I was a freshman in college once. I had pink streaks in my hair (it was 2008, which probably doesn’t justify anything), and I’d tried to shorten my name to Emi during the previous summer (it didn’t go well, because as I’ve learned, it’s not cool to give yourself a nickname). Clearly, I had a lot to learn during that first year of school.
Hopefully nobody reading this has quite as much to learn as I did, but no matter how the first few weeks of college have gone, you might still have some uncertainties about what the whole experience will be like. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you make the transition.
Your parents and high school teachers probably told you that college is way harder than high school, and that you need to study a lot in order to do really well. I want to make it clear that I do not disagree with them. However, while you are at college in order to learn and ultimately obtain a degree and the skills to succeed in your chosen field, you are also there to gain life experience, build significant relationships, and make lasting memories. It’s OK to take a break every once in a while and go play volleyball or have dinner with someone on your floor. If you have a test the next morning, maybe staying out until 3am isn’t the best idea, but don’t trade some of the best parts of college for fear and worry for your grades.
If you live in a residence hall, you probably know what I’m talking about – you’ve told over 50 people your name and major, you know all of your roommate’s favorite colors, past, present, and future (you know, for when they invent contact lenses that allow us to see ultraviolet), and you might explode if you have to explain, again, how far your tiny hometown is to the nearest metropolitan area. I’m here to tell you that it gets better, but not without a little bit of hard work and creativity when it comes to conversation. It might feel weird to share about your relationship with your siblings or to ask your roommate why their grandma was so influential in their life, but the more you ask and share, the more you will start to feel known and less awkward. So embrace it for a little while, I promise it’s worth it!
Getting involved in on-campus activities is part of the ‘having fun’ that I mentioned in my first point. However, I think it’s best to choose just a few things that you are really excited about or interested in to pursue further during your time at school. You don’t want to show up for Thanksgiving at your parents’ house and nap for 48 hours straight because it’s the first free time you’ve had since August. Slow down, try new things, and remember that it’s okay to say ‘no’ to some things if that means having time to dive into what matters most. A lot of people like to ‘shop’ for activities during the first few months of school. I think it’s ok to do that for a little while with student organizations, but if you do that for four years, you’ll graduate without having invested in any one thing. Don’t be afraid to commit.
As the youngest of three siblings, I did a lot of learning by observing, and realized late in the game how over-complicated my life got when I didn’t ask for help. I always assumed that since people had gone before me, I should be able to do things on my own. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how much of a resource the people around me could be if I simply asked them to be. It’s never easy to express need as people, but when you’re in college, everywhere you turn there are people who know what’s going on when you don’t. Professors, advisors, upperclassmen, RA’s. Even if people can’t fix everything, sometimes having someone in your life to listen to you when things feel new and challenging is better than going it alone. If you feel like you’re exploring some of life’s bigger questions and aren’t sure where to turn, you could check out one of our small groups or come to a weekly meeting and meet someone who would be glad to help you work through your questions!