Your College Toolbox: 5 Crucial Items for First Semester Success

Article-Photos49Freshman year of college can be one of the most overwhelming—and important—years of your academic career. A student who feels unprepared may allow stress to affect him or her, which can compromise his or her effectiveness and potential in later years—both in college or university and in the workforce. But a student who understands what he or she will require to confront the unique challenges of college life is equipped for a confident and successful first semester. While the necessary tools will vary from person to person, every soon-to-be-freshman should consider packing the following five items:

1. The Bedford Handbook

This handbook is invaluable for those students who wish to begin their college writing career on the right foot. The Bedford Handbook is a wonderful source for MLA notation policies, and it swiftly becomes a student’s best friend as he or she navigates the ambiguity of citations and editing. The correct way to notate particular sources within a paper is a site of constant disagreement and confusion, but The Bedford Handbook is a dependable reference. (Ensure you purchase the eighth edition. Copies are expensive, but used versions are typically available for as little as $15.00.)

2. The Elements of Style

Similar to The Bedford Handbook, Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is a writer’s most prized possession. Refer to it when you are uncertain about how to structure an unusual sentence or how to arrange a particularly long paragraph. Strunk and White’s policies are clear and simple, and they lead to straightforward, accessible writing that will quickly impress professors.

3. Calendar

This should go without saying. Classes, exercise, extracurricular activities, social time, work—the many demands on a student’s schedule can feel almost impossible to organize at first. Calendars, however, can swiftly change this reality, as they help students track responsibilities and avoid committing to too many activities. Sometimes a simple Android or iPhone program will do, but whatever the format, a calendar is a must!

4. Notepad

This may seem like a generic suggestion, but a notepad is absolutely essential for a variety of reasons. The college workload is often entirely unfamiliar to first-year students, and a place to jot down assignments, checklists, reminders, and even thoughts can help students navigate stressful situations and avoid allowing important meetings and critical assignments to slip through the cracks.

5. Flashcards

Flashcards are another necessity obvious enough to be forgotten by many students. Flashcards enable students to eliminate the feeling of, “I know I have forgotten something from class, but I cannot figure out what it is.” A wise student will record every new term he or she encounters on flashcards after each class session. This makes the task of compiling a comprehensive list of what is needed for midterms and finals manageable because the information is already broken down into five-minute segments and disbursed throughout the semester. The introductory classes that students generally enroll in during their freshman year are rife with unfamiliar vocabulary. Be ready.

Good luck!


This article was written by Caleb Zimmerman

Caleb Zimmerman is a professional writing and test-prep tutor for Varsity Tutors. He graduated from The King's College in New York City in 2014 with a bachelor's degree in politics, philosophy, and economics.

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