Advice for Your Freshman Year of College (From a Survivor): Part 1
August 18, 2016 Erica 1 Comment
If you read my last post, 24 Pieces of Advice for High Schoolers, you know that I’m starting my Sophomore year of college at the end of this month. So as a follow up to that post, I’m back to provide some more unsolicited advice for Freshman starting college. Congratulations! Because I very truly want to help set you up for success, and because I have plenty of advice from my own mistakes, I’m actually gonna be making this post two parts. Part I will have advice more relevant to the general college experience, and Part II will be more focused on the actual academic portion of college.
Welcome to Part I:
1. Take a deep breath.
In all honesty, my Freshman year of college was the worst year I have so far experienced in my 19 years of life. I’m not saying that to scare you, though! I promise, it had all to do with me and very little to do with my college.
I did want to mention it, however, because I think a huge part of the problem was me psyching myself out about college until things I was worried about just inevitably happened. I can’t stop you from having preconceived notions about how college is, and how your college experience is going to be, but I will tell you not to pay too close attention to them. Whether your expectations are for the better or not, you never really know how college will go for you. All I’m saying is that if your grades don’t end up where you want them to be or it takes you longer to make friends than you wanted or you don’t get into the Greek house you were aiming for, it isn’t the end of the world. Be open to your plan changing, be ready for hardships, and don’t psych yourself out.
You’re in college! You are still you and you have made it through the past however many years of your life, and you can make it through this.
Just take a deep breath.
2. Bring a sweater, some snacks, a water bottle, and an umbrella.
Have you not already been doing this? Well, maybe not an umbrella, but you’re going to need it now because your classes will be all over campus, and the rain doesn’t care about how nice you look today.
3. You can just leave?
Genuinely one of my main questions about college before I got here was about going to the bathroom. Do you still have to ask? Wouldn’t it be weird to do that in a lecture or if your professor doesn’t know you exist?? Wouldn’t it be rude to just get up and leave with no explanation???
The answer, my friends, is that you can in fact just leave. It was awkward to me at first, but if you have to leave early to get to a test or you need to go to the bathroom or your professor is just running overtime and you have places to be, just leave. Your professor isn’t going to take it personally.
If you’re in a smaller class like a seminar where the professor knows who you are, you could mention to them that you’re going to use the restroom real quick, or you could provide an explanation if you want, but that’s not necessary.
4. Extracurriculars are still a thing.
So I’m definitely not an authority on getting involved on campus, especially since I am not currently part of anything, but I can tell you it makes a great difference. Getting involved in sports or clubs or volunteer work through your school is a great way to meet other students and staff, as well as a great way to spend your time.
I don’t have a lot to say on this since we’ve all heard this age-old advice, but really, I’m already consciously working on getting involved so I don’t miss out as much as I did last year.
5. No one cares.
This one also really got me down, at first. No one takes attendance. If you don’t make an effort to point out your existence to your professor, they don’t care. That’s pretty depressing, but really you have to look at the bright side.
You’re growing as a person and you’re taking control of your interactions, relationships, and productivity. No one will interrogate you about missing class. The more important thing is that your school definitely has resources such as tutoring where people do care and are there to help. Utilize them. Ask for help, and more than likely, people will be all too happy to help you. It seems like no one cares, but I think the difference is just that you’re in charge of initiating these things. No one is going to approach you in class and ask if you understand it. Your professor doesn’t care about your grade if you don’t.
Also, go places by yourself. Be yourself. The judgement you may have been previously subjected to isn’t around anymore; people have things to do and places to be. No one cares if you aren’t dressed to the nines today or if you’re eating alone at the dining hall.
6. Call your parents.
I talk to my parents every day. All the time. It baffles me how someone can not want to talk to their parents? Anyway, I of course also understand that this isn’t exactly a popular opinion. Not necessarily out of ill will, but of course you’re going to college and you’re going to be independent, so why would you want to constantly talk to your parents?
