Well, you made it. The crazy frat parties, the rigorous coursework, and the crowd of roaring college football games. Are you ready for it?

I wasn’t—expecting to run the campus my first semester, I hit a wall. I made no friends (at least good ones), my schoolwork struggled, and my health was in the pooper. Fortunately for me, a miracle in disguise happened. My (once was) friend tried committing suicide by drowning himself in the recreation center pool, and I had no choice but to make a change. It was funny—as I got better I started noticing many kids in my same position; depressed,  joining groups to fit in, and using drugs to fill their void of a life. I forced myself to go out, get involved, and read books. I hated it at first, but slowly my self-esteem began to rise. So I am writing this for you, in hopes that you never have to witness a scenario like that, and you can kick ass the first day on campus. Here are 3 things every freshman needs to know before coming to school:

1. You Are Not Your High School Self

Unless you are a star football or basketball player, what you did in high school is irrelevant. Acting like you’re the Big Man On Campus as a freshman not only makes you seem like a loser, it’s going to turn Fraternity bids away from you, make you lose quality friends, and turn girls off (a lot).

The main thing to take away from this is to be yourself…your best self! The key is to grow and learn from those around you in college. Not to be the best, and stomp on everybody. Word in college spreads…quick! When fraternity brothers and dorm buddies say that you are a prick, (most) girls won’t give you the light of day. Be yourself and grow into being a college stud, rather than a dreamweaving, glory day having asshole.

2. Smoking and Drinking Do Not Make You Cooler

Let’s be real, many people do it in college. It is no longer an activity you do to seem cool. Smoking and drinking are simply things people do out of habit. Don’t look too hard into this part of your experience. If you don’t smoke or drink, there are more than enough kids that are like you. It just means that you don’t have to get a buzz to have a fun time, and that is more than respectable.

The point is: drink responsibly if you like to drink. Smoke with your friends if you enjoy smoking. Don’t do it to seem cool or gain friends.

3. Finding Your Niche Of Friends Is Easier Than You Think

One of the main worries of freshman is that they will not make any friends going into this new, undiscovered place called college. It is natural. One of our innate behaviors as humans is the need to be wanted and cared for.

Here’s the deal: There are a ton of kids in college. Most do not care that you are a freshman if you are genuine. Reach out to groups, fraternities, sororities, or random people on the street you want to meet. See if you connect, and, if not, move on to the next person. There is a .000001% chance you will not find someone with at least one similar interest. It’s easy.

There is a golden trifecta from How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. These are appreciation, courtesy, and respect. Use these, and you will have friends in no time.

Incoming freshman, or anyone struggling to make friends, put these tips in your back pocket and reap the rewards. Using this guideline will easily put you ahead of 90% of the other freshman, and allow you to concentrate on other aspects of college that are vital to you.

James Free is a student at Indiana University studying Entrepreneurship. He writes about becoming your best self and hacking school at www.campushackr.com. Follow him on twitter @CampusHackr.

[Photo credit: pagedooley on Flickr]