The first year of college can be full of ups and downs. Just a few months before your first day, you were in high school where you knew so many people and everything was safe and predictable.
Suddenly, you’re in a unfamiliar place with countless new people. It can be a lot to take in at the time.
But now in hindsight as a rising university senior, I learned so much about myself and others during my freshman year of college.
Here are my top five lessons.
1. Take advantage of your resources
The staff at your university are there to help you! Whether that’s professors, advisors, tutors or resident assistants (RAs); they just want you to succeed. Take advantage of professor’s office hours. Communicate problems that might arise with your RAs. Seek advice from your advisor if you need it. Make an appointment with a tutor if you’re struggling.
So many valuable resources go unused by many students in college!
It doesn’t show weakness if you need help with something. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the people and programs that are specifically there for you.
The Center for Learning and Student Success is an amazing resource on campus if you need help with any class. They offer academic coaching, tutoring and writing support to all students.
2. Be open-minded
College is a completely different world than high school. You will have the potential to meet students from all around the world from different backgrounds and cultures. You will be surrounded by people who have experienced entirely different life experiences than you. Instead of clinging onto people who look and act like you, I encourage you to branch out and meet different people. I have been able to learn so much by simply striking up a conversation with the person next to me in class. I have had the chance to talk to students from Greece, Mexico and Germany to name a few. There is so much wisdom to learn from others: it’s up to you to discover it!
Studying abroad is another awesome way to learn more about the world and to get outside of your comfort zone. Take advantage of the study abroad programs on campus in order to really get the most out of your college education.
3. Stay on top of your work
There is nothing worse than arriving to class, only to realize that you completely forgot about the unit exam that’s planned for the day. I highly recommend buying a planner or utilizing a planner app to keep up with all of your class assignments. Homework tends to pile up pretty quickly and can be easily overlooked if you’re not careful. Also, your class syllabus will be your best friend. There’s no excuse to not know a due date for something because you will have them all ahead of time. If you have the time, start on an assignment early. Procrastination is never a good idea, no matter how tempting it is to watch just one more episode of your favorite show. Try your best to stay organized and on top of everything. I promise you will thank yourself later.
I personally love Google Calendar to organize my classes and assignments.
4. You don’t have to have it all figured out
Trust me, I’ve done the whole early twenties crisis thing where you have no idea what you want to do with your life. When I first entered college, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to do and just knew that I would never change my mind. I never even gave any other available majors a second glance. After my first semester ended, I soon realized that the major that I originally chose was actually not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. At first, I was completely lost and confused. But, after talking to my advisor and my parents, I became aware that this was totally normal. Changing your major is not the end of the world and you will get through it. I know very few people who stuck with the first major they chose. Use this time to explore different career paths and to learn about what you truly want to do. Making big decisions can be scary, but it’s always best to trust your gut and go for it.
I recommend visiting the Career Development Center if you’re feeling unsure about the career path you want to take.
5. Leave some time for yourself
It’s no secret that college can come with a very hectic schedule. With school, work, extracurriculars and family, there is sometimes little to no free time available. However, I strongly encourage you to make time for yourself. It can seem like you’re being pulled in a million different directions in college. But, if your mental and physical health are not okay, you won’t be able to give your best in all of the areas in your life. Even if it’s only ten minutes a day, scheduling in some me-time can really change your mindset and attitude. Take a walk. Read a book. Watch a movie. Meditate. Do whatever is necessary to check in with yourself and make sure you’re doing alright. It’s okay to say “no” to plans sometimes. You don’t have to be at every outing or event to make memories in college. It’s equally as important to allow yourself time to recharge.
Try checking out the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) or the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Building (HPER) on campus to invest in both your mental and physical health.