You probably have some idea of what college will be like. You’ve seen the campus you’ll be walking around, you’ve seen photos of parties and football games on Instagram via your university’s popular hashtags, and the guy you vaguely knew in high school who goes there posts about his experience on Facebook. Besides, you’ve seen plenty of movies, read plenty of books, and scrolled through numerous articles about what college will be like. Surely, it will be amazing. Except sometimes, it doesn’t really feel that amazing. Here are 4 ways your freshman year might be different from what you thought, and why that’s completely OK.
1. Your roommate might not become your new best friend
Recently, I’ve seen several articles online that imply that your roommate is one of your best friends in college by default. While your roommate could be someone you love hanging out with, it’s not guaranteed to happen. You might get along well enough with your roommate, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be insta-BFFs, either. Some roommates simply don’t get along, while others get along well.
Why it’s OK
Sure, it might be annoying, frustrating, or upsetting to have negative experiences with your roommate. But even if you don’t really like your roommate, try communicating with them about what matters to you in terms of your room (i.e. does it bother you when people stay the night? Do you like your room to be super clean? etc.). If that doesn’t work and you’re having serious conflicts with your roommate, talk to your RA. Remember that not everyone is best friends with their roommate (many people are not), and you can meet friends many other places.
2. You might struggle to find your place
Again and again, I read that making friends in college is easy. This is true in some ways, but I don’t think “easy” is really the right word. I’ve heard a lot of people suggest that you can easily make friends by getting involved on campus. I joined several organizations right away and while I liked the people in those organizations and talked to them at meetings, I didn’t hang out with them outside of those meetings. I also met friends in classes, but it took time for those friendships to develop. You will probably meet many people, but don’t worry about finding exactly where you fit in right away. I would say I met quite a few close friends during my first year, but with most of them, it took time for the friendships to develop.
Why it’s OK
College is a learning experience. You shouldn’t walk onto campus and learn everything there is to learn within the first week, just as you shouldn’t find exactly where you want to be right away. It might take time to figure out what organizations you want to be involved in, who you want to hang out with, and how you want to spend your time. Explore your college, talk to people, and know that you aren’t “forever alone” because you haven’t formed an everlasting bond with the people in your 8 a.m. psych lecture.
3. Dorm life (and your social life) might not be what you expected
Because of movies and books (and orientation programs), I was convinced that dorm life would be interesting, everyone would keep their doors open, and I’d have super cool hallmates who would pull witty pranks on a regular basis. No such luck for me. Dorm life was not interesting, people shut their doors after a week or so, and I never even got to know the people who lived near me. I also thought my social life would be interesting and there would be something going on all the time. There were things going on most of the time, but I didn’t know about them until later in the year, and I didn’t really have people to go with until later in the year. Your social life and dorm experience could be amazing. Or they could be, well, less than that.
Why it’s OK
Your social life will improve as you meet more people and become more familiar with your campus. Your dorm experience could improve later in the year once everyone is more adjusted, you might not like your dorm, or you might not like dorm life in general. Regardless, your feelings are valid, and even if you don’t like dorm life, you can find other ways to get involved on campus and have fun.
4. You might feel lost
“What am I doing with my life?” could be a common thought. You might go to your classes in the major you thought you were so certain of and think, “can I really do this? Do I really want to do this?” You might question yourself again and again. You might change your mind, then change it back, then change it back again. You might feel lost, confused, and uncertain about numerous different things.
Why it’s OK
Maybe it sounds annoying, but I’ve learned that getting lost is really just part of college. As I’ve outlined above, college experiences vary. But I believe this is something everyone deals with at some point, at least a little bit. At some point, you might doubt yourself. You might feel like you’re not smart enough. You might feel like you don’t know what you’re doing or why you’re even in college or what you even want to achieve. You might sit on your twin XL bed on a Friday night, taking a Netflix break and scrolling through that guy from high school’s frat party photos thinking, “what am I even doing with my life?” And when I tell you that’s OK, you might not believe me. But it’s true; you don’t go to college to already have your life completely together when you step on campus. You don’t go to college to never change your mind. You don’t go to college to stay exactly where you were, just in a new location.
If adjusting gets too stressful or tough at some point, talk to someone, whether it’s a family member, a close friend, an on-campus resource, or another resource. Many people struggle during their first year of college, and you are not abnormal or alone.
During your freshman year, you’ll question yourself. You’ll feel a little lost, a little unsure. You’ll make mistakes, but you’ll learn and you’ll continue to grow.