No doubt, this is a scary time for you. Everything you have ever known is about to come to a close as you are prepared to enter an entire new world. This is terrifying and exciting all at the same time. Some of you are so unbelievably excited to leave high school far behind you, and some of you are worried that these will be the best days of your life so you are clinging to it like it’s a lifeline. Some of you have a detailed plan laid out for your future, and some of you plan to just wing it. Some of you will be off to college and some of you will be entering the work force head on. Some of you are more than ready to move on, and some of you can’t seem to let go. Then of course, there are those of you trapped in the middle. This is what I wish I could go back and tell myself when I was in your shoes. This post is for those of you preparing to engage in a whole new adventure; college.
While many people are choosing a different route, I chose to start college right after high school. Whether that is the right decision depends on you. While it is expensive and stressful, it does have it’s benefits. The main one being that you are able to practice your “grown up” life, while being able to work out the kinks and make mistakes. My advice? Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up. Get a job if you must, but don’t work yourself to the point of exhaustion. The memories you make in college will be far more important than money in the long run; you have the rest of your life to work. Enjoy the time you spend you here, because you won’t get it back.
Your freshman comes with new experiences and more freedoms than you have ever had before. You will go through so many friends, it will make your head spin. This is normal. You start by clinging to anyone you can find, because the pressure to make new friends is hot and heavy. You will make a lot of friends your first week, but many of these don’t last very long. Don’t get too caught up in this; it’s normal. As a junior in college, many of the friends I made freshman did not make it to my junior year. You will find your people and will make several friends along the way. This past year, I have made more friends than any other; always be open to meeting new people, because it’s never too late to make new friends.
Many of you will find yourselves needing a job, which can be extremely stressful. The key is to find a balance between work, school, and fun. This can be harder than it sounds, but there are some things you can do to make it easier. First off, there are many jobs where you can do homework. Whether it’s a desk job, or a store that has a lot of down time, ask potential employers if you can work on things during dead periods. I got majority of my homework done while working at a desk answering the phone. Because the phone rarely rang, and when it did it was usually a short conversation, I had several hours of quiet time to do my homework. Plus, I got paid for it! Another way is to get a job you enjoy, so it doesn’t feel so stressful. If you get a job you can look forward to, it becomes a stress reducer rather than and added stressor. I absolutely love my current job, and look forward to the days I go in to work. The busy lifestyle is far more bearable when you have fun for a good portion of it.
It is perfectly okay to not know what you want to do. I switched my major four times throughout college before settling on one. It took me forever to decide what I wanted to do, but I’m glad that I decided to explore different options. This helped me to make sure I was majoring in something I really wanted. Explore different career paths until you find the one that speaks to you. I have one year of college left, and guess what; I still am not 100% sure of what I want to do when I grow up. That’s okay. This is the time to explore your options, do your research, and find what you love. Don’t take these years for granted, because they will be hard to come by again.
Your first semester is going to be so hard. There are so many adjustments to make and all these new freedoms that come with them. Many take different paths; some never go out and others never stay home. Both are fine; just make sure you have your priorities in order, whatever they may be. Just make sure you give yourself a chance to adjust; don’t get too overwhelmed with doing everything exactly right, because none of us know what we’re doing. Even the upperclassmen. Don’t think you’re the only one worried about how to use the dining hall or finding your classes; I guarantee every other freshman is feeling the exact same way. Don’t be afraid to ask questions from others; that can be the best way to meet new people.
People aren’t paying nearly as much attention to you as you think they are. This isn’t high school anymore; no one is going to judge you for eating lunch alone. We have all sat by ourselves for some reason or another, we have all had to turn around because we were walking the wrong way, and we have all searched the wrong parking lot for our car. People aren’t going to make fun of you for every little thing anymore. If we happen to laugh, chances are it’s because we have been in the same situation at one point or another. Don’t sweat the small stuff; it’s not the end of your social life.
Nearly every class has that one person, who is late EVERY DAY. Don’t be that person. It’s distracting, disruptive, and rude. While we all oversleep or get stuck in traffic at some point, don’t be the person who is chronically late. If this starts to happen, set your alarm a little earlier or find ways to shorten your morning routine. Nothing is more frustrating than that one kid that is ten minutes late every single class period. Speaking of being late, save your questions about the beginning announcements until after class, because the rest of us don’t want to sit through them again. Either ask your professor after class, or ask someone around you. You’re classmates will appreciate much more than you think. Also, make sure to familiarize yourself with your professors’ attendance policies, because most of them have developed their own. Make a note of this; it will come in handy later.
Be honest with your professors. I’m sure many of your teachers have been trying to scare you by telling you that college professors don’t care. That’s a lie. They want you to succeed and they want to help you. Just be honest with them; most of them are far more understanding than any high school teacher I’ve ever had. Miss class because you overslept? Tell them what happened. They’ll be far more forgiving. Too upset or anxious to make your afternoon class? Tell your professor that. You don’t have to give them details if you don’t want to; they understand that we all need personal days sometimes. Don’t listen to your high school teachers when they talk about college professors; they care far more than you are led to believe.
Cut yourself some slack. College can be a lot to take on, so give yourself a break once in a while. Don’t cut class every day, but you can give yourself a day. Don’t obsess over going to sleep on time every night; stay up late up with your friends on a Tuesday. The memories you make will be worth so much more than you think, especially the simple times.
Lastly, YOU DO NOT NEED TO ASK TO GO TO THE BATHROOM. It’s the unwritten rule that many freshmen go back and forth with the first time they need to leave during a class. Just get up and slip out of the room quietly. You don’t need permission. You’re an adult; you can pee when you want to. Enjoy yourself and have fun. It’s a wonderful part of your life that goes by far faster than you expect. Take advantage of opportunities that come your way and figure out who you want to be. Keep being your perfectly imperfect selves and cherish the time you spend in college. It’s a blast!