While it may be cliché, hindsight is 20/20 — especially when it comes to your first year of college. Everything is new, exciting and a little bit scary for many reasons, but mainly because you have a lot of freedom. What’s overlooked, though, is that with freedom also comes responsibility in terms of your grades, social life and well-being. Almost everyone will tell you the same generic advice: to study, get to know your professors, be social and experience new things. The advice in this article may also be generic, but sometimes a reminder is just what’s needed.
Take Care of Yourself
The last thing you want to do is be sick your entire freshman year (trust me, it is possible to do), especially when you are away from home, don’t have someone to take care of you and the walk to Student Health isn’t fun — even when you aren’t sick. It is not uncommon for there to be a nasty cold going around the freshmen class at the beginning of the year, since your normal habits and routines change. It seems pretty obvious, but, wash your hands, be mindful of your hygiene and try not to share drinks. Another big thing is food and exercise. As a freshman, you have unlimited meal swipes, which is a blessing and a curse. Even though your mom is not here to nag you about eating fruits and vegetables, make sure you eat well. Your diet will affect how you feel and your performance in classes. Also, make a habit of exercising such as by going to the WoodPEC; it is a great way to stay healthy and reduce stress.
The biggest piece of advice I can give to any freshman is to make sure you are getting enough sleep. It can be hard to do when you are either up late studying or hanging out with friends, but you need to find a way to balance everything. Even though it may be hard to convince yourself to do, when it is getting too late and you need to wake up early, just go to bed. No one will make fun of you for going to bed before 10 p.m., in fact, many people will be jealous. Remember: coffee is your friend, but it does not mean you no longer need to sleep.
Learn and Get Something Out of Each Class You Take
This may seem pretty obvious, but try and learn something while you are here. Oftentimes, students get so caught up in doing well in a class that they don’t actually learn anything; they just purge all of the material after the final. Each class and teacher has something different to offer you — a new perspective on life, an understanding of different cultures and societies, fluency in another language or insight into what your passion might be. Learn for the sake of learning and becoming a more well-rounded person, and not just for a 4.0 on a transcript.
Explore different classes. If you are pre-med, take a political science class. If you are an English major, take a psychology class. At no other time in your life will you have this opportunity, so take as many different classes as you can. Exploring different classes will also help you find what you are passionate about and want to major in. Many times, students take classes for what they think they want to major in, only to find out that they hate it. Be open minded and don’t be the boring student who only takes classes from one or two departments.
Study and put effort into your classes. The last thing you want to do is dig yourself into a GPA ditch that you spend the next three years trying to climb out of. One of the best ways to do well in class is to go to class, even if attendance does not count or the class seems easy; it helps your grade and it means a lot to teachers to see a full class of students instead of empty chairs.
Social Life Is Important, but It’s Not Everything
Your first few weeks of college can be scary; you are surrounded by thousands of people you don’t know, and you are trying to make friends. As trite as it sounds — be yourself. You will find people who like you for you; it may take some time, but it will happen.
Go to clubs and meetings for different organizations, even if you know nothing about them, because you may end up loving them. You get to meet new people with similar interests and may do something that isn’t academic, whether it be a participating in a service project, learning to ballroom dance or joining a book club. Joining clubs is also a great way to meet upperclassmen, who are great resources to help you through college.
Weekend social life does not have to revolve around the Row. If you like going to parties, then great. If frat parties aren’t your thing, then that’s great too. Spend your time the way you like, and not the way others do. There may be an overwhelming sense of FOMO (fear of missing out), but just ignore it. If your friends are going out, but you want to stay in your dorm and watch Netflix, then do that. There are as many opportunities to go out as there are to stay in. Experience both. Try to find what works for you and don’t feel pressured to go out or to stay in. Also, if you have any preconceptions about Greek Life, stay neutral until you experience it or meet people who are in fraternities or sororities, because you may change your opinion once you get to know them.
Even though you are surrounded by thousands of students, you don’t need to always be with friends or other people. It is okay to be alone sometimes, to eat at the DUC by yourself or to do something without a friend. It is okay to spend a stressful day after classes in your dorm room by yourself if you need a break. Some freshman think that they can’t eat at the DUC unless they have someone with them, when in fact it doesn’t matter and no one thinks less of you for it. If you ever hesitate going to a club meeting because you don’t have someone going with you, do it anyways and make friends with the people you meet.
You Have Four Years Ahead of You
We spend almost all of high school working on getting into college and now you are finally here, so enjoy it. College will inevitably have its ups and downs, and you’ll have to accept that. A lot of the time, there isn’t much you can do to avoid the downs, but you will get through them.
First, you don’t need to have your life or even your major figured out yet. You have four years ahead of you to do that, so for now focus on finding yourself instead of finding your profession. Once you find who you are, finding what you will do with your life kind of just falls into place.
Second, keep everything in perspective. One bad grade on a quiz you took freshman year is not something to feel bad about when you have so many more quizzes, exams and classes ahead. One bad day, week or even month isn’t that big of a deal when you realize that you have four years to make the good outweigh the bad. Remember that college is a marathon and not a sprint, and that people always tend to remember the good and not the bad.
Third, understand that you are human. You are going to make mistakes and not always do as well as you want, whether it be in classes, with friends or anything else, and that is okay. Learn from your mistakes and move on.
With all of that being said, a lot of your freshmen year is trial and error. There is no universal step by step guide for the perfect freshmen experience, but that just means you get to create your own path. Enjoy freshman year — the time to make mistakes and learn from them, to reinvent yourself or discover who you are, to learn, to experience new things and take on new challenges and to create lifelong friendships and memories. So, cheers to your freshman year and the life changing experiences ahead.