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Image from Pexels

“Freshman Mistakes,” include but are not limited to: swiping right on Tinder for your RA, arriving 45+ minutes early to a class only to find you have been waiting in A) the wrong classroom and/or B) the wrong building, selecting “reply all” on an email that all 400 people in your lecture will subsequently read regarding your inability to understand the simple first assignment, going in for a hug at the end of a meeting with a TA, failing to get into a bar and attempting to offer the bouncer a package of Oreos located conveniently in your pocket as a bribe, etc. (unfortunately) the list continues…

Some college freshmen might justify their “mistakes” with explanations including but are certainly not limited to: “But–but I really DIDN’T recognize him {the said RA} with a beanie! Honestly, I think he looks kind of like my Dad when I see him on our floor in person”….”Ugh, the “Reply All” button is obnoxiously close to the “Reply” button. Just bad email infrastructure design on their part”….”It just felt super natural to go in for the hug after she helped me restructure my thesis statement. I’m just glad I didn’t do the “subtle cheek kiss” thing I do to my uncles when I greet them….

But the biggest “Freshman Mistake,” the mother of all evils, is unfortunately all too easy to make. A vast majority of freshmen finish up their first semester not having given themselves enough credit for all things (big and small) they’ve accomplished in their short tenure at school. This is a HUGE mistake. People new to college, newly experiencing drastic transition, deserve the opportunity to give themselves credit where credit is due.

What does this mean for freshmen? Likely without realizing it, you have accomplished an entire semester making decisions by yourself, for yourself. Simple, hygienic choices like to wear (or not to wear) deodorant and/or pants while getting ready in the morning were left up to you–for better or for worse. You likely made the choice to embrace vulnerability (and with that–clammy palms and sweaty armpits) in new social situations like asking a friend crush to study or by sitting down with a group of people you don’t know well in the dining hall. The choice to crank out an extra 45 more minutes of study time was yours. The decision to skip class for a mental health day was also left to you. On top of it all, you also had to decide what to eat for dinner every night. Whether that meant a sleeve of Chips Ahoy, a trip to the dining hall for a salad, or a slice of cold pizza–YOU MADE IT HAPPEN.

Jokes aside–the growth a college freshman experiences during first semester is immeasurable. Learning how to navigate darker emotions can be extremely difficult to handle independently. Without the reliable hand holding, back rubbing, and reassurance from support systems at home, college freshmen are left to discover, to negotiate, to assert or take a step back and access. Navigating vulnerability alone for the first time is like the bad dream where you’re alone trying to find your way home but each turn you take leads to a dead end FULL OF KIDNAPPERS AND MEAN DOGS. You feel like you’re doing all the right things and making the right turns, but it’s not quite happening. Things take longer than originally planned.

If anything, I hope college freshman take away that “getting there,” means actually taking the road not taken. In other words, there is not easy route to getting good grades. The quick way to make meaningful friendships doesn’t exist, either. In some cases, it may be more important to be social than to study.  Always, there is something to be learned from new situations–even the weird ones, the turns you never planned to take.

So, college freshmen: find a partner, take a slow running start, and give yourself a well-deserved chest bump. Congratulations. You have made it to winter break. Emphasis on break–A.K.A actually take one! You owe it to yourself after experiencing so much “new.” Freshman year is halfway over and it would be a mistake not to celebrate your recently perpetuating success as a kick-ass, real life, sexy, college-person.

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