Dear College Freshmen
Updated: Mar 15, 2019
Congrats graduating class of "We made it." I know you are so stoked to finally be out of the prison called high school and are ready to move on into adulthood. Many students will continue their education at a university, but the problem is that they have no idea what to really expect. Television has portrayed college as one big party with unlimited alcohol and a few classes here and there. But this isn't the case at all. Here are a few tips that I wish I had been given before I came to college.
1. You will not make it if you do not study.
Many students, like myself, were able to coast through high school with good grades without ever having to study a day in their lives. Unfortunately, those days are over. You may think that you can make it through that Basic Health class without ever having to open a book or take notes, but you will be very surprised on exam day when you don't know even half of the answers. College isn't for people to exhibit what they already know, but for them to learn more so that they can use that knowledge later on in their career. You will be given new uncharted material, or even old material that is presented in a new light. Regardless, you won't know everything, so crack open that book, grab a highlighter, and get busy.
2. Going to class is important.
Most schools have attendance policies just like any high school, but they are mercilessly strict on their students. There is no "attendance recovery" in college. Most professors will work with you if there is a valid reason for you missing their class. And by valid, I mean real health or family issues, not exhaustion or stress because if they took those excuses, there wouldn't be a need to hold lectures. If you miss too many days, then it's an automatic F on your GPA, which can easily cause you to lose your scholarship. Mom and dad wouldn't be too happy with you after that one. Also, a lot of what shows up on exams comes from what the professor emphasizes in lecture. They are the ones that prepare you for the test, not the actual text book. Plus, it is completely insane to spend all that money to go to college and not go to class. What's the point?On an opposing note, some professors don't bother with attendance at all. THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT YOU SHOULD SKIP THEIR CLASS. This just gives them less of a reason to help you when you're in trouble.
3. Eating can become stressful.
If you're anything like me, you hate eating alone. It's just uncomfortable and you feel like you're being judged by everyone in the dining hall for not having a companion to scarf down the new "waffle creations" with. It doesn't matter how tight your friend group is; there will come a time when all of your friends seem to have something going on that is preventing them from having dinner with you-- whether it's class, a job, a sorority event, etc., it'll happen. It's okay though, everyone will go through this at some point, and after a while, it can even become enjoyable. If I have a gap between two morning classes, I like to grab a coffee and bagel and mess around on my computer until my next lecture. It gives you the much needed "me time" that is often a rarity when living in a dorm.
4. Headphones are a life saver.
Never leave your dorm without a pair of headphones. The walk to class is much more bearable if you can have a mini jam session before having to go to an 8:00 AM three hour lab with Professor Comb Over who likes to laugh at his own jokes...It also helps you when you're running late. My campus may have 6,000 people, but it feels like I see only the same 25 every time I leave my room. This seems especially true when you are running late. They only ever want to stop and talk to you if you are running super behind. If you have your headphones in, you can shoot them a little smile and wave and keep power walking to your class on the opposite side of campus.
5. Greek life is a part of college whether you like it or not.
It is a fact that Greek life is not for everyone. You don't have to like it or agree with it, but you should learn to accept it QUICKLY. The community is more prominent on campus than you may initially realize, so think twice before you mouth off to the new companion you met in line at the coffee shop. They may be part of the community that you are currently bashing.
6. Give Greek life a chance.
Before I left for college, I said that hell would freeze over before I joined a sorority. I wasn't the "sorority girl" type; I couldn't afford it; it was too much estrogen in one chapter room. I made so many excuses as to why Greek life wasn't for me and ignored all of the reasons why it might be the right fit-- leadership opportunities, community service, an unbelievable support system, an outlet for my skills, etc. It took me a semester, but I finally came around. It explains why winter was so cold that year...
7. Your roommate will not always be your best friend.
You guys may be super close the first few weeks of school, but it doesn't always stay that way. And it's okay if it doesn't. Some relationships may get stronger with time and some may fade and lead you to realize what type of person you want to live with in the future. It's all a learning experience.
8. Sometimes your roommate can be your worst enemy.
Not all roommates work out well. If the personalities clash, it is very likely that the two will not end up having warm feelings for each other. And sometimes they might threaten to trash your stuff and punch you in the throat, or even lie to your resident assistant and say that you threatened to kill them. But hey, this is what res life and moving boxes are for, so it's kosher.
9. Taking care of your body is essential.
As an adult, you have the power to dictate what happens to your body now. Educate yourself on how to live a healthy lifestyle.
Eat healthy, balanced meals.
