The First 6 Weeks of College Guide to Success

Welcome to College Life:

The First 6 Weeks


YOU DID IT!  You moved into your dorm room or apartment, you got your books, your schedule, your roommate, your meal pass.  You might have even finished the first couple of weeks of classes.

And it’s a lot.

You may be finding yourself feeling incredibly swept up in all the activity and academics…and loving it! Or you may be finding that adjusting to roommates, and professors and large lecture halls and huge papers gives you an overwhelming feeling of being alone…even in the middle of the large campus you moved to with big hopes and huge confidence.

You’re not alone.

Research says that the FIRST SIX WEEKS of college are the critical days.  The adjustment to roommates, first relationships, academic challenges, new buildings and schedules, and even different food (c’mon…that oatmeal doesn’t look anything like mom used to make!) can be overwhelming, discouraging, and has even made some students throw in the towel and come home before the first semester ends.

Here are a few tips that might help you in the first six weeks of college.  I can’t promise that every issues will be cured if you do these things, but I CAN promise you that it gets better…easier…normal.  You’ll learn so much from first relationships, first roommates, first papers with a lower grade than you expected.

  1. You’re not alone…The first few weeks of school can be nerve wracking. “Everyone” seems to be connecting with other people and confident.  WRONG!  Trust me…everyone is nervous and hoping another person will connect with them! Take a deep breath (even you, my dear introverts!) and make a goal to talk to at least 4 people a day.  Say “hi”…or ask for a clarification about notes…or knock on a neighbor’s door and ask if they want to throw a Frisbee around…or how to avoid the pink laundry incident again.  Trust me, everyone around you is hoping to connect and make friends and fun just like you.

Feeling like connecting on your own is impossible?  No worries!  Talk to your RA and see what they may be planning for the floor (THAT’S THEIR JOB!!!). Or ask if you can go to dinner with them if that’s your nightmare scenario and you’re starving every night because you don’t want to go in to the cafeteria!  Don’t sit and eat peanut butter crackers by yourself!

  1. ASK! Everyone likes to be an expert, and most people love to help others!  I once showed up for an exam with no blue book (ok…dinosaurs ruled the earth when I was in college, but let’s just say without a blue book, I couldn’t take the test…).  I saw everyone around me with these books, and I just took a breath and asked someone about them.  No worries! When people heard me ask, at least 2 people had a spare and told me “good luck”.  And I paid it forward with every chance I could.  ASK people if you don’t understand, are lost, or can’t figure out how to use the washing machine.
  • ASK PROFESSORS and TAs –If you’re feeling lost in class, MAKE AN APPOINTMENT WITH A PROFESSOR (they all have hours!) and ask! Professors love when students care enough to get feedback and want a little more clarification.  They have a million ideas to help you!
  • ASK RAs and other campus leadership –Don’t try to fake it! ASK! Anyone working for the school are paid to answer questions…nicely!  Take advantage of them!  And hey…once you know how to navigate the online class schedule, you can be an expert for another lost soul in the very near future!
  • ASK friends and roommates –Not sure what’s happening on campus or who is good to take for a late afternoon class?ASK!

  1. BUDGET yourself!

College means freedom…and sometimes that means a LOT of new opportunities to learn how to plan ahead for money, meal plans and materials.  Decide what you can afford to spend on going out or buying Qdoba instead of cafeteria food…and stick to that!  Don’t forget! You have to get a school sweatshirt or tee shirt…but you don’t need 10.  Choose one…and hey, your family always wants to know what to get you for the holidays.  Send them the link to your next needed school sweatshirt!

  1. Plan AHEAD!

No one is going to tell you when to do homework, wake up, go to bed, get lunch. No one is going to nag you to keep your side of the room clean.  This is YOUR TIME TO SHINE!  You know your work rhythms.  Plan for your optimum focus time (AND location!) each week for homework and studying. The dorms aren’t always the best place to study, so learn the hang outs and best places for wifi around campus! You also know how much sleep you need; so state your needs to roommates and those around you.


College is this very big pond that feels cold and overwhelming for those of us who kinda skipped through high school, or were “big fish” in high school.  People (parents, teachers, counselors, friends) knew our funny ways of turning things in, forgetting things at home, getting overwhelmed and asking for extensions.  Yeah. College isn’t like that.

College is a GREAT time for you to discover (trial and error my friend!) how you BEST organize your thoughts and your deadlines.  You’re going to learn SO MUCH!  But here are a few basic tips:

  • Highight that syllabus and RECORD DATES! In your phone, on a big paper calendar, whatever you use!
  • Plan AHEAD!(hey!  I may just be repeating myself for a very good reason!).  Figure out deadlines and exam dates…and PLAN 1 – 2 WEEKS AHEAD!  Figure out goals that will get you to the due dates and exam dates with some sleep, some dignity and a sense of calm.
  • Find a system for where you keep stuff. I know. So basic.  But when we keep books, materials, etc in specific places, we don’t have to use cognitive energy, which means more brain focus for studying!
  • Organize your thoughts! Before you get to class, review reading highlights, syllabus or outlines for the session and be ready to participate with yourself organized and ready to knock the socks off your professor and friends!  Rushing into class makes it difficult for your focus and your brain to catch up with your momentum.



I know. I was a perfectionist too. Failing was the LAST acceptable thing on my list.  But here’s what I know now…failing is inevitable.  It’s what you do with the failure in courses, relationships, your first whites with a red sock, a bounced check or a first argument with your roommate, that counts!  Here are a few ideas on how to Fail Forward:

  • Don’t slide into shame (I’M A FAILURE) or blame (If you hadn’t…then I wouldn’t have…).Take responsibility for the part that is on you, and don’t take add anything else!  Own it.  It’s hard to say what’s yours to own, but once you do…you get respect, relief, a break, a deep learning experience.
  • If there’s someone involved (a professor, a friend, a roomie, a boy/girl friend), ask how you might be able to fix what has happened. Be open to their feedback, and take it!  Don’t try to negotiate.   Learn.  Honor their honesty with you.
  • Take a bit of time, and think through what you’ve learned that you don’t have to repeat again.  For example, when a large bank called to say I had bounced one too many checks…I cried to my dad.  I let him deal with it.  And I didn’t learn much at all.  Talk about a Fail Forward opportunity!
  • Be accountable.If it’s about money, deadlines, boundaries, etc.  Tell someone your learning and your intention for the future.  This will solidify it for you.
  • AND DON’T RUN AWAY! Face it. You can do it.  This is adulting 101.  Too many adults run away from hard relationships, hard money issues, hard work or school failures.  And then they never ever learn!  Stay put. Take good care of yourself. Surround yourself with cheerleaders and soak in their encouragement.  Stay. Put. And. Learn.

I honestly could write a 5-page paper this topic!  There is so much I want you to know so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes I did. But these 6 Hints for 6 Weeks will launch you into an adventure you’ll never forget.  In the near future, I’ll be posting info about binge drinking, depression and anxiety, broken boundaries in relationships.  I hope you’ll come back and keep giving me feedback about what you want and need to know while you enjoy college life!

There is no secret to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.

– General Colin Powell


If you’re finding yourself stuck in overwhelm or depression, or if you can’t seem to find connections or success at school, contact me (Laurie) at enCOURAGE Counseling (720-230-3076 or  I offer FREE 15-minute consultations.  You may not be close enough to my office to come in, but I can support what your next steps might need to be.  If you are suicidal or in crisis, you can text “TALK” to 38255 or call 1-800-273-8255. You are not alone!





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