It’s that time of year again. Millions of college-bound kids are getting ready for the fresh taste of freedom. They’re packing their bags, taking their last high school road trips, and filling their Pinterest boards with dorm inspiration.
In the whirlwind of change and hurricane of activities, it’s easy to get swept away by the parties, drugs, and insanity. So how do you make sure that you not only stay true to yourself, but also do yourself justice by becoming the best version of who you can be?
1. Choose for who you want to be, while bearing who you are in mind.
Whenever you find yourself at a crossroad, facing a big decision, make the choice based on what you want to become, while considering your current limitations. For example, when choosing a university, I had been leaning towards UC Santa Barbara, knowing that I’d have heaps of fun. However, I knew how little self-control I had and I knew that in the future, I wanted to be able to be academically successful. Thus, bearing in mind my current personal attributes, I made the best choice for my future.
2. Find your balance.
While we all technically come to college to educate ourselves and get degrees, there’s an undeniably fun partying side of college as well. Even if that’s not your thing, there are plenty of social activities as a result of the vastly varying clubs and people that are part of college campuses. Learn to balance your time between work and play. For me, that entails working on weeknights and partying on the weekends. It means that I finish all my work and studying during the week, working tirelessly during the day, so that on the weekends I can go out without having to worry about that essay due next week.
3. Learn to say no.
While it’s difficult to say no to that Monday night party even when you have a big midterm the next day, sometimes it’s even harder to say no when people ask you to take on responsibilities. After all, you want to seen as the responsible, competent individual that you are. Yet sometimes, you need to take a step back and realize how much you can personally take on. It’s better to do one thing well than a thousand things poorly.
4. Surround yourself with people who improve you.
It’s not high school anymore. You don’t need frenemies tearing you down and you don’t have to deal with judgmental girls glancing your outfits up and down. Regardless of your social group and stratum in high school, college is a time to surround yourself with people who improve you. Who you surround yourself with defines who you become. That means people who make you happy, people who motivate you, and people who love you for you. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have friends you just party with, but they shouldn’t be the people who you spend the majority of your time with. In some lucky cases, the ones who improve you are also the ones who will dance on top of tables with you.
5. Take care of your body.
I learned the hard way that getting physically ill can really make your entire life come to a grinding halt. Take care of yourself and make sure that you are healthy. While it may be a little more upkeep on a daily basis, it will be well worth it when everyone in your dorm comes down with the common cold and you can still go about business as usual.
6. Take care of your mind.
While taking care of your body is essential, attending to your mind is just as crucial. College is an insane time period wherein your hormones are still running rampant and many of you are becoming independent for the first time in your lives. It’s natural that these changes will bring about changes in your brain chemistry as well. Anxiety, depression, and eating disorders are all perfectly common for college-aged students. Don’t be ashamed to admit that you may need mental healthcare. After all, many colleges provide counseling services free of charge.
As cliché as it sounds, college is a time to make mistakes. I’m not saying that drunk driving in the middle of the night is advisable, but going back to balance, if you have everything in place, a middle of the night road trip to a town an hour away isn’t going to hurt anyone. Take that beer brewing class you want to take. Ask that cute girl on the park bench out for coffee. Discover. Explore. Make mistakes. You may just make one that changes your entire life.