1. Letting go of some first-semester friends.
Stepping onto a college campus freshman year is scarier than most horror movies. You’re alone, you have to make new friends, and you’re away from your family and the comforts of home. You’ll be told by tour guides and family members that college is a place where you’ll make lifelong friends, grow up, have life-changing experiences, etc. You’ll want to make those memories the minute your foot touches the main quad, but hold your horses. When it comes to forging friendships, college is a four-year (sometimes longer) marathon, not a sprint. So go out and make those friends, but don’t be afraid if a lot of those don’t last (these are called first-semester friends, and they’re a thing). Also, rest assured that you’ll be making friends until the very end of school when you’re hungover in your cap and gown.
2. Holding off on declaring a major.
At some point, you’ll remember that aside from the keg stands, beer pong tournaments, and walks of shame, college is a place of higher education where you are supposed to both learn and prepare yourself for the real world. And it will be exciting — suddenly, instead of having just general requirements like in high school, you’ll be able to choose your own academic path, and, in the grander scheme of things, that means selecting a major. But don’t be afraid to take your time. Most schools don’t require you to declare your major until at least your sophomore year, so don’t rush anything. This not only gives you time to change your mind (duh), but also to consider if you want to double major or minor in a subject area, study abroad, and a myriad of other things.
3. Taking a difficult class, or a class outside of your comfort zone.
Not declaring your major RIGHT away also allows you to “experiment” academically. If you’ve ever felt like learning a new language, exploring film or gender studies, or wanted to learn about 18th-century France, now is the time! You won’t be racing to fulfill major requirements as a freshman AND the process of exploring academically can help you figure out your likes and dislikes when it comes to finally declaring your major.
4. Experimenting and getting to know yourself ~sexually.~
Sure, you may come into college with *some* sexual experience, but college is really the time to let your freak flag fly. A bunch of young, attractive adults, all the same age, in an enclosed environment is a recipe for sexual hijinks. Make every walk of shame a walk of fame, and do YOU — don’t let anyone slut-shame you (and obviously, don’t slut-shame anyone). That all being said, remember to be responsible, considerate of your partners, and USE PROTECTION. Most of all, don’t feel the pressure to have any amount of sex, but instead, do what’s comfortable.
5. Going to that party on a Saturday night when you have loads of work to do — you’ll still get it done.
Pop culture depictions of college depict campuses as centers of debauchery and bacchanalia, and, to a large extent, that’s true. Don’t be afraid to let loose, crack a beer, and play a little pong — the hard part of getting into school is now over. Socializing is a healthy way to meet new friends, blow off steam, and just be ALIVE as a young adult. Just remember to stay in control, and the adage that everything is better in moderation is ESPECIALLY true when it comes to your social life.
6. Not punishing yourself for feeling sad, alone, or upset.
College brochures depict school as this fantasyland where perfect students always have a smile on their face while they ace their exams, ask important academic questions, throw a frisbee on the quad, and change the world. But that’s the photoshopped version of what college is like. College is real life, warts and all. As a freshman, you are going to have your fair share of bad days. You shouldn’t EVER feel guilty about feeling sad, bad about yourself, or plain old alone. You just underwent probably the biggest change in your life, and struggling is naturally part of the process. Unfortunately, everyone else might put up a front that they are doing just fine, thank you very much. But realize the struggle is real for everyone, and while you may feel lonely, you are NOT alone.
7. Picking up the phone to call mom or seeking help on campus when the going gets tough.
Part of the process of getting over freshman blues is seeking help. That might mean calling home, or it might mean asking a friend for help. You also DEFINITELY should consider seeking professional help that probably is available to you on campus. It’s probably free or very cheap, and it can help you immensely on many levels — socially, academically, and, most importantly, personally. You’ve undergone some serious change in your life — why not ask for some help in sorting it out?
