Dear First Year College Students,
Four years from now you will be graduating college. Everything will be entirely different. The people you meet, the classes you take, and the mistakes you make along the way will all be worth it. You will grow, you will love, and you will learn to be a version of yourself that you never imagined being. People will constantly tell you that these are the best years of your life, enjoy them, and those people are not entirely wrong.
Last night, at 6:25 PM I exited my last undergraduate class. I still have three finals to finish, but I no longer have to drive to my school and sit in a class for two hours. I am done, and I have to admit that I am not one of those people who is sad about this journey ending. Sure, it was great and I met some amazing people. I made wonderful memories that will last me forever, but I am more than ready to move on to something more.
Still, I can't help but sit and remember how I felt as a freshmen going into college. I was filled with excitement and nerves. I knew it would be a good experience, but I was petrified to leave the only home I had ever known, the people who had loved me for year, and start a journey with strangers. A pending graduation has caused me to think of some things that I feel I should share with first year students, tips I wish I had had when I was entering college.
1. Don't go home on the weekends for the first month of school.
I didn't follow this rule and it set the course for my entire undergraduate career. I went home every chance I had because I love my family, I loved my high school boyfriend, and I loved my bed. But this sets a precedence for the remainder of college. Once I stayed at school for a weekend or two I found it to be incredibly boring and staying on campus became a rarity. Weekends at college is when you have free time to go out with friends, make memories, and become an independent person. Force yourself to do your own laundry on the weekends, force yourself to go to the grocery store to fill up on snacks and microwavable lunches, if you don't you'll feel like you missed out on the whole experience. The people who stay on weekends form a sort of community, and you're never alone. So what if your close friends don't stay? Go out on a limb and make some new ones that spend their weekends at school. You won't regret it.
2. It is perfectly acceptable to say "no" to an invitation out.
Yes these are some of the best years of your life, but some of the best years have yet to come! If you have a huge exam Friday morning, say no to going out to the comedian, party, or bar Thursday night. A social life is important, but no where near as important as doing well in class. Remember that college is where you go to help prepare yourself for your career. If you take short-cuts, skip a ton of classes, and fail exams you won't have a good start to the rest of your life.
3. That being said, don't forget to take some mental health moments.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, don't lock yourself away in your room with books and coffee. Go out and join clubs, explore the city near the school, meet new people, grow socially. All of these things will help you become a better version of you. If you spend all of your time working on homework and exams then you will miss out on the fun part of the years. Find a healthy balance between work and play.
4. Study abroad.
Yes, it is expensive. Yes, it is hard to leave family. Yes, it is difficult to do with an education major. Yes, you will regret not doing it. Watching your friends live their lives in England, Italy, and Australia through facebook is torture. I've watched three people grow tremendously on their abroad experiences and wish so badly that I had gone for an entire semester. There is no better way to grow than by going to a foreign country alone, and staying there for five months. If you need to, do it over the summer, or stay in school an extra semester. If all else fails, go for a shorter trip during one of your winter or spring breaks. We don't have any commitments at this age, this is the time to see the world.
5. Fall in love, but know it is okay if it isn't going to last forever.
There is great pleasure in loving someone you may not have a future with. You can live fully in the moment, enjoy their company, and laugh. You don't have the stress of "making it work" and the anger when something little happens. Just know that this person loves you right now, and that is enough. That being said though, don't stay with someone for five years if it isn't going somewhere. Relationships like this are brief, but full.
6. You will make a ton of acquaintances but only a few good friends.
You're kidding yourself if you think all fifty people in the club you join are going to be your best friends. If you graduate college with three to five close friends, you're lucky. Everyone changes drastically through college, and the people you meet freshman year are not the same people you will be taking pictures with at graduation, and that's okay. There is a point to every friendship and relationship, each one matters. But not each one is meant to last forever. Love your friends in the moment that they are there, but accept when you have grown apart from them. Its normal.
There are so many more things that I could write down. But part of the journey of college is making your own choices, having your own regrets, and your own great memories. Everyone goes through these four years a little differently. I don't think it is possible to graduate without having a few regrets- trips you didn't take, friendships you didn't take seriously. It is all part of the learning process. I can guarantee that you will graduate a completely different person than you are right now, and you should be proud of that.
Dear First Year College Students,