It is quite funny to reflect that one of the most anticipated parts of your life - the one where you have spent most of your high school life trying to prepare for - ends in a blink of an eye. That is certainly what my freshman life was like. A few weeks in, everything felt never-ending, but as soon as the dust settled, time ran its course. While the sleepless nights of finishing up essays were quite traumatic, in retrospect, I wish my college freshman life did not end so soon. In my conscious mind, my freshman life ending that quickly means my entire college life will have the same fate - the mere thought of leaving school is terrifying.
I have Googled a lot of what to expect in your first semester in college before officially starting, but I have found that no amount of information out there can ever fully prepare you for college survival. There are so many answers surrounding questions on what to expect in college, and it is important to understand that the college freshman life experience varies – to each her own, so to speak. One might find it the hardest part of his life so far, and the other might say it has rewarded him with fulfilling moments. Truthfully, my freshman life was a whirlpool of emotions – I was confused at most times, stressed a ton, but nevertheless had much fun. The experiences I have gained are significant, but missing home became a problem. My courses became harder, and I was desperate to look for ways, sometimes resorting to Googling “how to succeed in your freshman year” more times than I would like to admit. However, I found that in an attempt to understand myself more, I grew socially and academically, which I consider invaluable. I would like to think that I have learned more than just lectures, and as I look back, here are some things I have realized about college, and perhaps life, in general. Maybe they will help with your own college survival, too, and give you a good picture of what to expect in college.
Lesson #1: The value of alone time
For most people, college means being thrown into a small room with a stranger – you will be calling that home for the rest of your college stay. In your survival in the dorm, you shall be forced to learn how to share space and at the same time, set boundaries. You no longer have the privacy of your own bedroom, where you are able to relax by yourself after a long day. I have never realized how incredibly rare alone time can be, because from all the years before college, I have had it handed to me. Alone time is so valuable, allowing you to recharge after a day of being around people. So, if given the chance, look for ways to spend time with yourself. It could be that little space under a tree, or a secret spot behind your building. When your roommate goes home for the weekend, cherish that time, too. Every chance you get by yourself should be valued.
Lesson #2: Food from home will forever remain unparalleled
The first week in your college freshman life can be pretty exciting; upon entering the dining hall, you’re greeted with food you probably can only dream of eating at home. At the dorm, you’re free to eat whatever you want. Mac n’ cheese all day, every day? Sure, but the charm will eventually wear off. You most definitely will not be wishing to eat mac n’ cheese every day, and after a month, you will be missing your home meals. You will be counting the days until Thanksgiving and Christmas break, as food back home will always be unparalleled. That is what real food means to you deep down, and you start wishing you are not so far from home. But do not lose hope, dear student. Even if you are far from home, you can still prepare healthy and delicious meals in your dorm.
Lesson #3: The weight gain is inevitable
The dreaded freshman 15? It is real. You will be gaining weight, and that is alright. Keep in mind that a lot of factors will come into play, such as stress. Stress will cause you to adopt an unhealthy diet, but do not beat yourself up over it. Another important detail to consider is that you are literally growing and morphing into your adult body. What you looked like as a teenager is no more, as biology and genetics start to come into play. In other words, it is out of your control. What you can do is control your eating and drinking habits, in order to maintain a healthy body. Just make sure to leave time for exercise, and I promise you, you will be just fine.
Lesson #4: Social media shows only the good parts of someone’s life.
I am calling it: the bane of most people’s existence is social media. Studies show that it is actually addicting, contributing to a cesspool of internal misery. This reason alone should be enough to convince you that it is a good idea to try and stay away from it as much as you can. Most people are convinced that social media equates to real life, but that is never the case. It is actually quite the contrary. Your high school friends may seem like they ae having so much more fun in college, as broadcasted on their Instagram stories or tweets, but that does not necessarily mean they are. They are probably feeling the same way about you – the thing is, people only put out, or for a more fitting term, “declare” what they want you to see, and I am guilty of that. Chances are, your friends are not getting much sleep, either. They are facing terrible professors and equally horrifying grades, and they just do not show it. You may be envious now they are out at another party, but remember: do not compare your shadows to another person’s limelight.
Lesson #5: Say “yes” and say “no” to experiences
College offers a plethora of chances to try and explore new things. And as you look for ways on how to succeed in your freshman year, I think that doing one thing every day that scares you is the first step, as it is always the hardest. It does not have to be as extreme as auditioning for theatre, or anything to that extent, for the experience to be significant. It can be as simple as grabbing lunch with your Philosophy class seatmate, or trying out a fitness class at the gym. It could simply be just reciting in class. These experiences, as little as they may be, will help introduce you to the world of others. In turn, these will help you discover things about yourself, such as hidden talents and passions. Pushing yourself out your comfort zone defines your character, fostering growth in the process.
However, it is also important to remember your limits. As tempting as it might be to sign up for every campus activity, you will thank yourself for resisting. College is already hard enough as it is, so permit yourself to get rest whenever you need it. Allowing your body to rest means you will be at your best. You cannot pour from an empty teapot, so put yourself first whenever circumstance calls for it.
Lesson #6: It is okay not to be okay
There is no sugarcoating it: college is hard. You will have to leave home, meet new people, live with a stranger, take on challenging classes, and try to keep up with endless essay writing sessions. Many times, you will be tempted to just quit. It’s even worse when every person around you seems to have together. The truth is, though, no one has figured it out yet. The impression you have of them is their mere façade. And I do not think people ever will. It is easier said than done, and you need to remind yourself every day, all year long. Be honest when things are hard and do not be afraid to ask for help whenever you need it. Remember that you are trying your best, and that is already good enough.
And yes, things will definitely get better, and you will be okay. The pangs that come from missing home will eventually diminish, and you will find friends to cherish. You will eventually get through classes, and soon enough you will have unlocked college survival mode! There is no need to search for ways on how to succeed in your freshman year because, well, you already have!
Lesson #7: It is okay to miss out on things
There is a lot of pressure when it comes to friends, and despite what most people say, the fear of missing out is a real thing. I have learned that it is completely okay to miss out on friends. You do not have treat every social gathering as you did your first college party, nor participate in every social event. There is always the next one; your foremost priority should be your college education and rest. After all, the reason why you are here in the first place is to get that degree and lay the foundation of your dreams – anything that will get in the way of that should be of secondary importance. There is always the next time – a healthy balance is key. Think of it this way: the fear of missing out is more threatening and destructive than the actual missing out.
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