There are days when I simply cannot believe that I will be a senior this year. Honestly, people tell you that college flies by, but you don’t fully grasp what that means until you’re starting to prepare for your final year. Junior year was over in a heartbeat (or at least it felt like that), so I sincerely hope senior year goes by a little more slowly. As senior year looms in the not so distant future, I figured it would be fun to offer some advice to those of you entering college. But instead of just listing advice, I thought I’d share it more as things I wish I knew, things I would have done differently, and things I wouldn’t have sweated so much! Focus on Finding a Core Group of Friends
When you’re first starting college, focus on finding great friends, and nurse those relationships. Throughout your four years, your friends are the people who won’t leave your side, who will be part of your greatest memories, and who will be with you through the hard times that college throws at you. A lot of people make the mistake of jumping head first into a relationship right when school starts, which can limit the friends you make, and make you feel dependent on the person. Finding great friends is crucial to your college experience, and liking the school you chose. If you make friends that you maybe feel aren’t the best, or don’t support you the way they should, it’s okay to distance yourself from them and make other friends (this holds true for every aspect of life, not just college). So, focus on your friendships, and live the first year of college to the fullest!
Don’t Get Caught Up in Drama
Entering college, most people feel so mature and so much older, but in reality, you’re only three months out of high school. A lot of people still find petty, dramatic things important. A lot of people fight over boys, and a lot of people get into girl fights that shouldn’t even happen. My advice for myself if I could do my first year over is avoid the drama. Is something constantly bringing drama into your life? Leave it. Chances are the drama will ensue until you do. Drama is poison to happiness, the more drama, the less happy you will be. This may sound obvious, but let me just say, I was an RA to first years last year, and I lived life as a first year, and the first year has drama, whether you think it will or not. Especially if you go to a small school.
It’s Not a Dorm, It’s a Second Home
I think, and this is strictly my opinion, that the people who enter the dorm under the impression that it isn’t their home, and they don’t need to make it a home, are wrong. The residence halls are a home, a haven on campus. Don’t get along with your roommate? Do what you can to fix it. Make the space as much yours as you can. You’re going to spend roughly 9 months in there. Get the most out of that small space as possible. It’ll become your comfort zone, and a hangout for you and your friends.
It’s Okay to Change
When you go home after your longest time at school, you’ll realize things change. You change. It’s okay to change and grow and mature, and realize that it’s bound to happen. You’ll have this weird feeling when you get home and start talking to people who went different places than you, or stayed in your hometown, and you’ll realize something is different with your relationships and friendships. Experiences affect you, and your college experience is bound to change your outlook on life. But that’s okay, and the more you change, the more you’re getting out of your college experience. Well, given that the change is positive.
Get to Know Professors
Professors are great people (with a few exceptions), so always make a point to go to office hours, ask questions, and participate when you can. Getting to know professors can make a huge impact on your first year. I had one professor my first year that was notorious for being kind of terrible. She made one of my friends cry during office hours, she was totally against all of my prior teachers’ opinions of what made a good essay, and she decided a month into the semester that we (as a class) hated her. To say that was difficult to deal with is an understatement. In short, I made a point of going to her office hours for every paper, really picking her brain, making small talk, etc. I got to know what she liked, and I got to know more about her. I got an A in the course. She required more… uhm…. kissing up, but as for my other professors, when I went to office hours and got to them, they realized that just because I’m shy doesn’t mean I care, and they helped me prepare to write a great paper.
Find an Outlet for Stress
College is stressful, and often demands way more of you than you’d think you’re capable of. Make sure that you have an outlet for dealing with stress. My first year it took me a while to figure out how to cope. I ended up hiking to the huge cross on my campus with friends whenever we all needed a break. It was great, a workout, and left me relaxed and happy. Find something you can do, either on campus or off, that helps you relieve stress.
It’s Okay to Stay In
A lot of people get to college, realize “hey, no parents!” and go crazy. If you want to drink occasionally or something, that’s totally up to you, but if you’d rather stay in on a Friday night because you have an assignment to catch up on or you’re tired, or just not feeling it, that’s totally okay. Most people will be fine with you not going out, and if people continue to pressure you, they may not be the best people. Good friends respect your boundaries! And honestly, if you stay home to watch a movie, chances are a few people will join you. Not everyone parties, and certainly not everyone parties every weekend.
This might seem contradictory of my previous point, but I want to tell you that joining clubs and organizations on campus is one of the best ways to meet people and make campus-wide connections. Your first year you’ll be so caught up in yourself and friends, that you forget to keep branching out. Clubs help you maintain a larger campus network, which is something super helpful for when you start applying for positions on campus and becoming more confident as a student.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
The hard parts of your first year will only make you a stronger student, a better person, and a greater friend. If something goes wrong, don’t worry. It might feel like college will never be the same, or it won’t get better, but it will. Your first year is for making decisions, and learning from them if they go wrong. Take those lows and turn them into highs. Just because something doesn’t work out does not mean nothing ever will. Oftentimes, when something doesn’t work out, it leaves room for something much better to work out.
College is daunting, but when you get comfortable, and you learn more about yourself, it’s the greatest time imaginable. There will be hard days, but there will be even more happy days! So, dive in, and enjoy yourself!