What I Learned After My Freshman Year of College

Transitioning from high school to college is one of the most significant changes a person will face in their lifetime. If you’re naturally a nervous wreck like me, you can imagine the thoughts running through my head during the drive to campus on freshman move-in day.

Will I like my roommate?  What if I can’t fit all of my stuff in my dorm?  How will I survive without my mom if I get sick?  What if everyone thinks I’m weird and I won’t have any friends?  What if I run out of money?  Do I really need to go to college?  I could just stay home with my parents forever.. WHY AM I DOING THIS TO MYSELF?!

I know what you’re thinking.. “She’s a hot mess.” Yes, you’re exactly right. Even after my first year of college, I’m still a hot mess… But now, I’m a hot mess who has grown, matured, and learned a few things through the experiences I had during my freshman year of college. I’d like to share those experiences and lessons with all of the soon-to-be college freshmen. It will be hard sometimes; you will miss your family and friends from home, you will get stressed out, you will want to give up and drop out (I don’t advise following through with that). However, going to college will be one of the most amazing experiences you will ever have, I can pinky promise you that.

Here are just a handful of things I compiled after asking some friends about the many lessons learned during freshman year of college:

Your parents are actually really cool. It’s like they saved all the coolness for when you moved out…unfair but definitely appreciated.

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Handwritten letters and care packages from home make it seem like Christmas year-round. Before you move away, give friends and family your dorm address. They’ll want to hear from you, and you’ll appreciate the goodies.

Get to know the people in your residence hall because they’re the ones who are gonna be there for you at 2:00am.

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Don’t save all of your laundry for Sunday afternoon, because you’ll be waiting in line behind everyone else who shares the same laundry room. I would suggest maybe a Tuesday night or during the day between classes when majority of people will be busy. That way, you get first dibs and you won’t have to awkwardly remove someone else’s underwear from the washing machine.

Take a moment every day to pray. Pray for your family and friends, for health and safety, and for guidance and strength through this transitional and often tempting time in your life.

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Staying organized is so important, especially without your parents or teachers telling you what to do and when to do it. Keep a daily planner and write down everything you need to do, from assignments to appointments to meetings and everything in between. For the sake of your sanity, KEEP AN AGENDA.

You’ll miss your friends from home, but don’t let that stop you from making new friends in college. You may even lose a few friends during this first year and that’s totally normal, so don’t stress out about it. The saying is absolutely true that you do meet your best friends in college.

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College classes are no joke and YOU are the only one responsible for your success. Take the time to study and don’t skip classes unless you absolutely need to, because you’ll regret it when you have to spend your winter break re-taking a class that you failed first semester because you were lazy.

Being sick sucks, but it sucks even more when your mom can’t be there to take care of you. Make your own First Aid kit and fill it with allergy medication, ibuprofen, Tums, cold medicine, cough drops, band-aids, Cup-O-Soup packets, tea bags, and anything else you might need to take care of yourself. You’ll thank yourself later when you’re confined to the futon for a week.

If you and your roommate respect each other, things will run a lot more smoothly. Determine room rules on day one, make sure you both understand that sharing a room means sacrifices, be open and honest with each other, and take time to get to know one another. I was lucky enough to have the best roommate in the world (hey Leah, if you’re reading this, I love ya), so this part was easy.

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Call your grandparents every once in a while, because they’ll miss you just as much as your parents will.

Crying is okay. Scientifically proven to relieve stress and make us feel better, a good cry can make all the difference. The pressure of difficult classes, sleep deprivation, and missing home puts a heavy load on our bodies, so don’t be afraid to just cry it out! By the way, the shower is the best place to do it…it’s actually a very relaxing experience. I recommend it.

Take too many pictures. Fill up your Instagram with memories you can look back on for years. After the school year ends and you’re stuck in your hometown again, you’ll be happy to have evidence of the good times.

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Just because you declare a major doesn’t mean you have to stop exploring! Think of your major as a starting point and give yourself room to grow and learn about your passions and strengths from there. If you limit yourself to the label of your major, you’ll miss out on so many opportunities for career exploration. Besides, switching majors is as easy as one appointment with an academic adviser.

Sure, ramen noodles are cheap, but that doesn’t mean you should eat them for every meal.

Take advantage of every opportunity that you come in contact with, because those will end up being the points you put on your résumé when you apply for future jobs or internships.

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Remember what you stand for, even if there are people who don’t agree with you, and do your best to act on the values you believe in. For example, if drinking, etc. is not something you believe in for yourself, don’t do it. If you value your faith, don’t be afraid to openly share it with others. College is a time to try new things, but it’s also a time where your morals and values are tested and put under pressure. Express what you hold close to your heart.

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College provides the perfect chance to find yourself and grow up a little. You learn so many things about yourself that you never knew before, you’ll have the opportunity to explore whatever you want to, and you have the power to make decisions for yourself and for your future. YOU hold the key to determine your own success and I think that’s one of the coolest things you’ll realize during this year. I am not currently attending the same university that I went to during my freshman year of college, but that allows me to look back and remember all of the amazing experiences I had and the best friends I met who I continue to keep in contact with to this day (to any of you LaXers reading this: Thank you for the memories, I miss you all more than anything, I’ll see you sooner than you know).

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Soak it all up this coming year, learn something new, be smart, be courageous, and be good to yourself.

Love always,

Jessica

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