I have the pleasure and privilege of training dozens of young men and women who will be college freshmen in just a few short weeks, and I thought this is worth sharing. I did not write the article – it was written by Cailin Austin about a year ago – I found it on social media. It has special significance for me since the last of my four children will soon be embarking on her own college freshman experience.
Attending college for the first time is a time filled with high expectations, excitement, nerves, and a lot of hope for the future. If you were anything like me, you were lucky enough to get accepted into your dream school with a lot of high hopes about the upcoming year. I couldn’t wait to move into my freshman dorm, no matter how little or crappy it might have been, I was undoubtedly excited. The year was fresh (literally) and I couldn’t wait to start living a college lifestyle and meet the people I was going to be friends with for the next four years of my life and hopefully even longer. I had never been so excited about going back to school shopping and started packing and preparing for the move weeks in advance.
I had this image in my head of what freshman year was going to be like and it looked a lot like something you would see on an ABC Family or MTV show rather than what the reality of freshman year really was. I would be sitting here lying to you if I told you my freshman year was the best year of my life and to expect to have a year full of parties and fun with no responsibilities. The fact of the matter is, freshman year is your first real step into adulthood. It is your first unsheltered, uncensored, version of the real world that your parents (for the most part) have no control over. While this truly is an exciting thing, if you’re not prepared for it freshman year can be a lot more stressful than expected.
I wish someone told me that the people I met the first week of school weren’t going to be my best friends the whole year and not to take it to heart when they stop talking to you. You meet SO many people your first few weeks of school and you want to be friends with literally all of them. But in college, unlike high school, you probably won’t see those same people every day so maintaining relationships takes a lot more work than before. To be honest, you may forget what it was like to actually make a new friend, especially if you were friends with the same people all through high school.
I wish someone told me that my study habits in high school absolutely will not hold up in college. When you were told to “read the text” in high school for homework, you wrote “no homework” in your planner for that day. Reading your text book in high school was actually laughed at in most situations and if you didn’t have an end of the year freak out about where your text books were, you were doing it wrong.Read your textbooks; every page, every chapter. Write everything down, from notes to homework, it’s all important.
I wish someone told me the “freshman 15” was absolutely not a myth. Despite the fact that I spent countless nights in our campus gym, the freshman 15 was still gained and stayed. I couldn’t tell you why or how this happens, but expect to gain a few pounds your first year of college. Whether it’s from all of the campus cookies you couldn’t have passed your final without or from all the delicious new food options, expect to be a few pounds heavier when returning home for thanksgiving. And most importantly, know that you don’t look any different despite how you feel, and know that this will most likely happen to everyone.
I wish someone told me that it’s okay to say no to people. After you get to know your hall mates and become closer with the people you’ve met your first few weeks of college, you quickly learn that there is always something going on. Learn that you don’t have to agree to attend everything someone invites you to. If you need to stay home and study, speak up. Don’t just say yes to please someone or because you feel like you will lose that person as a friend if you say no. Learn to put you and your needs first, and if someone judges you because you decided to study rather than go out, so be it. You’re here to learn not to socialize. Its okay to decline peoples offers.
I wish someone told me to go to class no matter how tired I was. Fun fact about college: you don’t technically have to go to class if you don’t want to. But for the sake of your grades, please go to class. You only get the chance to learn the material once, and you will be tested on the lecture material whether you were there or not. One tired day may cost you a good grade in the class, no joke. Go to every class you can and take detailed notes. (Tip: you can usually take pictures of the slides/diagrams as well, it helps a lot.)
I wish someone told me that only my true friends from high school will remain my friends in college. Losing contact with high school friends is a given in college. Even the people you swore were your closest friends may forget about you in the craziness of freshman year. The good news is you are at a school with thousands of people looking to make new friends and they will fill the empty spaces that old ones left.
I wish someone told me to be careful at parties. Although it is very rare something bad happens, it is true that parties aren’t the safest place. Especially for freshman, it’s easy to just go to the party that everyone else is going to without knowing anything about the place or who is going to be there. Look out for your friends and stay together. Navigating a college town at night is scary and can be dangerous. Know where you are going beforehand and always have a way home. Don’t always trust people you have just met and never leave a cup unattended.
I wish someone told me my grades aren’t going to be as great in college as they were in high school. Expect your GPA to drop at least half a point, usually. You’re going to have a lot of distractions in college and a lot less structure in your schedule. Keeping a balance truly is a difficult task and your grades aren’t going to always be what you want them to be. You will learn the perfect combination to keep your grades and yourself happy. Give it some time and don’t beat yourself up if you get a C in a class or two. You have three years to make up for it.
I wish someone told me that getting homesick is completely normal. The first few spells of homesickness I had scared me to death. I was afraid that if I was homesick it meant that I didn’t like the school I was at or that something was wrong or missing. This is usually not the case even though it may feel that way at times. You’re going to miss home no matter how much you wished your way out of it from day one. Home is what is familiar to you and what you know and it’s easy to crave that when you’re somewhere completely different. Don’t let it get the best of you and just know that a call home will fix anything and everything. Don’t be afraid to call your parents and friends from home. They miss you, too.
I wish someone told me that you only get one freshman year at the college of your dreams so live it up and learn your lessons. Have the time of your life, make all of the friends you can, join clubs and organizations you’re passionate about, get involved on your campus and in your community, and take nothing for granted. You only get to do college once (if all goes well) and you’re paying to be here and get an education. Make the most of every situation and learn about yourself and the people around you. There is so much to be done and so much to learn in your four years here but especially the first. Make the most of it and don’t forget your morals or who you are!