College is hard. College is fun. College is weird.
I don’t know where to begin, but I can say I survived freshman year. Reflecting back on the time I had during my first year, there are several things I wish I had known before starting. Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of tips for anyone who needs them.
Don’t Over Pack. Seriously. I thought I needed my entire closet, but this simply was not the case. My roommate and I joked because we always wore the same few outfits and ended up with a closet full of unworn clothes.
- Pro Tip: Pick your favorite outfits along with a few other things because each time you go home for breaks you can switch out clothes with other ones.
Partying Isn’t Everything. I know there’s a universal thought that college is all about partying, but it really isn’t. Yes, you have more free time than you probably did in high school, but you also have way more work. I can personally say I was surprised by how much work I had for my classes and how little time I had for other things. You can definitely still have a social life, but nobody cares if you stay in the dorm on a Friday night to write a paper (And if they do, forget them). I can’t tell you how many people say “C’s get degrees” like it’s an accomplishment. Strive to do well because when you succeed, you’ll feel much better than the morning after a party.
- Pro Tip: Before midterms and finals, sacrifice one weekend to writing papers and studying instead of going out because I promise you will be less stressed.
You Will Still Take Classes You Don’t Want To Take. Everybody says college is great because you can take classes you want to take and at selected times you want to take them (aka not 8 am). However, that’s not completely true. If your school is like mine, you will have several general education classes (like public speaking) that in no way interest you, but you still have to take them. Similarly, classes that you have to take might only be offered at one time—like 8 am—and you don’t have any other options.
- Pro Tip: Just because you started class at 8 am in high school does NOT mean you can survive an 8 am in college. Seriously. Go for 9 o’clock at the earliest unless you are 100% a morning person. I had classes from 9:15-1:30 and that was my ideal setup because I didn’t have to get up before 8 but still finished class early in the day.
Get Involved. I know I said you really don’t have that much extra time in college, but getting involved is a great way to meet people and find your niche on campus. I wrote for the newspaper, met a lot of people, and made some good money. I also joined a sorority, which was kind of my saving grace this year. Depending on your school, Greek Life might either be non-existent or over the top. At my school, however, it’s a perfect in-between where if you aren’t in a sorority/fraternity you will still have a social life, but those who are have a great group of friends and supporters. I personally felt that joining a sorority made school feel more like ‘home’. The same can go for a sports team, intermural/club team, other clubs, service organization, or a job.
- Pro Tip: Look for things to join prior to starting school because a lot of sign up sheets/try outs take place the first week of school. It might be overwhelming for you to join things right when you start but it might help you get acclimated.
People Don’t Care. I always felt like I had to dress well in high school, and I never went to school without makeup on. However, in college I go to class in workout clothes, with no make up and my hair in a bun because 1) people don’t care and 2) I don’t care. This could be a confidence that I achieved later than most people, but I don’t mind if people see me when I’m not ‘put together’.
Stay Undeclared. I started undeclared and by the second semester I had declared a major and two minors. Don’t get me wrong, I am happy with what I declared, but I also wish I hadn’t felt so pressured to pick something. I know it might seem stressful that you don’t know what you want to study, but try different things until you have found something you truly love.
- Pro Tip: Take a lot of general education classes if you are undeclared so you can get those classes out of the way before you do decide on your major. I took 3 “Major Exploration” classes in the fall to see what I was interested in but they ended up being electives and nothing exciting for me. I guess the positive is I realized what I didn’t want to study, but now I have several lower division core classes to take.
Being Homesick is OKAY. I was extremely homesick but it gets better. You have a new sense of independence, which can be hard for some people, but you also are starting a new and exciting chapter of your life. Everybody is dealing with the same thing and I guarantee when you come home from your freshman year, all your friends will admit college was hard and they struggled at first. Plus you CAN go home over summer break if you want to. It’s all up to you.
Long Distance Relationships are Possible. I figured I’d throw this in here for anyone in a relationship worrying about long distance. I go to school in Los Angeles and my boyfriend goes to school in Philadelphia. Some of my friends started dating people in college and are now struggling with the summer ‘long distance’ but trust me when I say it’s fine. If you trust each other you will be fine. If you do not trust each other, or get jealous easily, it will be harder for you. Trust is key. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it’s do-able. If you want to do it then you can. You will cry, you will fight, and you will have to overcome some obstacles but that’s normal in any relationship. You will learn to communicate better and appreciate the time you have together.
Long distance ‘relationships’ are possible with friends too! The majority of my friends went to school on the east coast but we still talk often and are still friends even after 10 months without seeing each other.
- Pro Tip: Schedule FaceTime dinner dates. It’s hard if you are in different time zones but you can do a late lunch or early dinner together. I would also share your class schedule with each other so you can find the best time to call each other. Another great idea is to send care packages. I sent several this year (like this one) and they are a great way to show that you’re thinking of your significant other/friend. I also sent midterm and final ‘survival boxes’ to my friends filled with food and other things.
Eat Healthy, Exercise & Get Sleep. I can’t tell you how many times my dorm mates were sick this year. I felt like every other week somebody was sick with something new. Also, I can’t tell you how much my weight vacillated this year. I know the burger and fries might look good, but sometimes you need some steamed veggies and a salad. I stress ate in the beginning of the year and definitely put on a lot of weight. Despite the fact that I went to the gym 5-6 times a week, I still gained weight. I started drinking more water, getting 8 hours of sleep, and trying to eat the healthier choices and I felt so much better. I am not one to pull all-nighters and order pizza at 3 am but if you are, be careful. College might be your ‘escape’ with way more freedom than you’re used to, but you don’t have your parents there to cook your meals or make sure you’re getting sleep. Take care of yourself and you’ll be much happier.
- Pro Tip: See a nutritionist before starting school. I wish I had because I felt so lost when I tried to create the healthiest meal from what was available at the cafeteria (like this salad). A nutritionist will tell you what types of foods and what portions of foods you should be eating, and they can also suggest healthy snack ideas.
Enjoy It. People always say college goes by so quickly, and I have to say it’s true. At times I felt like the year was going so slowly, but when I look back, it’s all a blur.
I remember having having issues with my friend group back in middle school and my oldest brother (10 years older than me) told me I shouldn’t worry about who was and wasn’t my friend in middle school because in college I’d find my life long best friends. At the time, this seemed insane. However, I’ve come to realize that you really do find your ‘soul mates’ in college. You will meet people exactly like you (in a good way) and find the people who understand and love you for you.
- Pro Tip: The summer before you leave, get an assignment book/calendar and fill in dates for family visits, breaks/holidays, etc. This way you can gauge when you’ll be home next and have things to look forward to if you are homesick. It also helps with staying organized with schoolwork and assignments.