I know it may take some time to develop self discipline, but schools usually offer a wide variety of foods that can provide all the necessary nutrients you need. It's just up to you to utilize them. However, they also provide all the junk that college students who hate veggies tend to live off of. The students who can't balance their diets are the ones who gain the dreaded "freshman fifteen."
Don't keep putting off exercising.
You don't have to go to the gym. There are plenty of alternatives. Speaking from personal experience, my favorite ways to get active are rock climbing or having friends meet up for a volleyball game. Just get creative.
SLEEP IS IMPORTANT.
If anyone understands how hard it is to get eight hours of shut-eye each night, it's me. Between 16 hours of classes, a part time job, clinical observations, a social life, extracurricular activities, and being in a sorority, I don't have much free time. It's all a balancing act that will probably take all four years for me to master. Sleep is so unbelievably vital to your academic success, but it is always the piece of the pie to get cut out first. While you are resting, the neurotransmitters in your brain are repairing themselves so that they can function correctly. AKA lack of sleep equals impaired brain function that causes confusion, impaired memory, mood swings, and other side effects. In short, SLEEP IS IMPORTANT.
10. No school is big enough to hide a bad reputation.
Don't be the girl who drank an entire bottle of wine at a party and passed out on the front porch, because all involved will have their own version of what happened by the next morning. Regardless of how old you are, gossip will always be people's favorite pastime. Sure, pretty much every bad choice will blow over, but it doesn't erase the embarrassment you faced while it happened. Also, avoid being a repeat offender because that only doubles the time it takes for the event to fade from people's minds.
11. You will make mistakes. Own them.
It's one thing to make the mistake of drinking that entire bottle of wine, but what matters most is that you (hopefully) learned from it. Take that lesson and apply it to your life, so that you don't make the same mistake twice.
12. Be careful on social media.
Don't post pictures of yourself when you are drinking or doing something stupid. The first reason is to save your mom from the humiliation of an openly wild child. The second is to protect your future. Employers will stalk your social media years prior to your interview before they even consider hiring you. Don't let a stupid decision from your freshman year hurt your future.
13. Relationships will come and go.
Whether it's your best friend from high school, the prince charming you met at orientation, or the attractive frat guy who picked you up at the bar, it is very likely that these relationships will not last. It's okay though, because the one's who stick around are the people who really matter.
14. Learn to say "yes" without guilt.
Whether it's a date, going out on a Thursday night with class Friday morning, or pizza and ice cream at 3:00 AM; sometimes saying yes is exactly what you need.
15. Learn to say "no" without guilt.
Whether it's a date, going out on a Thursday night with class Friday morning, or pizza and ice cream at 3:00 AM; sometimes saying no is exactly what you need.
16. Traditional style dorms are not the end of the world.
Yes, it may be annoying to have to walk down the hall just to shower and whatnot, but at least you never have to wait until your suitemate FINALLY gets out of the bathroom (after two hours) just so you can pee. Plus, the cleaning staff is responsible for scrubbing the toilets, not you. ***This does not mean that you can trash the bathrooms.***
17. Leave your door open. Or even better, leave your dorm.
As awkward as it may seem, leaving your door open is a great way to get to know people. Everyone around you is in a new situation, just like you, and wants to make friends, JUST LIKE YOU DO, so take the first step. And when you find yourself with nothing to do, leave your little closet of a room and explore campus. You'll be surprised at what you find.
18. College is a fresh start. Don't waste it.
Unlike high school, there isn't a constant popularity contest going on. The people who pay to go to university don't care if you were popular in high school, they care about their education. Yeah, it may seem like some people know everyone they pass, but this is because they are outgoing and unafraid to befriend strangers or are really involved on campus, not because they have money or whatever else is stereotyped as faux value. (I was bad at high school, sorry.) This is your opportunity to be whoever you want to be (AKA yourself), and trust me, you will find others who share the same interests as you do. Those are the people who you should surround yourself with, not the ones who you believe will help you climb the fictitious social ladder.
19. Let bygones be bygones.
Learn to forgive the people who hurt you--ex-boyfriends, ex-roommates, ex-professors... Let go of the grudges and move on. You don't have to let these people back into your life, but remove the unnecessary weight from your shoulders. You have too much stress already to be carrying on with damaged relationships.
20. Think for yourself.
You have spent your whole life being told what to think-- by parents, by schools, by social media. Don't dismiss what you were taught, but explore it. Think things through. Do you really believe what you say or are you just trained to react that way? Recognize what influences your beliefs and pick it apart to make sure that it aligns with your true values.
