(Me, following my first weekend home from college with clean clothes!)
I saw a tweet this morning from a girl who would be starting college in a few weeks. Her tweet struck me, and woke me up from this weird state of bliss and lit a fire; I will not be going to college in a few weeks. Ever again. That period in my life is over. College was now something I could refer to and file away as a “period” in my life. I can somehow relate to Twitter Girl’s excitement, like I was feeling it surge through myself, but at the same time, I could not feel more removed from her major transition.
I really do envy her excitement because I’m now in the period of looking at my freshman year of college in hindsight where I sometimes stay awake at night and wonder WHY I did THAT or HOW IN THE WORLD DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS ONE THING THAT WOULD HAVE SAVED ME SO MUCH STRESS? My first semester of college was among my hardest semesters of my college career and frankly, they were some of the hardest times in my entire life and I am so determined to make sure I can give advice to people starting college to prevent some of my craziest nightmares!
- You aren’t married to your major and it is more than okay not to know what you want to major in! I entered school as a journalism major because I love to write and I really wanted to be a music journalist. I believed I could be successful based only on my two semesters as the editor of my high school newspaper, and my weekly dedication to putting the paper together could prepare me for any type of work load thrown at me. NO. NOPE. SORRY. GO BACK TO START. I later found out my school was home to one of the top journalism programs in the whole country, and I needed to have much more dedication and balance in order to succeed. I envied people I met who told me they were undeclared; waiting to declare your major gives you room to breathe, and it allows you to explore all of your options!
2. Ask someone (anyone at all) to help explain the course catalog to you, so you know what level of coursework you are taking. This one is SO important! I went through a transition program at my school a few months before school started, and I had my some of my future professors and instructors put my course schedule together with almost no explanation. I assumed everyone in my program took the same classes regardless of experience level. I was enrolled in classes that were meant for seniors (!) and I had absolutely no idea because I had not been taught the ends and outs of course scheduling.
3. It’s more than okay not to have anything in common with your roommate or other people living on your floor. You are not terrible if you don’t find common ground with any of these people, I swear. A week before college, I went through a program designed to get freshmen ready for the college experience and the entire week was spent with the people who lived on my dorm floor. We ate every meal together and did every. single. college. readiness. activity. together. I’m incredibly introverted, so the forced and tight interaction left me feeling like something was wrong with me, and I would feel like this for my entire four years. I hadn’t found my people quite yet and that was SO FINE. You will meet your best friends with common ground. They could be living on your floor or you can meet them in the dining hall. Don’t feel bad if you do not immediately bond with someone and don’t ignore your hesitations if interactions feel forced.
4. Explore as many organizations and clubs as possible! I had known I wanted to join my college’s radio station, so I did that as soon as possible, and I dedicated myself to it for five years. That’s perfectly okay and I wouldn’t change anything because I fell in love with radio and got to be around other people who were as passionate about music as I am. I wish that I had taken a look at some of the other organizations, though. I denied myself the opportunity to explore because I felt like I was committing myself to the radio station. Float around and see what you like and what you don’t. See what clicks! College is about exploration!
5. If you feel overwhelmed by your course load, drop a class! My school put an emphasis on freshmen taking 15 hours per semester so they could graduate in exactly four years. I quickly learned five classes was too much for me to handle, and I fell extremely behind really quickly, because I had no idea there was an alternative. I had a web designing class designed for seniors and knew pretty quickly I wasn’t going to survive, but I didn’t know it was okay to drop a class. Falling behind in your other courses because you’re struggling to pass another is scary, and so avoidable! Listen to your instincts and don’t let anyone force you to do something beyond your limit! I’m extremely thankful I opted to take 12 hours from that point on; it set me back a few semesters, but I was able to breathe so much better and concentrate on my classes in a much more manageable manner.
6. Pulling all nighters are not helpful, it is not cool. Drinking seven cups of coffee in order to stay awake the next day is not glamorous and it doesn’t give you magical powers. Sleep is the absolute best option. Sleep! Sleep! Please go to sleep at night. Organize your schedule to the point where you’re able to accomplish enough of your work, and still get enough sleep to function the next day.
7. Get a planner! Become your planner’s best friend!: I still have my planner from my first semester of college. You’re going to have a packed schedule in no time, so investing in a planner is a must as early as possible. My school gave out free planners during our welcome week, and they were really cheap in the bookstore afterward.
8. Shower sandals are sweet. Trust me, if you live in a dorm and have to use community bathrooms, you’re gonna need them because people are pretty terrible.
9. You don’t have to do absolutely anything you are not ready for! Peer pressure is real, and it became very much a reality when I started college. Exploring your options is cool and encouraged, but if you find yourself in a situation that you know you’re uncomfortable with, get out as fast as possible and know that saying “no” is allowed.
10. Expect the unexpected! I got lice for the first time during my first semester of college, and I wanted to die. Coming in close contact with people in a small dorm space can definitely make getting lice a possibility. Life happens and it’s always important to remember to expect the unexpected, and have the awareness that anything can happen.
It’s really important to note everyone experiences college differently and no experience is identical! I asked my friends what they wish they had known before entering college and I wish I’d known some of these tips! I wish you the best on your freshman year. Rock on and make it rad. You’ve got this!
“This may sound cynical but I really wish I would’ve known that the “good” people in my life were sometimes bad people in sheep’s clothing. It’s hard to deal when you find out too late!”
“Dividing the number of pages you have to read by the number of days you have to read them= guaranteed you’ll read all of it but only as little as you have to on a daily basis.”
“Don’t room with your best friend from high school because it can ruin the friendship completely.”
“Not everyone you’re friends with the first couple of weeks stay your friends after the first year.”
“Due dates are closer than they appear. Just because it’s (an assignment) important doesn’t mean you have to miss (another) class for it. Don’t just put it off if it’s hard.”
“Social life isn’t as important as you think it is.”
Specific to Western Kentucky University students (hi! go Tops!): If you walk on Chestnut you’ll avoid walking uphill.”