Starting a new school can always be difficult, but there's something about starting college that is infinitely more terrifying. It's often your first time living on your own, you're living in a new place, and there is much more freedom to choose. At least, that's what I thought going into college. The truth isn't quite what I thought it was. I should preface this, however, with the fact that I am going to city college currently and plan on transferring to a four year school later, so some things may be slightly different than for university students. Still, many things will hold true for both city college and university students.
1. If you want to graduate on time, you need to pick a major fast. Many people and even colleges will say that it is fine to start undecided. The truth is that majors have a lot of required classes that will take you a while to finish. How many required classes and how many electives you will get depends on your major. For example, a psychology degree doesn't have a lot of required classes so you could potentially wait until your junior year before declaring it as your major and still graduate on time. On the other hand, a chemistry major has a lot of required classes so you need to start as a freshman working through all the requirements. My advice would be, if you think you might want to do a STEM major, start working through the requirements for that first. It's a lot easier to switch from a chemistry major to a psychology major than it would be to switch from psychology to chemistry.
2. If you're starting as a freshman and really have no idea what you want to major in, start with the basics. No matter what your major may end up being, almost all of them require a basic English and math class. All colleges have different general education requirements so you should look at and get familiar with yours. Look at it and see what you want to take versus what you have to take. You could even compare the list of classes you want to take to the list of required classes needed for different majors; it may help you see what majors might be a good fit for you. Taking the time to plan out early on what you want and need to take can save you a lot of time and money later on.
3. Don't wait until the last minute to sign up for classes. As soon as your college allows you to sign up for classes, do it. College classes fill up fast and there's no guarantee that you will get a spot. It's always a race to get online first and add the classes you need. Make sure you know what classes you need before it's time to sign up. Not all classes are offered every semester either, so if you know a class doesn't have a lot of demand, it might be one that won't be back next semester. Sign up for classes like that when they are available so that you don't miss out on them and have to wait a year for them to come back. If you need to, crash the classes you don't make it in. You might not get a spot, but you can at least try. Lots of people drop classes in the first couple weeks so you might be able to get a seat.
4. Sign up for class times and days that fit your learning style. Work and free time can be worked in around your school schedule, but school should come first. If you work best in the afternoon or at night time, sign up for later classes. If you usually run out of energy by noon, sign up for morning classes. Some people work best by spreading out their work, so take one or two classes a day for several days a week. Some people work best by working in big bursts, so take all of your classes for just a couple days a week. Personally, I work best in bursts, so I go to all my classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays and have the rest of the week free for homework, work, and free time. Just do what fits you best and you'll do your best.
5. Show up to class and do the work. It seems pretty obvious, but sometimes it gets difficult. Some classes don't actually require that you go to class. Not all teachers are going to take attendance and not all teachers count participation in grading. Finding the motivation to actually show up to class when that is the case can be challenging, but work through it and go anyways. You're paying a lot of money to get taught, so go to class instead of trying to teach yourself from home. You can learn a lot from a textbook, but not always everything you will need for a test or to do the work well. Force yourself to sit down and do at least some of the work. Turning in a paper with only some of the problems done is better than turning in nothing. Points are points, so do what you can to get as many as you can.
Overall, college classes are a lot like high school classes. It can feel really stressful at times, but it doesn't have to. Make friends, create study groups, talk to your teachers. Everyone is scared of asking questions in class or talking to teachers, but if you can work through that fear, you will do a lot better. People won't judge you for not knowing everything; none of us really understand anything the first time a teacher says it. Act like it's high school all over again, except everyone is older and hopefully a bit more mature. College doesn't have to be as scary as everyone makes it out to be. It can be fun.