Image from Stocksnap.

Image from Stocksnap.

We all come into our freshman year of college with certain expectations. After all, college is supposed to be the best four years of our life. Just like anything else, as you adapt to college, you create a mental checklist of what worked and what didn’t. Here’s what I learned:

1. Always go to office hours, even if you don’t have any reason to go

Seriously. The reason for this is twofold: you want to build good relationships with your professors and you want to tackle academic problems before they start. It can be intimidating to approach your professors. After all, they’re experts in their field. What business does a lowly, intro course taking freshman have talking to them? All the business in the world. Your professors are here for you. They want to learn who you are as a person and they want to help you grow. They’re on your side.

2. Free time isn’t actually free time

When you get your final schedule, it might seem as if you have huge swaths of free time to fill with sleeping, eating, and frolicking about campus (Am I the only person who frolics? Okay.) This is an illusion. Your free time is time what should be filled with studying, chores, and self-care. There’s no need to start your day at 9 am and only get back to your dorm room at 12 am. Save the over-scheduling for when you’re an upperclassman. You don’t want to burn yourself out too early.

3. Don’t get caught up in comparisons

It’s so easy to look at the person next to you, see their wild successes, and start to believe you’re living life all wrong. Don’t. People who seem to have their lives together are usually feel as lost as you do. Also, when you compare yourself to other people, you’ll never be satisfied, no matter how successful you are. There will always be someone who’s slightly better than you in some aspect of life. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be ambitious. It only means that you have to define what success means for you and aim for that instead of comparing yourself to others.

4. It’s harder than it seems at first, but it gets better

Adjusting to college can be much harder than people make it seem. As soon as orientation, everyone’s found their BFFs and started living it up. Or so they want you to think. If life doesn’t come together the first day of college, it’s okay. Heck, even if it doesn’t come together after the first few months, that’s still okay. You’re not the only one feeling lonely and homesick. It’s hard waiting out the sad feelings, but eventually you’ll find your niche.

5. Guard your health

You and I both know the truth: the dorms are gross. No matter how vigilant you are about taking vitamins, eating healthy, and staying well, you’re still living with hundreds of people whose personal hygiene might not be up to your standards. Be proactive instead of reactive. After all, being sick is awful. Being sick in college is even worse. Have the proper medication on hand before you need it, even if you’re one of those rare people who never get sick.

6. You don’t have to do everything at once

In college, you experience a type of freedom you’ve probably never had before. While this taste of independence can be heady, try not to let it get to you. There’s no need to dye your hair pink, get a nose piercing, and start designing your first tattoo. It’s totally cool if you want to do those things, but don’t feel pressured into doing impulsive or high-risk things just because you’re in college. Don’t go home (or come back second semester) with regrets about moving too fast.

7. Ask questions

It’s great to be an inquisitive person. You should always seek wisdom from those who have been there and done that so you don’t make their mistakes. In this respect, upperclassmen are your greatest resource. They know things from experience that probably aren’t in the student guidebook. If your school has a mentoring program for first-year students, try to become a mentee. Again, upperclassmen are usually on your team. They want you to succeed without the same downfalls they experienced.

Your first year of college can be overwhelming in many completely different ways. These are the things your textbooks just can’t teach you. Do you have any advice or tips for incoming freshmen? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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