My Advice for Your First Year in College
I’m not entirely sure what I expected college to be. I remember sitting back waiting for decisions to come out, continually hitting the refresh button in my Gmail account as my eyes diligently scanned through the heap of unattended, seemingly irrelevant digital mail that had accumulated in my inbox. None of it mattered. There had only been one topic occupying my mind for the past week–my college acceptance letter. Was I good enough? Did I show them that I deserved a spot at their university? Will they accept me? I had contemplated the answer to these questions for the past few months.
After what felt like years of waiting, a little notification appeared at the top of my inbox nudging me out of the hypnotic state I had entered; there it was. I had been accepted. I was immediately engulfed in a maelstrom of thoughts and emotions. It was within this moment that the reality of me saying my goodbyes to my current life and voyaging off to university hit me. My new life awaited.
Skimming through articles and binging YouTube videos on what to expect when entering your freshman year of college can be helpful, sure, but in no way can they provide you with the knowledge that the actual experience will instill in you.
My idea of college had been sculpted from a variety of sources – stories from my parents, movies, friends, older siblings, etc. – some likely more truthful than others. I’m the oldest sibling in my family, so I was the first one to venture out into the great unknown of the college experience. Over the course of my high school years, I felt that I was able to establish myself as a relatively self-sufficient individual in most areas of life. Except for cooking (something that I still strive to become more proficient at). Yet, even with the confidence in my abilities that I had acquired over the years, the idea of heading off to college in seven months felt like I was being thrown into something I couldn’t prepare myself for.
Skimming through articles and binging YouTube videos on what to expect when entering your freshman year of college can be helpful, sure, but in no way can they provide you with the knowledge that the actual experience will instill in you. While everyone’s journey will likely share certain elements, no two people will experience the same adventure. That being said, here are some of the takeaways from my first semester at college that I wish I could have known whilst entering the largest transition of my life.
The freedom that college will afford you with is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. Curfews, household rules/expectations, and all the other disciplinary enforcement you’ve become accustomed to over your childhood and teenage years are suddenly lifted. Want to go to bed at three in the morning after finishing a tub of ice cream? No one’s there to stop you. Want to watch TV for six hours a day after classes? The most resistance you’ll receive is the reality check when Netflix asks, “Are you still watching?” after finishing eight episodes of your favorite show. For some, this newfound liberty allows them to become a more productive and successful individual, no longer constrained by the ropes of authority. For others, such as myself, this freedom appears to be a blessing, until you realize that it was actually kind of nice to have someone watching over you ensuring that you’re staying on track with everything in life.
Generally, you spend less time in class in college than in high school, but with that comes the trade-off of having more homework. Find a dedicated period of time within your schedule to sit down and crank out that homework that will otherwise stack up with all the other homework you’ve put off. Establish a schedule for each day and write it down somewhere; it doesn’t have to be exact, but having a reminder of what you need to get done is much more effective than keeping it all in your head. It’s important that you take responsibility for yourself. While you’re not alone in this, you don’t have the guidance that you’ve likely become accustomed to. Learning to properly manage your time and energy allows you to become truly free and enjoy the newly afforded independence of college.
Explore the things that interest you but also make sure to try some things that scare you. I’m not saying to go skydiving or break the law, but rather, find an activity that intrigues you and takes you out of your comfort zone.
Explore the things that interest you but also make sure to try some things that scare you. I’m not saying to go skydiving or break the law, but rather, find an activity that intrigues you and takes you out of your comfort zone. College is huge. There are more people, more places, and more things to do; it would be a shame to let the myriad of opportunities slip away because you’re too reserved to try something new. Fulfill that desire to join an acapella group or put yourself out there and join Greek life. Comfort is a wonderful thing in moderation, but living in it breeds complacency.
There are incredible people to meet and locations to explore no matter where you find yourself. During adolescence, you’re too young to take control of your own life. Once you’re a fully grown adult, you have the responsibilities that come with being a grown-up. But now is the sweet in-between, the time to try that thing, to go to that place; find fulfillment in the risks you take and build yourself into the person you want to be. Through experimenting with activities you may have not previously considered, you can become a more well-rounded person, build up your human capital, and discover happiness in new areas of your life. Go take dance classes. Join the rock climbing team. Learn to ski. Become a member of a meditation club (100% worth it). Just do something new, and I promise you won’t regret it.
Go take dance classes. Join the rock climbing team. Learn to ski. Become a member of a meditation club (100% worth it). Just do something new, and I promise you won’t regret it.
Finally – and most importantly – enjoy your time in college. I’m only in my second semester of freshman year, but my time here has breezed by. College is truly the experience of a lifetime, and as overwhelming as it can get (like staying up until four in the morning working on computer science only to realize you’ve been working on the wrong problem set), I entirely believe college is worth the hype. I’ve already met some of my best friends here and made so many unforgettable memories. I’ve also endured some of the most stressful times in my life, but if given the chance, I would go through it all again without hesitation.
Go into college open to the idea of not knowing what to expect, because no matter how many blog posts you read, vlogs you binge, or opinions you hear, no one will have your experience. So embrace it and savor it, because before you know it, it’ll be a memory living in the past.
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