21. Don't overwhelm yourself.
You will learn quickly how little free time you have on your hands once the semester is in full swing. Overloading yourself with commitments and clubs is the worst thing you could do if you have any intention of maintaining good grades. Definitely get involved, but don't overdo it.
22. Be prepared to be in a constant state of sickness.
Living in close quarters with so many students is like living in a petri dish for pathogens. Once you get sick, your immune system is weakened. If you don't allow yourself to fully recover (which you likely will not), then you will continue to get sick with no end in sight.
23. Caffeine and a planner are your new best friends.
There will be plenty of nights where you will go without enough sleep, so get used to making up for it with a cup or two or five of coffee. Try to avoid the sugary energy drinks though... They have a history of causing acne and weight gain. And write EVERYTHING down in your planner. "I'll remember" is one of the biggest lies you will ever tell yourself.
24. Don't be scared of the library.
It took me an entire semester to finally go to the library, but it is easily one of the best decisions that I made for my academic career. I thought it was best for me to stay in my room to do my homework, but I never realized how many distractions there were. Yeah, people are probably going to be loud, but there are quiet areas for concentrating. I just put in headphones and block out my surroundings; it's like I'm in my own scholastic world of learning. It's great.
25. Call your parents at least once a week.
Yes, it's great to be on your own with no one dictating how you live your life, but there will come a time where you realize how much you really miss your parents. They're your #1 fans and just want to be there for you. Let them. Sometimes you need advice, sometimes you need money. And other times, you just need someone to talk to. Don't underestimate the (priceless) value of your parents.
26. Most upperclassmen will help you if you only ask.
This isn't high school. If you ask someone for directions, they'll do their best to help you get where you need to go. They won't send you to the opposite side of campus or tell you that there is a pool on the gym roof where secret parties are held. Some of the more generous ones will even take you there themselves, but please remember that they are not tour guides.
27. Save your snapchats.
This is pretty self explanatory, but my reasoning is that your college years are easily some of the best times of your life. You want to remember them and what better way than by pictures and video snippets of your normal life? Save something to look back at when you are stressing during finals week and need a laugh.
28. It's okay to change your major.
I started off as a Chemistry major. Don't ask what I was thinking because I'm still trying to figure it out. I had a mini mental breakdown halfway through my first semester and changed to Athletic Training. Best decision of my college career. This is your life, so pick something that will make you happy. Also when you do pick a major, make sure it is 100% what you want to do with the rest of your life before you accept any special scholarships for it. Some majors, like teaching, have special forgiven loans that help pay for school. However, if you change your mind and want to do something else, those scholarships turn into loans that you have to pay back. Don't put yourself $30,000 in the hole because you "kind of, sort of" wanted to teach (or whatever else) and changed your mind.
29. Manage your money.
You'll be very surprised how quickly your life savings will begin to dwindle. Pay attention to what you spend and don't buy anything that you don't absolutely love or need.
30. Don't bring your entire closet to school.
Only bring stuff that you will actually wear. It never occurred to me before I moved, but you will buy stuff while you are at school. You already have limited space, so don't waste it with your untouched t-shirt collection.
31. Don't go home every weekend.
As tempting as it may be to pack up your dirty laundry and head home for a decent meal every weekend, DON'T DO IT. You need to learn to live on your own and take care of yourself. Mom isn't going to be able to do it forever.
32. Stay organized and manage your time.
This is a huge part of being successful in school. Avoid procrastinating and just throwing papers in random folders with the promise of finding them later. They WILL disappear. FOR-EV-VUR.
33. Try to avoid Friday classes.
Not all Friday classes can be evaded, but do your best to at least avoid an 8:00 AM. Thursday becomes the best night of the week and it would be a shame to have to miss out on it.
34. Back up ALL of your files.
There is nothing worse in this world than losing all of your hard work from the past semester. Make sure that eleven page research paper is saved on a USB and on your email so that there are no issues when it's time to turn it in. Professors won't accept, "My computer crashed." They don't care.
35. Utilize the resources that your campus offers.
Academic success centers, tutoring, etc. Take advantage of what your school has to offer. There is no shame is getting a tutor, but there is plenty of it in not getting one when you need help.
36. ALWAYS try your best.
Being smart isn't something that is looked down on. The kid who doesn't pay attention or tries to outsmart the professor is the type of person who is usually unsuccessful. Class clowns aren't the ones who come out with degrees.
All in all, there is no manual on how to survive college. No amount of tips will be able to substitute the lessons you take in. It's a constant learning experience that will leave you feeling like you've been put through the wringer, but in the end, though, it's all worth it.
Also, congrats on making it to the end of this post. It was probably longer than that term paper you cranked out during finals week three hours before it was due.