1. The people you become friends with during your first couple of weeks of college aren’t all going to stay in your life, or even past your first semester of college. You’ll probably never run into most of them again, if your school is as huge as mine is. That’s alright. On the other hand, I met both of my roommates during my first day of college, so don’t dismiss new friendships as ones that won’t last. They’re my closest friends here and I couldn’t imagine life without them.
2. Try to go to the gym not to eat crap everyday. It’s so easy to fall into this routine of pizza rolls for dinner and donuts for breakfast, and hauling ass to catch the bus being the only kind of physical workout you get. Don’t do it. The freshman 15 is all too real, and your lazy habits without your parents around to police you will catch up to you really fast.
3. Study. don’t think you can bullshit through all of your midterms. There might be classes you can slide through without showing up to a single lecture, but there will also be classes that will test your ability to bend without breaking. Go to all of your classes, regardless. Some classes will do their best to break you, and you’ve got to stomach it without taking it personally. One class doesn’t define your intelligence or your future success.
4. You’re going to fail. You’re going to fail so badly that you become convinced that all you can do is drop out of college and get whatever job you can land that requires no technical skills whatsoever. It’s going to be awful. You’ll get through it. Call your best friend from back home and your dad and talk it through, and most of all, listen to yourself. Trust yourself.
5. On the flipside of all of that, remember to go out. There’ll never be a time in your life where you’re as free in terms of your schedule as you are in college. Most of you aren’t working full time jobs, and showing up to one day of classes hungover isn’t the end of the world. If you don’t have a midterm within the next week and you’re pretty caught up with your readings, call up your crew and hit the bars or the frats…or both. You’ll regret it more if you don’t.
6. From time to time, you’re going to need to be alone. So be alone. It’s so easy to forget what solitude is like when you’re constantly surrounded by other people. Explore the town and find a new coffeeshop or bookstore or park you’ve never been. disappear for a couple of hours. No one’s going to judge you for it. On the contrary, I’ve discovered that it’s something most people practice at least once a month.
7. Most college freshmen aren’t looking to date. Generally, no one wants to be tied down when they first get to college. So when you get involved with someone, be upfront with them about what you want from the beginning. Don’t pretend that you want to be casual when you’re ready for a relationship, because I’ve found that you’re the only one that’s going to get hurt in the end.
8. Get involved. Go to informational meetings for anything and everything, and throw yourself into what you love from the start. I made the mistake of avoiding all extracurriculars during my first semester of college, and it drove me crazy. When I joined a service fraternity and engineering council this semester, I was a thousand times more sane than I had been then. It seems like an enormous commitment in the beginning, but when it’s something you’re passionate about that you get to share with people as passionate as you are, it doesn’t feel like an extra responsibility.
9. Don’t take too many classes all at once. I’m engineering, pre-med, and it was easy for me to get caught up the mindset that I always need to be doing more than I’m currently doing to stay on track. Here’s something that not that many people tell you from the beginning: it’s okay to not graduate in four years. Don’t kill yourself if everything you want to do simply can’t fit in eight semesters. From where I’m standing, I’m going to take an extra semester to graduate, and I’ve come to terms with that. I accept it if it means I can take a manageable number of classes each semester instead of drowning in a pool of tears and sweat and exhaustion.
10. College, like pretty much every other aspect of life, is 100% what you make of it. If you put your mind to succeeding, you will. You’re not alone, and there are people around you always willing to lend you a helping hand. Contrary to popular belief, not all of your professors are assholes. Go to office hours and make friends with your TAs. Don’t let your pride get in the way of your education. Absorb as much as you can, because your time in college will be over before you know it.