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Things I Wish I Knew When I Was a Freshman

When you first arrive at UT, there can be a lot of questions and things to figure out, managing your first year may seem a little intimidating! From figuring the quickest route to classes to finding a student organization to join, there are a lot of different decisions to make during your first few weeks.

We reached out to our community on Instagram to find out what current Vols wished they knew their first year. We had a ton of responses with advice ranging from eating on campus to how to maintain balance and a healthy lifestyle. Below are our favorite tips from current students that have lived and learned through freshman year.

Figuring Out Your Meal Plan

Figuring out the dining plan is one of the most important things to figure out as a new student. Most first-year students have the 7-Day Access Dining Plan that includes three meal swipes a day and $300 dining dollars. You can use meal swipes during breakfast, lunch, or dinner at any dining hall or use the special meal equivalency feature at dining locations on campus, increasing your options.

Check out the Vol Dining website for more information on using your meal swipes, meal equivalency, and hours of operation.

Be Prepared

Current Vols also suggested being prepared for your day before leaving for class!! Make sure to check the weather or bring an umbrella, because walking that hill in the pouring rain is no fun. Oh, and get good tennis shoes! UT is a big campus and the amount of walking you will do is no joke. Always carry water with you to stay hydrated, and bring a power bank and charger will save your life in the middle of the day. Lastly, you can get to almost anywhere on campus by using Apple or Google maps.


The first semester of classes your first year can be tough, adjusting, and figuring out the best way to study can take time but don’t stress, you’ll get the hang of it. Before classes start, make sure to check Canvas and your Volmail account just in case your professor assigns anything. Current Vols suggest buying your textbooks after classes start to see if your professor is going to actually use it. Go to class, pay attention, and do the homework—you’ll thank yourself later when you do. There are so many resources on campus like faculty office hours and tutoring so take advantage of them. Don’t be afraid or intimidated to speak to the professors, they are there to help you! And most importantly, one bad grade does not define you so do not stress too much about it.

Check out Tutoring Services from the Division of Student Success to stay on top of your academics from the start.

Mental Health

Prioritizing your mental health is key! It is okay to not be okay sometimes. Take time to acknowledge your struggles. Feel all of your feelings! Don’t be afraid to ask for help. College isn’t easy, we are all going through it. Try to stay productive during downtime, it’ll be better than doing nothing. Get a good night’s rest and make sure to get at least seven hours of sleep.

Check out the Student Health Center and the Student Counseling Center for more tips on keeping your mental health a priority.

Making Friends and Getting Involved

Friends and campus life is one of the best things about college. So make the effort to make friends and get involved, don’t make excuses! Go to your residence hall programs, they’re great and an easy way to meet friends. Try new things, it’s better to try something and not like it than to regret not trying it at all. Apply to different student organizations, clubs, job positions, or internships on campus or in Knoxville. Make the best of your four years!

Campus Life

Go to student programming events! They are so fun and are catered to students. Big Orange Welcome is the best; you learn about all the on-campus activities, all the organizations available, and meet so many new people. You’re new to campus so it’s okay to feel lost on campus! Don’t be afraid to ask anyone where something is. Lastly, don’t step on the seal!

Congratulations on becoming a Tennessee Volunteer! This year has been full of challenges, but you have the Volunteer family behind you as you start college. You are going to have an amazing time on Rocky Top, and you have the entire Volunteer community cheering you on every step of the way. When in doubt, reach out to your resident assistant, your faculty member, your success coach, or any of the dozens of other resources available to you on campus. We are here to help, and we can’t wait to see you in person in August!