All good things must come to an end and that includes one’s college career. After almost four years of successes, failures, adventures and mistakes, I’ve learned a great deal of things that would have made the transition to college easier. While there is much more to be said, if I could give my freshman self a little advice, this is what I would share.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
People like to put absurd requirements on themselves during college. Whether it’s maintaining a perfect GPA, finding the perfect group of friends, or having plans every night of the week, people try to make sure that they fit everything in during their four years. However, life rarely goes according to plan. Some nights it will seem like all of your friends are ignoring you. Some midterm grades will come back lower than you had hoped. The group of friends you meet during freshman year may not be your friends during senior year. All of this is perfectly fine and it happens. After all, college is merely a part of life. Some of your joys will come later on.
Don’t expect too much from college
I remember certain aspects of freshman year vividly. Many of my classmates expected college to be the best years of their lives and that everything would be perfect because they had done well in high school and received admission to their dream school. And then we took our first round of midterms. College isn’t going to be perfect and simply attending one will not make you any better than the person you were before you arrived. I like to think of college as more of a tool. It can only be valuable to you if you make use of it. College is not going to be a magical place where suddenly everything makes sense and you are set of the rest of your life. It’s a place where you will make mistakes, fail, laugh, cry, figure things out and realize you know even less than you thought you did. However, at the end of it, you will come out slightly more prepared to live as an independent adult. That alone means something.
Don’t join anything because you feel like you must
The majority of social clubs you join during college will have very little to do with helping to place you in a job. There seems to be a purveying myth among undergraduates that joining and leading a number of clubs will get you better jobs or into better grad schools. That’s what I thought as a freshman. The reality is that social clubs don’t yield as much power as the ones that got you into college did. Instead, focus on joining one or two things that you like to do. College is too short to inundate your free time with things you hate in hopes of impressing other people.
Go to class
This may seem like an obvious step for some readers, but here’s the thing. In college, no one will force you to go to class. Some classes require attendance, but even then you can choose whether or not you are willing to sacrifice 10% of your grade for an afternoon nap. Regardless of whether or not your professor will care, YOU should care about going to class. It is, after all, the reason you are in college. If you don’t go to class, you might as well save $20,000 and read a book in your parent’s house. On a more extrinsic note, going to class and paying attention will save you time outside of class and will have a positive impact on your grade. I can’t count the number of times professors offered extra credit on random days because most of the class was absent.
Procrastination will destroy you and motivation will sustain you
In college, nothing gets done unless you do it (or have amazing friends). It’s better to operate under the assumption that you will be doing everything for yourself. If you want a good grade, you’ll need to give yourself ample amount of time to study. If you want food, you’ll have to go to the dining hall or make it yourself. If you want to wear clean clothes, you’ll have to do your own laundry. If you need medicine, you’ll have to crawl to the nearest pharmacy. Whenever possible, it’s a good idea to plan ahead for the future. Study for the test at least a week in advance. Pick up extra produce from the dining hall on your way out in case you get hungry later. Do your laundry before you run out of clean underwear. Buy over the counter medicines before you get sick. Being proactive will save you several headaches in the long run.
Don’t be afraid to lean on others
Part of being an adult means learning your limits. To grow, it is truth that we must push the boundaries of these limits, however it is also okay to seek outside support when you are pushed to the breaking point. When my grandpa passed, I did my best to keep working as though nothing was wrong because I thought that was the “adult thing” to do. Luckily, I had very sympathetic classmates who noticed that something seemed off about me and allowed me to express my grief. Doing this actually helped me heal. When you feel as though something is too much to bear, don’t hesitate to tell a trusted friend, professor or university counselor. Not only will they provide emotional support, but they may be able help you receive reprieve from the administration as well.
Although I can’t actually give advice to my freshman self, I can hope that this advice will help college freshman long after I graduate. College is a special time to learn, grow and develop as an individual. I hope you take time to enjoy college for everything it is and everything it can be. Good luck future freshman!