Getting the College Experience: A Freshman Bucket List

Ginger Abbot

Feb 27, 2023

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It’s challenging to balance what a student wants to do and what’s expected of them as they enter their first year of college. Depending on who you are, you may feel obligated to attend fraternity or sorority parties or apply to every college honorary program. You can create your own freshman bucket list for your ideal year regardless of expectations. Here are our top ideas to get you started to ensure no FOMO hits, even on day one. 

Academic & Career

Pursue an Internship

Many students switch majors throughout their university tenure — about 30%. However, if you are one of the lucky ones to know what your career trajectory looks like — or even if you’re simply curious about what your major could lead you to — researching internships in your first year is not too soon. It could reinforce your decisions or propel you in a different direction if it reveals that some other track may be better for your talents.

Work on Research

Research is not limited to the sciences — if you’re an anthropology major, try finding a summer program to help on a dig site. If you’re in education, see how you could help a professor by interviewing students or gathering quantitative observations. Even if you choose not to work in academia, if you care about your subject, it will be rewarding to contribute to its advancement.

Collaborate Creatively

Suppose you’re in a creative major or even just interested in the arts. In that case, college campuses provide almost unlimited opportunities for creative collaboration to blossom, including but not limited to:

  • Hosting or joining an open mic for poetry or comedy
  • Contribute to a student-run newspaper 
  • Submit to your school’s literary magazine
  • Interview someone on the college radio station

Not every creative collaboration has to be in a professional setting, either. You could also work with your roommate to start a university scrapbook, starting with freshman year — filling it out as the years go by with all the memories and friends you made.

Make the Dean’s List

Though many films like to accentuate dramatic party scenes, dedicating adequate amounts of time to studying is just as important as socializing. It sometimes involves long nights or philosophical crises. No matter what stage of your study journey you’re in, you can make a goal to excel on the Dean’s List to impress for potential scholarships in future semesters or applications to internships.

Find a Mentor

College is the time to find inspiration, and a great deal of that can come from a mentor. Many perceive this to be an academic advisor or professor. However, it could also be work colleagues or inspiring upper-level students. Someone is always willing to foster your growth in whatever field you’re devoted to.

Fun & Travel

Join Something

Finding community is one of the most unique aspects of the college experience — and a must-have for freshman bucket lists. There are plenty of ways to join varying communities on your campus, such as:

  • Intramural sports
  • Clubs and organizations 
  • Greek life
  • Student government
  • Theater programs
  • School paper

You can either dive into a subject you’re already curious about or spread your wings — or create your own club if you don’t see anything you like. Though college forces you to focus your academic studies on a single passion project, it’s just as essential to have an open mind and experiment with different activities and subjects — why not try glass blowing or fencing?

Support the Home Team

If you like sports, rallying together with classmates is one of the most energizing experiences of your freshman year. It brings classmates from different educational backgrounds to enjoy the sports atmosphere. Learn the school fight song while wearing university colors as an added experience boost.

Explore Local Bars

If you’re turning 21 while in college, it’ll be some first experiences with alcohol. Always drink responsibly, but it is prime time to explore different drinks to find what you like. Is craft beer at a local concert your style, or would you instead sip whiskey in a classy bar?

Participate in Campus Traditions

Some campuses are known for their unusual celebrations and traditions. If your campus has any, participate and become part of the legend. Some traditions are as minor as rubbing the toe of Yale University’s Theodore Woolsey statue for luck or dunking yourself in the Occidental College fountain on your birthday.

Personal Development & Growth

Find Your Style

A good portion of college is socializing and studying — but personal growth and style come along with that. Whether you’re decorating your first dorm or buying your clothes for the first time, it’s time to figure out if you’re into cozy cottagecore vibes or sleek Scandinavian lines.

Volunteer for a Cause

Colleges provide numerous chances for students to expand their knowledge and discover what causes they care most about. It could be the environment or women’s rights, but there are on and off-campus organizations in your college’s community where you can engage in social good for positive change.

Mingle With Classmates

Making friends is one of the most important ways to have a memorable experience in college. Go on dates, join clubs, make friends with your roommates or join study groups. Confidence and self-esteem need to put yourself out there to make connections. Then, spring break vacations and late-night road trips you’ll remember forever will come naturally.

Learn to Live on Your Own

This may be the first time you’ve made a budget or cooked a meal without a parent or guardian’s help. Luckily, there are plenty of students going through it alongside you. Work together to help each other out as you look up YouTube tutorials and frequently call your parents on how to sort loads of laundry properly.

Your Freshman Bucket List

Curate your freshman bucket list to your needs and what you genuinely want to do instead of focusing on societal pressures or common suggestions. But, ensure to write a letter to your future self to open on graduation day, writing about your feelings and hopes for the future. You will look back on your college years fondly, knowing you got the most out of your experience because you went through it with intention and community.

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