So I headed back to my college yesterday and was immediately overrun by freshmen and their families. I too was once a freshman and I made many mistakes during my first year, but I received a lot of help and advice from my RA and from friends who had been there longer than I. I will list a few tips and tricks to make the transition into and the entire college career much easier.
1. Find friends: Go to student organizations that interest you. There are probably hundreds of organizations that would welcome you simply because another member means more funding for them. Find what you like; there is most likely an organization that focuses on the activities that you enjoy. By making friends and having connections, you can relieve stress and liquor doesn't cost as much when split between a few people.
2. Study your syllabus: Important dates are usually listed on the syllabus which makes planning for tests and papers must easier. Knowing the dates also allows you to know when you can get away with drinking all night and skipping class due to your immense hangover.
3. Get to know your professors: Talk to them, especially your advisor. The more familiar you are with your professors, the more likely it is that they will help and accommodate you.
4. Save money: This is incredibly important. Save some money for an emergency or make a budget for yourself. A lot of you will probably be excited about not having your parents breathing down your neck and you will go wild with your money. You can have a great time at college without spending a lot of cash.
5. Food: If you have a meal plan, use it. You can usually sneak some fruit or something back to your dorm for later. I knew a guy who brought gallon jugs with him and filled them with milk to take back to his dorm. Do this secretly and try not to draw attention to yourself because the staff will try to stop you. You can save a lot of money this way. If you have a cafeteria with cashiers at the end of the line, get to know them and be friendly because they might give you free food. I got free drinks for over 2 years from one of the cashiers in the cafeteria because I was nice to her.
6. Residence: If you're going to live in an apartment, talk to people who have lived there before. I lived in an apartment run by incredibly religious landlords and I hated every minute of it because of their ridiculous rules. If you plan to have people over, check how many you are allowed to have visit; it's usually on your lease.
7. Be courteous at parties: People will remember you if behave like an idiot at parties and will subsequently avoid you and not invite you. Be kind and help the hosts and they will return the favor with free booze. Get to know people at parties too, you will meet them in classes and they will feel more comfortable around you.
8. Drinking tips: Don't try to be a tough guy, it makes you look like a complete moron when you vomit after your 4th shot because you can't handle your liquor. Getting blackout drunk is fun, but there is always the chance of hearing about your drunken escapades the next day and regretting that fifth of Jack. Also, when doing flaming shots, remember to blow out the flame first unless you don't like having eyebrows.
9. Classes: If you know that you're not going to do well in a class, see if there is a Credit/No Record option for it. With Credit/No Record you can either pass the class and get the credits or fail and it will be as though you never took the class. The cutoff for passing the class is usually a C. Find out the prerequisite classes for your major and complete them as soon as possible. This will make your college career a breeze and will probably prevent you from spending an extra semester or two at college.
10. Balance: College is a time for learning and experience, but not just in classes. Do not overtax yourself with studying and don't party so much that you fail all of your classes, you will only make yourself miserable. Do things that you never imagined yourself doing, be adventurous, and don't be afraid to make mistakes.
I hope that this helps you new arrivals just as much as those who have been in college for a while. Good luck to all of you!