8. Living your life for yourself, not for social media.
Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all TERRIFIC ways to stay in touch with family and friends from back home, don’t get me wrong, but they also create this image that everyone else is leading glossy, happy lives. Basically, they’re like Photoshop but for life. Every second you spend choosing a filter or composing a tweet is less time you are spending on exploring who you are as a person, making friends, and, on a less sexy note, getting schoolwork done. Use social media sparingly, like salt, and it will go a long way for you in keeping in touch with old acquaintances while not constraining you from living your damn life.
9. Escaping your dorm room.
The same mentality goes for getting out of your dorm room. You really cannot make any friends while you’re on your futon, so get out of your room. Need to do homework? Go to the library, and sit with friends. Need to chill out with friends? Grab a meal. And watching Netflix and playing video games are just not going to make you a better you. Yes, you will need alone time to decompress — and don’t forget that. But freshman year is where you lay the groundwork for the rest of your college life, so make sure it’s rock solid by putting yourself out there. Your dorm room should be mostly for sleeping, getting ready, and storing your shit. Your life, however, should be experienced across campus.
10. Joining an activity or club, especially something you’ve never done before.
Undoubtably your high school life was heavily scheduled with homework, volunteering, sports, artistic or creative endeavors, etc. Suddenly, in college, you have a lot more time on your hands. Some of that time should of course be spent on homework, some on sleep (seriously, you need some), and, of course, some to blow of steam. This doesn’t just mean drinking — you MUST get yourself involved with campus life, and the sooner the better. Student clubs and organizations are the perfect avenue to explore your interests, make a name for yourself on campus, AND engage in friendships in the process. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that you’ll be beefing up your résumé in the process. So go ahead, write for the student newspaper, join the club water polo team, or run for student government. You literally have nothing to lose.
11. Seeing your professor outside of classroom hours.
The dirty little secret of college is that the majority of work you need to do to succeed academically is not done inside the classroom. That rule certainly holds true when it comes to your professors. When you think about the number of classes they have to teach, the countless students they have taught through the years, and the research they are most likely conducting, you are most likely a very minuscule part of their lives. In order to game this system, you NEED to meet with your professors outside of class — whether it’s for extra help, guidance, or even just to grab a cup of coffee. They’ll appreciate your diligence, and you’ll force them to put a name to your face in the process. It also doesn’t hurt that they are very likely fascinating people who have a wealth of wisdom and experience to offer you.
12. Compromising, even if it’s out of your comfort zone, in order to be a better roommate.
Check out any Bed, Bath & Beyond or Ikea catalog and you’ll see a picture-perfect dorm room with fluffy sheets, hanging lights, and a bookshelf that would make Belle from Beauty and The Beast jealous. Alas, unless you are the second coming of Martha Stewart, you will probably not achieve such dorm room perfection. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be a good roommate. This probably will be the first time you’re living with someone who isn’t family for an extended period of time, and thus will be a challenging, but rewarding experience. Learn to pick up after yourself. Learn to be patient. Learn to listen. Learn to pick your battles. And last, but not least, figure out a system on how to sexile each other.
13. Getting in touch with your body.
The freshman 15 is sadly a very, very real thing. Between all the food suddenly available, the late-night snacking, and the fact that you probably aren’t playing a sport regularly anymore like in high school, and the weight will creep up on you. For the most part, that’s totally fine and part of getting older (EEEEEEK!). BUT, college is also a great time to develop healthy habits that can last a lifetime. You’ve probably got a free fitness center at your disposal, potentially with classes. Take that opportunity. If you don’t like machines, go on a run around campus. Join a club or rec sport. Staying active doesn’t have to be boring or hard, and it can have an incredibly positive effect on your academics. Also, don’t be afraid to skip the curly fries and hit the salad bar in the dining hall.
14. And finally, choosing to accept failure.
Remember that time where you aced every class in high school, were the captain of your team, starred in a school musical, and got into your dream college? That was great stuff, except nearly everyone else at school followed that exact same script. When you step onto campus, you’ll be surrounded by thousands of other overachievers. For the first time in your life, you won’t be a superstar, but another fish in the pond. This also means you’ll fail on a scale you never have before, whether it is academically, socially, or in your extracurriculars. Learning to accept that failure will not just make you a stronger competitor but a more grounded person as well.