1. Everyone has a story.
The girl who parties every night of the week, the girl who posts the cutest pictures of her with allll her new friends, the guy who “has it all together” — everyone you will meet has a story. What you initially perceive may not be an accurate representation of a person. It can be really easy to make snap-judgments of new people you will meet. I’ve learned that no matter what first impressions people give, it pays to give them a second look. After all, isn’t that what you hope people do when they meet you as well? Taking time to get to know different people with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs can only grow you as a person.
2. Social media is not reality.
The transition into freshman year of college is hard enough without perceiving how your classmates from high school are getting through it “so much better than you are”. Between learning how to use the communal laundry machine, acing your classes that are now curved to a 2.5, and figuring out how to talk to cute, college boys without spilling your drink all over your shirt- it can be a real challenge. Thanks to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter we don’t only hear from our high school classmates on winter vacation when we return home, but rather have access to a day-to-day mental image of them living it up. You will see the girl you used to know so well, surrounded by frat boys on her sorority formal during the moments you are curled up in bed on a Friday night because you just got home from a long day of work. You don’t however, see the aftermath of the night, or see that she is also struggling to feel like she fits in. Social media is a billboard and people only put up what they WANT people to see. Comparing can be easy but don’t be deceived. You are not less than anyone because they have more likes on that picture. They don’t feel any more confident about how to handle this whole “college thing.”
3. Be true to your moral compass.
Not going to sugar coat anything here- college freshman year is an awkward stage. You are definitely not 21, but most of the time there aren’t any adults around to tell you so. You have only yourself to keep the morals you have set, and to respect those around you who have made different choices. In addition to that- it’s important to know that drinking is not all that it is cracked up to be. People get hurt and get sick and that’s something nobody talks about. You really won’t miss out if you choose not to drink. Live your truth. Also, I would like to add the importance of remaining nonjudgmental towards people who may share an opposing view from you- no matter what opinion you share. What you decide about drinking does not determine the kind of person you are- some of my best friends share different opinions and that’s what makes our friendship great.
4. “The Freshman Fifteen” is not mandatory.
Everyone has heard the classic “freshman fifteen” joke, warning you to stick to healthy habits or deal with the inevitable weight gain. The truth is, it really isn’t something that everyone goes through. As much as college is about being away from rules, a place where you can have as many cookies in the jar as you want, it also is just as much about learning to set boundaries and routines when it comes to your health. If you aren’t already motivated to stay in shape, it might help to know that at least half of your tuition is going to pay for a gymnasium made of gold that is newly at your disposable (okay maybe not made of gold but it sure is expensive). Take advantage of walking to class, going to the gym with friends, and eating well because it’s really not about what you look like. Being healthy is about preparing you for a balanced lifestyle that will keep your stress levels low and your drive to learn high.
5. Do not register for classes earlier that 10 a.m.
OK, if you’re really ambitious then I guess you could sign up for a class at 9…but good luck with that one! Joking aside, one thing to prepare yourself for is a completely different way of approaching your sleep routine. Since most high schools start around 7:30am, and you probably got up around 6 to straighten your hair or finish that project from the night before, you will be really ambitious signing up for classes your first quarter (trust me I was). The thing is that most of the time in college you tend to stay up pretty late- and if you don’t, then your roommate most definitely does. It can be hard to make sure that you are getting the right amount of sleep. I’m not actually telling you not to sign up for early classes- I am telling you that you should make sure to give yourself enough time to rest because living on a college campus can be really exhausting (an inevitable side effect of the fun you will have).
6. Time management is the key to success.
At first the college workload can seem like such a mystery. You may think, “I only have three classes per quarter- That’s it?!” You think you have a lot of time and you are confused how people don’t end up doing well in school. The thing with college is that yes- you don’t have the same 7 class schedule, but you are more responsible for your education than you have ever been. There is time for friends, fun, school, studying, working, and whatever you choose. You just have to be good about dividing up your time. For me personally, it really forced me to establish routines (when I should be studying, when it was okay to have fun with friends, etc.) I’m not saying that you have to follow a white-board schedule, heck half the fun of college is random adventures- just make sure that you balance your responsibilities all while having the time of your life.
7. You can microwave eggs – that’s all.
Did that blow your mind? Yeah it blew mine too…trust me you will learn to be really creative with your cooking when you have no kitchen and no money…HAHA.
8. The friendship ship has never sailed.
There might come a point in your first year of college, despite your living situation, when you look around and think, “I feel like everyone else has made great friendships and I still feel like I am playing catch up.” The truth is everyone has days like this. Some of my best friendships did not form within the first month of starting school- and that’s something I didn’t expect. Don’t be hard on yourself because friendships take time. Shared experiences are what lead to college friendships.
9. SAY YES.
You literally cannot mess up your freshman year with an open mind. This entire year at some point or another, I considered at least five different prospective majors. I ultimately denied all of them because I sought out opportunities that my school presented and learned from every single one. The thing with being in college is that professionals LOVE to talk about what they do- especially to those who might be interested in pursuing that career. Go on informational interviews- you might surprise yourself. This is a time in your life when you have no house payment, no kids, no problem picking up your life to move anywhere in the world: so say YES to opportunities. Say yes to what is scary- what feels unnatural. Honestly, get rid of relationships, things, mottos that are comfortable but are not helping you grow. This is your time to figure out YOU.
10. Your freshman year of college does NOT have to be the best year of your life.
Fact: you will probably hear/expect this phrase (or something similar) about 99 times during your summer between high school graduation and freshman year: “Oh my gosh, you are going to LOOVE college. Freshman year of college is the best time of your life.” You will probably expect to come into college and leave for thanksgiving vacation with your future bridesmaid party on lock down and with your entire four-year schedule planned out. The reality is that sometimes change is really hard. For me, I had days where I struggled, often comparing it to what I felt my college experience should be or how I felt other people were experiencing it. My best friend and I got closer through this experience, and we still talk about how this challenge helped us grow (as cliché as it sounds). There are so many challenges and opportunities for growth- but growth isn’t always fun either. This is not meant to deter your excitement; because don’t get me wrong my first year of college was a BLAST! This is just a statement meant to tuck away so that when you have a bad day (everyone has them) you don’t feel like the only one on the planet who considers dropping out of college and moving to a beach south of France. Get ready for a great year full of new people, amazing friendships, challenges, and don’t be too hard on yourself because you will find your way. That being said…if you go into it with a good attitude, expecting challenges along the way, you will have a GREAT year!