'What do I need to do to "Hit the ground running"?'
Engage your professors and
your peers as part of your study habits. If there's a study group, attend it. If there's not, suggest one. You don't need to go crazy with this in all your classes; it's fine to focus on those classes that interest and/or challenge you most. Group study habits are invaluable and students who make an effort to develop them are more successful on average. It's not rocket science - doing homework alone can get pretty mind-numbing, no matter how interesting the subject matter. Leadership and teamwork skills are in high demand; the best way to start developing them in school is to get used to interacting with people in small group situations where there's not a teacher actively guiding you (i.e., outside of class).
If you try to approach school as an opportunity for you to take a desirable experience from your institution, to get something you want and need from the student body and the faculty and the curriculum, you may find that motivation and work habits become a bit more approachable issues. Being involved with your peers also does wonders for study habits. Aside from that I have no specific advice for time management; everyone is different in that regard.
'Would it be ideal to work part time while attending?'
As a freshman, absolutely not. Once you've started to get a feel for college, if you find opportunities to work (or volunteer) in ways that enhance your study or allow you to explore potential careers, working during college can be amazing. But right now you'll need to be open to new things and flexible with your time and your habits so that you can take full advantage of opportunities to take whichever classes you want and participate in whichever clubs and activities you want, without having a supervisor telling you they need you to work this or that shift. My advice is that unless you need to work in order to attend at all, do not work significant hours in your freshman year. Work-study at your school is an exception; I still wouldn't advise 15-20 hours a week, but within reasonable limits for time commitment, work-study results in more involvement at your college rather than less and is a good thing.
Ulc wrote:...most TA's are rightly annoyed when people come and ask "I don't understand [insert subject of the entire course] at all, please explain" ... As in, don't ask stupid questions.
IMO, if the TA is not savvy enough to simply say, "That's too broad for me to address, you need to bring it in to the professor's office hour," and suggest perhaps reading the text one more time beforehand, that's the TA's problem. Until you have asked a couple stupid questions, odds are you won't be a good judge of what is or isn't a stupid question. Nobody has the right to get annoyed the first (or even the second) time you come to them with a question that might have been better to figure out on your own. They should just be glad it wasn't the other way around - students who don't
come to their professors or TAs with questions that they should
have had addressed end up with gaps in their education even when they make the grade they wanted.