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Mental Health

Dear First Semester Freshman Year, Thank You For Sucking. Sincerely, a College Sophomore

Dear First Semester Freshman Year, 

You were the worst. And, honestly, you shocked me. I thought you would be easy, filled with smooth transitions, perfect grades, a sea of new friends and pure bliss at those sweaty-frat parties. But you were not. Instead of sitting on that crisp-green quad and relishing my new-found freedom and independence, I sat in my bed questioning why the movies made college seem like heaven-on-earth when it felt as though it was anything but. 

First semester freshman year you flooded me with anxiety; forced me to question if I was the only one crying myself to sleep wondering if I had enough friends; and led me to think I had to be the perfect student who was simultaneously part of ten clubs. You took my sweet, innocent high-school self and slapped it in the face. 

And for that, I could not be more grateful.  

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Before continuing, I want to share that my first semester was not entirely awful. I had good days, bad days, extraordinary days and terrible days. These ups and downs of life- especially during a significant transition such as college- are to be expected. But nevertheless, the first semester of college was a challenging time in my life. 

Before my first semester, I will be transparent and say that I rarely struggled. I loved high school, was involved in my community, had a wonderful group of friends and a loving family, was successful in school and felt like I was thriving most of the time. You could say that the cookie often crumbled in my direction. 

Fast forward to August of 2019 and all of those established pieces of my pie were miles away. As time progressed and my first six weeks of that euphoric “college-buzz” began to dwindle, the cookie felt as if it was no longer crumbling towards me. 

Different friends I would make seemed to disappear. Midterms piled up, and I felt like I was drowning in readings, papers and exams. I did not know my major. I was in a group project that seemed to take over my life. I could not seem to navigate Washington D.C. for the life of me. Social media became my worst enemy as it appeared that everyone and their mother were thriving at college with a red solo cup in hand. I stared at those Instagram smiles and thought about those college movies thinking, “That should be me.”

overhead view of a woman sitting in front of her laptop
Photo by energepic.com from Pexels

I felt alone, not knowing if I was at the right place doing the right things. As an already anxious person who does not love change, I eventually got to a place in early-November where I lost myself and all hope completely. I became so anxious and miserable that I could not sleep, struggled to eat and shower, and had panic attacks in the middle of my classes. My time at college had become so depressing that the curly-haired, smiling redhead I knew myself as was no longer there. 

Knowing something was off, my mom flew out to visit me and check in. That weekend, she told me that she saw I was miserable, and more importantly, that I needed help.

At that moment, I knew she was right. I went to speak to a therapist who provided me with tools that would allow me to combat a lot of what college threw at me. I took steps to work on myself, to accept that I could not always be perfect, to add more pieces back to my pie, and to build resilience. I rushed a sorority. I began exercising everyday. I worked on balancing my time. I reached out to people. I started to mend the pieces that I had broken into over the past few months. 

Kristen Bryant-Girl Lounging Relax Logo 1
Kristen Bryant / Her Campus

Exactly a year ago, at this time, I was in the darkest place I had ever been in my life. I am so happy to say that today, as a first semester sophomore, I am thriving. Not everyday is perfect. In fact, life is far from that. I am a work in progress, and I will likely always be a work in progress. But, I am so grateful for what I went through last year, and I will explain why. 

My first semester struggles taught me so much more about life and myself than a perfect semester would have. My struggle allowed me to become resilient. It allowed me to grow. It made me establish and use tools that are especially helpful now, given that we are in a pandemic (i.e. if I did not struggle as much as I did last year, I am not entirely sure how I would be navigating the unknown/changes of Covid right now).

It taught me that adapting takes time, but that it is possible. It taught me that it is crucial to get help when you are struggling. It taught me that college is not always like the movies, but that it does not have to be for it to be special. It taught me to hold onto family, friends and faith. It taught me that indeed, I can overcome any struggle. 

What is even more fascinating is that when I began to open up about my experience, others came forward with similar stories. They shared that they also struggled their first semester. I realize that it would have been helpful to know that I was not struggling alone when I was a freshman, so I make it a priority to share my experience with as many people as possible. 

With that said, if you are someone who is struggling right now in college, whether it be your first semester or last semester, I see you. I hear you. I am with you. And I believe in you. You will get through this. It may take time, but I know you will. College is not easy, but know there are so many resources and people who care about you and know what you are going through- including me. 

A couple making a heart at sunset
Photo by Mayur Gala from Unsplash

So, first semester freshman year, thank you. Thank you for slapping me in the face. Thank you for sucking. Because without you, I am not sure I would be who I am today. Because of you, I am stronger, more independent, confident and grateful. Because of you, I am still working on my mental health and on enhancing my tools. Because of you, I am more fearless. Because of you, I can help others. Because of you, I am a college queen. 


A First Semester College Sophomore


Photos: Her Campus Media

Maya Mor

American '23

Maya Mor is a junior at American University from Denver, CO. She is studying psychology, business administration, and communications. She enjoys writing, being with people, traveling, eating ice cream, fashion, Judaism and Israel, female empowerment, and advocating for mental health. She is passionate, zestful, and loves working with Her Campus to inspire, share, learn, love, and grow.
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