campus and schedule some socially distant hangouts. Chances are, they have been looking to connect with someone, too. Realistically, relationships are not going to be as accessible as they were in the past so put yourself out there! 


Connect with On-Campus Resources 


Whether it’s organizations, professors, or offices, universities are trying to find new ways to engage their on-campus and virtual communities. While the majority of programming has moved online or cut down, personal connections are still very possible. In case you need to hear it, professors, organizations, and offices want to get to know you personally, so reach out! Whether that’s seeing if your professor has in-person office hours, reaching out to members of an organization to meet one-on-one, or prioritizing your involvement in limited on-campus events, it’s the perfect opportunity to introduce yourself, form personal connections, and stand out.


Figure out the Food Scene 


For me, the best part about a new place is new food. Even as a junior, I am constantly on the hunt for funky & fresh spots that hit the spot. A few times a month or whenever it’s feasible, treat yourself to dinner (and maybe even dessert) from a local business. Not only does ordering provide an opportunity to start sampling what’s around but you’re also supporting local businesses and staying safe in the process! A win-win…win! 


The first semester on campus is already a challenging one, between creating a new routine, being in an unfamiliar space, and feelings of loneliness and uncertainty, all of which have only been magnified by the pandemic. However, it can also provide an unmatched opportunity for personal growth, connection, and some of college’s most memorable moments. Even with the current situation, I have personally witnessed that this still holds true. So just remember, whatever you are doing on campus this semester, be smart, be safe, and don’t forget your mask!

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Author: Alyssa O'Connell

Alyssa is a junior at Vanderbilt University double majoring in Secondary Education and English with a minor in Italian. When she isn't writing for Niche, you can catch her on stage with her musical theatre organization, giving tours of campus or reading Shakespeare, all with a coffee in hand.