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5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Freshman Year of College

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This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

College is a lot of fun and presents the opportunity to take courses you are interested in, meet new and different people, and become an independent adult.

However, many things about college surprised me, and I wanted to share five things I wish I had known before my first year. 

Having structure is important

Like many high school students, my life often felt overly structured. I was in numerous clubs, played sports after school, and worked a part-time job on weekends.

Although I resented it at the time, I quickly realized that this structure made me efficient and successful. Coming into college, my class schedule was different every day.

I was not nearly as involved, and I had no commitments to anything but myself. One of the first things I recommend every student do is create a life structure for themselves.

This does not mean packing your schedule to the brim but instead creating a routine that allows for success. This can include standardizing your meal times, creating time for exercise, blocking out times decided to study, and much more.

Had I made a structure for myself, I could have managed my time better and had more time for fun things.

Making friends is hard

Although college often means many new people for you to hang out with, it can take a lot of work to make friends. I was very extroverted in high school and constantly engaged in social plans.

However, only a few of my close friends came to college with me. I needed my extracurriculars to find my people. It is okay if you have a different quality or quantity of friends as soon as you get to college.

It took years to cultivate the relationships you had before, and it is normal for it to retake more years. Do not stress yourself about finding your people. Just keep putting yourself out there!

Mistakes to Avoid as a College Freshman

Your grades may get worse

After four years, you may have started to get into your academic groove in high school. High school classes are often very structured, with daily assignments that keep you accountable for content acquisition. Often, the classes are smaller, and the writing formats stay similar over four years.

College classes are often larger, more complex, and require more self-supervision to create patterns of success. For your first semester, it is okay if you do not find academic success immediately.

Focus on learning how to study, what you like to study, and who you want to study under/with; you will find success naturally over the next few years.

Stress management is key

College may be the most stress you have felt in your lifetime. College is expensive and serious, and your grades and experiences may play a role in admissions to graduate schools and the ability to find jobs.

Academic stress will never go away, and you may face many additional emotional and social stressors. Finding what helps you manage your stress will be crucial.

Over your first semester, try exercise, art, journaling, and other self-care practices to help you help yourself. There is so much to explore in college, and you want to ensure your stress is manageable so you can continue to experience life. 

Become comfortable with yourself 

College will be one of your most significant periods of self-growth. This could be your first time away from your parents, hometown, and other consistent figures.

One of the best things you can do is become comfortable with yourself. You may experience loneliness, confusion, and other different emotions in college. As you start solidifying who you are, you will find that you are more comfortable in various spaces. Commit to finding out who you are!

Your first year will be a time to remember. I encourage you to take what other students and I say to save yourself some hard lessons.

It is okay if you fall upon hard times; we have all been there. College is just as much about learning from the low points as experiencing the highs. 

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Author: Lauryn Taylor

I am a current freshman at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill majoring in global health and the environment with a minor in medicine, literature, and culture. I am on the pre-med track and hope to become an OB-GYN. Throughout undergrad, I am hoping to study abroad, explore public health, and conduct research! In my free time, I love to write, go to art and music festivals, and spend time with friends.