Even though I only attended college for one year, there are definitely things I wish I knew before my freshman year. I absolutely loved my school and the people I met, and not going back has a bittersweet taste. I remember lots of different people giving me different advice, and I might be one of those people for you. Giving you advice that you have already heard, but can’t know until you’ve gone through it. I get it. But there are some things they don’t tell you. And I feel like if I could go back to freshman-college-me, I would tell myself this:
1. Buy a planner. // This seems trivial enough and maybe your school provides you with one at the beginning of the year. Don’t use it. Go out and buy a planner you would enjoy writing in. Not only will it help you stay organized, but I found that having a nice planner was more of an investment in my motivation. It’s also super helpful for making plans and writing down homework/due dates at once. If I was stressed, I would go over my week that I had written down in my planner, one thing at a time.
2. You are going to get annoyed with everyone at one point or another. // This definitely sounds like my most pessimistic piece of advice. It’s not because everyone is annoying, but they are just everywhere. In high school, you see your classmates around eight hours a day, but then you go home to family. In college, your classmates are your new family. You see them all day, every day, and their quirks might become too much for you. However, if you find yourself randomly getting annoyed with someone, it will pass. You most likely need a break. In my experience, I would get over small annoyances fairly quickly as I learned to appreciate the friendships I was making rather than shut people out completely over little things.
3. The first couple of weeks are the scariest, but that’s about it. // The “scariest” part about college is really just the first week, maybe the following. It’s the daunting task of moving in, saying goodbye, and making new friends. But after that first couple of weeks, you get into a routine and slowly, but surely, it becomes your new normal.
4. You will make friends of your own, in time. You won’t meet your best friend the first week (or maybe you will!) but realistically, it all comes with time. // I feel like there is this insane pressure to make best friends in the first few days of school. A lot of people will try to rush friendships to feel safe, and that’s fine. Honestly, don’t worry about finding your tribe as quick as possible. Focus on meeting as many people as you can, sure, but the friendships that are meant to be will blossom as they should. Many of my closest friends came from my dorm floor, so those came quicker than the rest, but I slowly made friends in my major and elsewhere, and even made fast friends in the last month of school. The friendships will come in their time, so don’t worry.
5. Facebook is cool now. // It’s not just for the moms anymore. It’s an easy way to stay connected with the campus and even the city. I can’t tell you how many different events I found out about on Facebook (corgi beach day, for the win). I don’t know about other schools, but my campus had a BUNCH of Facebook groups for different things. Each dorm had a group and within that group, smaller groups for each floor. There were groups for selling books and things, groups for different majors, and even a group for posting things overheard in conversation around campus. Don’t overlook this supposedly outdated outlet. It will come in handy more than you think. Plus, it’s the best way to update people from home about your life at college.
6. The ‘Freshman 15’ is true, but it doesn’t have to be. // I’m sorry, but it’s true. Maybe it’s the temptation of the cafeteria. Maybe it’s also the temptation to lie around and do nothing. For me, it was probably the assortment of good food in the Los Angeles area (just scroll through my Instagram and you’ll see). Even though I don’t like working out, I did little things to stay active. I took the stairs instead of the elevator, which kicked my butt considering I lived on the top floor. The walks across campus to class forced me to be on my feet for at least 30 minutes out of the day. I went to the gym once but take advantage of it, if that’s what you like. Personally, I loved being active in an adventurous setting, like hiking in Yosemite. Find little things to stay active.
7. Save your money as much as you can. // This is a no-brainer. But I wish I was smarter about saving money in certain areas I hadn’t thought of. Rent your books or buy them used. There was even a class where I shared the book with my roommate. As far as eating goes, split meals if you go out. Try to keep it on the down low if you’re splitting plates (it may cost extra), just everyone buy their own meal and share. Use apps like Target’s Cartwheel to save money on things you’ll need. Invest in online student discount services like UniDays (my favorites for online shopping) or membership cards that will save you money. Being an art student, I shopped at Blick for projects more than I’d like to admit, but my membership card would score huge savings. Just look around and be resourceful.
8. Communicate with your roommate. // Communication is the key to any relationship, and your roommate is no exception. I, once again, was extremely blessed with the best roommate I could have asked for, one of my best friends from high school. A lot of people warned us about being friends before college and rooming together, but it worked out so wonderfully; there are also two other sets of friends from my high school that successfully roomed together this last year. It’s all about communication. Pick your battles, because some things truly don’t matter. Don’t be afraid to talk about things.
9. Be openminded. Even though I went to a small private college, that doesn’t mean I didn’t have to be openminded. No matter what the situation, there are going to be people who have different ideas, opinions, personalities than yours. That’s okay. But that’s where you will find growth. By challenging yourself outside of your comfort zone with people outside of your circle, you will find out more about yourself than you will in any classroom. Be open to new thought processes and the idea of being wrong. We are not all the same, and that’s something to embrace.
10. Get enough sleep. I cannot stand when college students complain about not getting enough sleep. Yes, there will be times when you may need to pull an all nighter. But it’s your job to figure out your own time management. This is one of the biggest things you will learn in college. But regardless, sometimes you need to put your physical and mental health above your grades. You need to be well rested. Being tired can turn into a vicious cycle, so don’t glorify the “I’ve pulled so many all nighters” behavior. It’s not healthy and in the end, it’s just a GPA. Focus on your health, and your college experience will be that much better because of it.
“This is the beginning of anything you want,” so act like it. College is a fresh start to remake yourself, to find yourself. It’s a time for mistakes and for taking risks. Live so that you never look back and say “what if”. This is the beginning of something new and exciting, so take advantage of everything.
(P.S. Don’t wait to do your laundry. Just do it.)
(P.P.S. Sometimes it’s okay to skip class. I never skipped class, and I don’t recommend it for all the time, but sometimes you have to live a little. Go on that adventure, sleep in. Take that time for yourself and have a bit of fun.)