My point, however, is that you love your parents and they love you and they want to hear about how you’re doing and it can’t be the end of the world to hear their voice and update them on what’s going on. If you actually don’t have a great relationship with your parents, just keep in touch with your siblings or your other family members or whoever else could always make you feel better or help you see reason.
Just don’t forget to call home, wherever or whoever that is.
7. You’re in charge of you.
No one is going to remind you to eat or demand that you focus on your schoolwork or make time to study! Which may sound like a good deal at first, but listen, self-discipline is hard. I get that the party sounds awesome or that new episode is just begging for your attention, but the party won’t help you pass this class, and the episode will be there once you’ve finished your work.
That’s not to say that you should completely throw yourself into your work and never do anything fun, either. Everything in moderation, friends.
8. Don’t take an 8AM class.
Seriously. Don’t do it. You know yourself, and I know you may have been able to force yourself to high school at a ridiculous hour of the morning, but things are different now. Unless you are genuinely a morning person, someone who wakes up at 7AM on weekends and over the summer and gets to being productive at that hour of the morning, don’t take an 8AM class.
9. Carry your ID everywhere.
Oh, what’s that? You wanted to eat at the dining hall? Student ID. You want to get into your dorm building? Student ID. Health center visit? ID. Turning in a test? ID!
You and your ID are essentially one, so take it with you everywhere. I wouldn’t suggest a lanyard just because it can be annoying to get the card out for swiping. I personally carry mine around in my wallet, which doubles as a wristlet, which I think was a fantastic decision because it is very easy to carry everywhere.
10. Work in pieces if you need to.
Don’t be afraid to take breaks while you work! Just getting something done is better than nothing, I promise. If the immensity of a project is stopping you from starting, remember that you don’t need to do everything at once!
A job half done is better than a job not done at all! Get to it!
11. You probably don’t need the unlimited food plan…
To my knowledge, most universities either require Freshman to get the Unlimited Meal Plan or “highly recommend” it. If you’re stuck with it, this isn’t really relevant to you, but if you have a choice, avoid it. I mean, there are some people that really could eat an unlimited amount of food, but more likely getting the cheaper plan that allows a certain number of visits to the dining hall per week is a better plan.
12. You may no longer be the smartest person in the room.
That sounds pretentious, but what I mean is that you shouldn’t get discouraged if you don’t stand out as much as you’re used to or if you find yourself more challenged than ever. First of all, the challenge is a good thing. Second of all, you now attend a school of people who willingly decided to be there as opposed to a school of people just getting thrown together based on location. Your college will be filled with plenty of like-minded and talented people, don’t let it discourage you.
Embrace it! Grow together, learn together. There will always be someone somewhere who is better than you at something, it’s not a big deal. Life isn’t a competition.
13. Comparison Kills: College Edition
This is a reference to my previous Comparison Kills post, but really it’s an important lesson for any point of your life. A major problem I had my Freshman year was comparing my experience to that of other people. In my mind, everyone else was adjusting fantastically and having the time of their lives while I was falling apart.
Except I have no idea what was happening in other people’s lives just as they had no idea what was happening in mine. I saw what they wanted me to see; no one is going to post about the awful time they’re having with college. They’re going to post about the half an hour or so they spent with new people because everything is great, Internet!
I was essentially comparing my Behind the Scenes reel to other people’s Highlights, which is absolutely ridiculous. Don’t let other people’s seeming indifference or lack of hardships get you down, you can’t really know what anyone is going through.
Just take it one day at a time, and if you really can’t stop yourself from comparison, remember that I for one had a horrendous Freshman year, too.
You’re not alone.
14. Map out where your classes are.
Please love yourself. Figure out where your classes are and how to get from one to another before actual class day. Save yourself the stress.
15. Use the Health Center.
Your school most likely has a health center of some sort! Utilize it! Young adulthood is when most mental illnesses are diagnosed, and a lot of the time you can get free appointments with Psychiatrists and Counselors through your school. Take care of yourself.
That’s a wrap on Part I, so for more advice you can find Part II here.