My Facebook Newsfeed is being infiltrated with collegiate move-in posts from sobbing mothers, well-wishing friends, and happy yet naive freshmen. Having stumbled through my undergrad years, I feel very well armed with both experience and confidence that I lacked most of my freshman (and sophomore and junior) year of college. So since I’m feeling generous and a state of superiority in my qualifications, I’m going to give those college freshmen out there a little advice which I wish I had known my first year of my college career:
(If the memes don’t make sense now, they will next year…)
The Art of Making Friends
The most essential part of the college experience, meeting new people and making new friends, is also the most frightening. I moved an hour away from home into a school where I did not know a single soul. Being the basic definition of an introvert at the time, I was terrified of this move for the sole reason that I had to go out and create friendships from scratch. I realized as soon as I walked onto campus that I was no longer in my high school environment where I had the same friends since preschool.
However, what I didn’t grasp until much later in the year was that every single student walking onto campus was experiencing the same emotions as me. Even if they knew one or two other people prior to beginning classes, there were 25,000 other people wandering around them who they had no clue who they were!
Here’s a secret I didn’t learn until after this revelation though: everyone’s door is open! So even if you meet a group of people and befriend them, never stop looking to expand your circle. Friendships don’t always last. People come and go in life. And by sophomore year, it’s harder to make friends as people are now in a routine and the freshmen dorm’s “open-door policy” may no longer be carried out. So expand your horizons, meet a number of intriguing and unique people, and be open to as many friends as possible!
Roommates Are Not A Fool-Safe Bet
Roommates should never be assumed as built-in friends for your college career. For me, my freshman roommate and I had very different beliefs in life. Living together was an awful experience for both of us. However, there are those rare occasions when your roommate and you are meant to be; my senior roommates became my best friends within only weeks of living together and I think of them as my family.
As I walked into my new dorm room freshman year, I thought I had a friend waiting for me. Unfortunately, just because you expect something doesn’t mean it’ll pan out that way. I definitely recommend going into a roommate situation with confidence that a friendship could blossom, but don’t be heartbroken if plans fall through. Not everyone is meant to be friends, let alone live together.
Speaking of living together, one way to try to improve relations with your roommate: don’t treat them like your parent. You moved to college and are no longer at your parents’ house, remember? So it’s time to man-up and pick up after yourself. And always make sure to ask before you borrow something of your roommate’s, even if it’s a tissue. This is not a person you’ve known all your life, so respect their space and they’ll respect you.
Homesickness: Don’t Stress About It
I’m not sure if this was a purely Ashley phenomenon, but the month leading up to my move-in date, I became obsessively nostalgic. I hung out with my high school friends daily, I skimmed yearbooks and family photo albums, and I posted on many a Facebook wall about how much I was going to miss my family and home. As I said above, going to a new place with no one you know is a very horrifying experience.
In reality, though, that fear lasted a whole five minutes after my parents walked out of my dorm room. I began jumping around the floor, walking into open rooms, and introducing myself to all the new girls around me. My persona of being a self-proclaimed introvert ended right away. And as I began to explore my new environment with new people, the independence of being “alone” had a strong, sweet taste of freedom.
The Peer Pressure Effect
I lived on a dry campus my freshman year, but when I transferred to Western (lovingly nicknamed Wastern by many), I was worried that I would begin being peer pressured into activities I really had no interest in, namely drinking and drugs.
It was quite the surprise to me, though, when I ventured to my first party that when I shook my head to a bottle of beer, no one cared. College is kind of amazing like that; there are a lot of “no judgment” zones. Just remember it’s also your responsibility to not judge anyone else’s life preferences either; the world needs all kinds and no one type of person is better than another.
Another piece of advice: if you ever feel that you’re in a “judgment” zone, then get out! You have every right to say no to anything passed your way. A crowd wanting to pressure you is not the type you want to be around. Just pick up your things, make any excuse (early class or studying for a test is always a good go-to), and leave.
Speaking Of Studying…
Do it. College is a fine time to learn the different between procrastination and time management. (Hint: employers like great time managers.) And even though freshman year brings the excitement of optional class attendance, I would recommend attending the majority. Why pay $20,000 a year for a degree you won’t ever reach if you keep failing classes? Prove to yourself and the world that you’re ready for that thing called Adulthood.
The Mandatory Dining Plan
Freshman year means freshmen dorms, and freshmen dorms mean mandatory dining plan. We all know it and we all grow to hate it. That beautiful pasta bar at Davis may look appetizing the first month, but come October and even a plate of mac n cheese might make you queasy.
Be prepared that the cafeteria food will get old. Expand your palate. Listen to the little voice in your head that sounds oddly like Mom telling you to have a salad. Change it up and try not to get bored.
Fun fact: college is where my addiction to sushi began. I wouldn’t touch the stuff prior to my schooling, but one day the usual pizza, chicken wrap, or all-day waffle maker just wasn’t cutting it… so I tried something new!
Be Involved In Everything
This is the best advice I can give you. College is the time to not only meet new people and learn new things, but it’s where you find your passions and build upon them to grow into a career and lifestyle. Join that skydiving group, enroll in that 1 credit Tai Chi course, pick up a sign and protest at the center of campus.
I had never volunteered prior to college. Then my sophomore year I mistaken walked into a Habitat for Humanity meeting. Not wanting to be rude or be embarrassed by admitting my mistake, I stayed — and I was hooked. It’s moments like those, when you might have no idea what is going on, that make you look back years later and smile over your college years. I made some great friends at Habitat and even decided to pursue a minor in nonprofit business due to the mission behind the organization.
So don’t be afraid of what you can do on campus, and don’t be afraid that you’ll do too much. Most clubs do not require mandatory meetings, so you can pick and choose when you attend and still keep an active lifeline. Partying will only get you so far in life; it’s the deep-rooted experiences we make that mold the person we become.
Now take a breath, unpack the essentials, and get out there and start living some of the best years of your life!
And never forget what you’re actually in college for…