As a senior in college (already?!?) I feel like my freshman year happened a super long time ago, and at the same time I feel like I was a freshman in college yesterday. Every year of my college experience has been really different, and every year I’ve grown an incredible amount.
I feel like this is not just about what I wish I knew my freshman year of college, but also what I wish I knew when I was 18 and just starting to get a feel for the real world.
Growing up is scary and exciting. I think the best thing you can do when you’re young is just embrace everything that’s happening around you, even the awkward moments and the anxiety-inducing ones.
So, here it goes. What I wish I knew my first year of college.
Trust your instincts. But also be open-minded. It’s good to be picky about your friends and who you spend the most of your time with, but also remember to hold back any assumptions about a person until you get to know them a little better. If something inside you is still ringing that warning bell after, trust it.
Don’t over-schedule yourself. Yes, you want to get involved and start making a way for yourself. Get involved, but please don’t overdo it. Don’t take more classes than you have to, don’t go to club meetings everyday and don’t say yes to everything. You’ll be way better off if you give yourself time to breathe.
Don’t compromise on sleep. My freshman year, I was constantly sick. The biggest reason why was because I wasn’t get getting enough sleep. I would go to bed way too late, wake up for my eight a.m. class, and then go exercise after (sometimes I would exercise even when I was sick). Don’t be like freshman year me. Go to bed at a decent hour, at least on weekdays. Weekends are fair game.
You don’t have to drink to have a good time. Okay, I’ve always known this, but a lot of people go into college thinking that the only way to have fun is to drink. And it’s really not. There’s nothing wrong with drinking, but there’s nothing wrong with not drinking either. Don’t let people try to fool you into thinking that something is wrong with you if you either drink or don’t. Do what’s best for you. Go out! Or don’t! Do what you want.
School is not everything. School is important, of course, and you should be going to class and making an effort. But school is temporary, and one day not so far in the future, you will enter the Real World™. You know what else is important besides grades? Making connections, friends and memories. Do your homework, but don’t make it your whole life.
Listen more. You know that saying about actually listening, and not just waiting for your turn to talk? Do that. Listen to yourself when you talk too – do you talk about yourself too much? Do you ask other people how they’re doing? Make an effort to reach out to others, and actually listen when they decide to open up. If you’re not empathetic, work on it.
Be kinder. Let me tell you, kindness goes so far. To me, being a good person is so much more important than being smart or popular or whatever. Be nice to people, it’ll make them smile, and probably you too. Everyone has their own problems and pain that they’re dealing with, and they don’t need a rude stranger/friend/coworker to add to their load.
Practice being observant. Be aware of your surroundings. Watch out for creepy people, keep an eye on your drink, don’t walk alone at night if you can help it, etc. Watch out for yourself and your friends, reach out to your friends if they’re not acting themselves and stay safe.
Use your campus resources. Struggling with mental illness? There’s usually a counseling center that can help if you feel like you need to get help. Having trouble looking for an internship? Ask a professor to help, or go to the career center (most colleges have one). There are a lot of different things on campus that are there to help students. Use them. You’re paying all this money anyway, so you might as well.
Don’t be afraid to take out student loans. I probably should’ve put this as the first one, actually. Very few people can afford to pay their way completely through college. I go to a private university, and even though I have scholarships, I still need student loans. There is nothing wrong with taking out a loan! It is better to be in debt and have an education (so you can get a job that doesn’t pay minimum wage and you can pay back your loans quicker), then to not be in debt with no education at all. There is also nothing wrong with going to a community college at first. If you want to go to school, do it. Take out loans and apply for all the scholarships you can.
Okay, I know that was a lot, but college can be crazy. During these next four years, you’ll have more highs and lows than you can imagine, and at the end, you’ll barely recognize freshman year you. And that’s a good thing.