I’m writing this to take some of the sugar off of the typically sugar-coated advice one is given when they are getting ready for their first year of college. I wish someone sat down and told me the following when I was accepting my high school diploma, or when I was sitting in the non-air-conditioned freshman dorm room (crying), and at a few points in between. Here we go.
1. Remember that it is okay to have absolutely no idea what is going on, because I will let you in on a secret—nobody around you does.
You know that kid who has been wearing his college sweatshirt from the second he took the PSAT’s? He has no clue. The girl who got in “early acceptance” to her dream school? Not her either.
High school teachers, your parents, and virtually everyone around you has opinions on how you should do your college experience. They’ll tell you go big, go small, go close to home, or get the hell out of here. They’ll tell you you need 4 “safety” schools, and they will show you maps and charts with little dots that tell you you are not as good as the other little dots.
Well here’s something they won’t tell you; you are not a dot, nor are you anybody’s pawn in the game of college. You are you, and beautifully so. You are unique, and you can do anything you want to do if you truly want it enough. If you get a big fat “no” from your dream school, what are you going to do about it that will set you apart from the other thousands of “no’s” that school just sent out?
Most everyone will take that “no”, feel like a dot, and hold back tears as they ask their advisor or teacher which “safety” school is their best fit. Well, I implore you to call, write, email, and ask this school why you they awarded you the title of “dot” that falls below the curve on their acceptance graph. Give the dot a face, a personality, and a will to succeed. Make yourself known, and be annoying, because no one else will. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
And here’s another one—if it doesn’t work out, it wasn’t supposed to work out. There are countless other options, and there is probably someone or something that is waiting for you at the school you do end up going to, that you would have missed out on had you not went there. In 4 years, I promise you’ll have a someone or a something that made it all worthwhile.
2. Nobody, and I mean not even Kylie Jenner, is having as much fun as his or her social media accounts portray.
The filters “Lo-fi” and “Valencia” have a funny way of putting a false lens on the truth. Hell, you can literally erase the freshman 15 in seconds without anyone knowing. We are one of the first generations to have social media as a main factor in our collegiate lives. Take it with a grain of salt; think of our generation as the “test run” and probably, it will work out its own kinks in the future. Any by “kinks”, I mean social media’s distinct feature that “blurs” the line between who we are and what we choose to portray.
3. Challenge yourself to let go of the past.
Key word in that one is “challenge”. It is not by any means easy to accept that some things and people are meant to stay buried in your hometown and within the walls of your high school.
Think of your childhood friends. From the ages of 3-12 you met so many people and had a different “best friend” every other day. You may remember every one, you may only remember a few. But I’m willing to bet that you aren’t as close with every single “best friend” you thought you would be. And that is normal.
You have countless memories you can look back on and smile, and maybe some regrets too. But one things for sure; they served their purpose in your life and you served your purpose in theirs. High School is like that too, except a little more complicated. Your friendships and relationships are deeper, so naturally its harder to imagine some of those people as just a memory or lesson learned, but if you do not free yourself from some people you cannot make room for more. And you will meet many, many more.
4. Don’t lose touch with people who make you feel genuinely at ease.
Now this one sounds like I just grandly contradicted myself. You must be confused, let me explain.
If I could have a superpower, it would be deciding who/what is important, focusing on it, and leaving the rest as memories. It is incredibly hard to decipher these things in the moment, but the best you can do is try. Who was really, truly there for you through thick and thin? Who are your friends that encourage you to be your best self, instead of complaining that you don’t give them enough time and attention? It may only be one person, or maybe a few. Those people matter, and it doesn’t take a lot to show your gratitude towards them.
You don’t have to race back to your dorm every day and call them for hours. Our world of constant communication is a blessing and curse. With new technology comes new responsibility. You are expected to call, text, and Facetime every day. You didn’t post an Instagram for your friend’s birthday? How criminal. You must have been doing something else; like talking to her or spending time with her. Unimaginable. The truth is, the genuine people in your life will not ask too much of you, all they will ask is that you show you care. Forget about a Facebook post, written cards never go out of style. Think about how special you feel when you get a written card; that is how special you should make the people that matter feel.
If they ask for more, then they are most likely asking for too much. You are human, and true friends understand they are not the center of your universe every day.
5. When it comes to friends, quality over quantity.
It’s in our human nature to feel as though surrounding yourself with as many people as possible will help you feel fulfilled and established. And when it sometimes leaves you feeling empty and like you don’t belong, it’s easy to think you are the only one who feels that way. You look at the people around you and you think, “they must feel like they belong here, I don’t feel like that. Therefore, I am the weird one.” Wrong. You are so wrong.
No one graduates or leaves a school saying “wow that group of 15 girls I met at freshman orientation will all be in my wedding”. They just don’t. Now, this isn’t me telling you to close your eyes, pick a friend, and stick with them and no one else. Being outgoing and the life of the party is a beautiful thing, especially when you are at a new school and know no one. All I’m telling you is to take a step back after your first semester and think about who was there listening to your daily mental breakdowns, bringing you coffee in the library when you haven’t slept seen the light of day in an eternity, or hiking back to the freshman bar with you at 2 am in a blizzard, because you lost your fake ID in the snow. I doubt it was 15 girls, and I’m willing to bet it was just one or two. (Shoutout to Emily Nuzzo, you da real MVP.)
6. Throw yourself whole heartedly into every new experience.
Some experiences are great, and others are not. The beauty is rejoicing in the great ones and finding the silver lining in those that are not. Hang out with someone you would definitely walk by in high school, approach the kid in class you think is cute, go to the party the night before your exam. Whatever the outcome may be, you will learn a lesson that may not seem obvious at the time, but will help you to make better decisions in the future. You owe it to yourself to live fearlessly and make the most of your college career.
So, go forth, be ballsy, and remember that although your first year away from home may not turn out exactly how you thought it would or wanted, I promise it is exactly what you need.