As for most, freshman year was the first time I was venturing outside of my home and my community long-term. It was frightening and I didn’t know what exactly to expect, but nevertheless I went through it. It wasn’t a complete mess, but it was by no means perfect with a cherry on top either. With the help of some of my peers, I’ve compiled some essential tips for your first year as somewhat of an adult.
Don’t Expect to Be BFFs with Your Roommate
Whether you and your roommate found each other through one of those extensive questionnaires or left it to chance by your campus housing, don’t get your hopes up. You’ll save yourself a lot of disappointment and headaches. Some get lucky with such a perfect roommate that they decide to live with each other all four years. Some can’t stand their roommate and live each day mustering the strength to not tear the others throat out. Most get a roommate that they can tolerate. They might not be your best bud in town, but since you’ll be living with them for a year, you can try to be civil. Know that communication is key if you want to keep a habitable space and relationship. Once you get settled in, branch out, and develop your social circle, you won’t be home much other than for the necessities.
Shower Sandals Will Save You From…Things
A communal bathroom is a first for most freshmen. More often than not, it’ll also be co-ed. That’s three to four shower stalls, toilets, and sinks you’ll be sharing with about 24-30 young adult strangers. Sure, everything gets cleaned twice or thrice a week, but you don’t know what everything’s been through in between those times! What’s on the floor? What’s on the walls? It’s probably best that you don’t know and don’t touch whatever it is… Shower shoes will be your main line of defense in combatting all the muck that’s around you in that room and in those specific stalls. Every single day is a constant battle, my friend.
Trust me when I say that you will slowly go insane by the mundanity of being solely focused on your classes and schoolwork. Sure, your grades will be gold, but you’ll miss out on opportunities, both academic and social, if you keep yourself confined. Find something in line with your interests, whether it’s an on-campus or off-campus organization. You’ll become well-adjusted to campus life and benefit from having a social outlet to not only develop some professional skills, but also keep your mind off of classes from time to time.
Seek Help When You Need It
Honestly, don’t let your ego get in the way of your being successful in your classes. If you don’t understand something, drop-in to your campus’s tutoring services or your GSI or professor’s office. Hoping that the concepts will miraculously make sense in your head by exam time is a dangerous endeavor that usually doesn’t end well. I can attest to that. Most of the time, the GSI or professor is just sitting around in their office waiting to help. The times that I have gone, I have been the only student there. This doesn’t mean that you’re dumb. It means that you’re getting ahead of the program as other students are probably having the same issue as you are. If you have the time, get to know your GSI or professor at their office hours. If you’re thinking in the slightest that you might pursue graduate school, you’ll be thankful that you did this early. I still regret not getting to know my professor and I’ve had the same one for three semesters…The earlier you get into the habit of networking/seeking help, the better off you’ll be throughout your undergraduate career and even beyond.
Never Neglect Your Health
Living apart from your family for the first time in college, you’ll need to quickly learn to do things for yourself. There will be many times where you will need to keep yourself accountable and in check as you will more than likely get caught up in the academics, extracurricular activities, and all the accompanying stress. Do your best to make time for a check-up at the doctor’s office, especially when you aren’t feeling your best. We aren’t known for the best eating and sleeping habits, so be sure you are getting your proper meals, vitamins, and sleep in. There’s no worse feeling than having to go to your 8AM class after having pulled an all-nighter on an empty stomach. If you’re planning on going out on the town and participating in some other extracurricular activities, know your limits before overexerting and endangering yourself.
Watch Your Meal Plan Points
Not a single day goes by where I don’t remember the dark, dark times I endured after splurging on snacks and left myself rationing my points over finals week. Okay, it wasn’t that dramatic…just a bit frustrating. Most schools have a meal points benchmark schedule you can follow and keep yourself on track throughout the semester. You can figure out how many meals you can afford to have in a day in the dining halls and how many points you can forgo if you eat off-campus. If you manage to find yourself short of points, keep in mind that there are three types of meal plan users: those who end up with a surplus of points, those who actually stay on track, and those who blow through their points as if they won the lottery. Chances are that you’ll have at least one friend who is dying for you to help them spend all their meal points, especially if the points don’t rollover into the next quarter/semester.
Call Home From Time to Time
You’ve left the nest and aren’t around much anymore. Of course your parents are worried. Make an effort to call home every now and then and pick up their calls. They just want to know that you aren’t dead in a ditch somewhere and how you’re holding up, academically, socially, physically, and mentally. Even if you’re still somewhat in your angst teenager phase, do your best. They mean well.
It’s Welcome Week and to many incoming freshmen, college is a time to rewrite yourself and gain a new reputation. Be that as it may, you can be more open-minded and willing to try new things, but don’t put up a façade extremely different from who you really are. More often than not, you’ll be surrounded by the wrong social group and avoided by the right one for you. College can initially be a harsh and intimidating environment where you’ll quickly find that, as cheesy as it sounds, being anything other than yourself will leave you feeling exhausted, profoundly empty, and more out of place. Be yourself and things will work themselves out.