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Five Things I Wish I Could Tell My Freshman-Year Self

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

When I started college last year, I was eager to start a fresh chapter in my life. With that fresh chapter, though, came high expectations. I expected to make amazing friends, join as many clubs as possible, prioritize making lifestyle changes like working out and cooking more often, and make stellar grades on top of all that. Some of those expectations came true. By putting myself out there, I made amazing friends, and quickly learned how I study best, not to mention I started running and also learned how to cook several tasty new meals. Behind that success, though, I still made several mistakes my freshman year. College is a learning curve, and because I’m only a sophomore, I have a lot more to learn. Still, these are some of the pieces of advice that I wish I could have given to myself last year from where I am now in college.

  1. It’s okay to not do it all. 

I think I managed to burn myself out by week seven of college my first semester. I joined ten (yes, ten!) clubs and organizations on campus and felt obligated to go to each and every one of their meetings, regardless of how interested I actually was in them. On top of that, I tried not to miss any student performance, campus-sponsored event, football game, or party that I got invited to. My sense of FOMO was real, and I always questioned if missing one of these events would be somehow detrimental to my college career. Looking back, I think I would have been much happier and less exhausted if I participated only in the things that meant the most to me.

  1. It’s okay to not know or be friends with everyone!

I don’t mean this to say that you should go into college judging people or not expecting to make a lot of friends! But especially at a small school like mine, it can be easy to make one friend, and immediately meet all their mutual friends, and so forth, to the point where it almost feels like you know half your campus by name by the third week of school. This can be way overwhelming, and my first semester at school, I felt bad that I didn’t know as many people as some of my other friends did, and wondered if I wasn’t trying hard enough to cultivate relationships with enough people. Despite this feeling, I still ended up with amazing friends that I connected with on a deeper level, and I realize now that I never needed to stress about this. 

  1. Don’t be afraid to take a mental health day if you truly need it.

I don’t know about you, but for much of my first semester at college, I was an anxious wreck. And I never allowed myself to miss class, even zooming into my classes when I got too sick to attend in person. I’m a firm believer that you should go to as many classes as you can, and not just skip class time, especially since you’re paying for each class you take. Still, putting yourself first is crucial to doing well in college, and sometimes that means taking a day, or part of a day, off as self-care. I took a mental health day once last semester after hitting burnout, and honestly I think it made my academic performance improve rather than causing it to suffer because of missing a day. If you need to, it’s okay to take a day for yourself to reset and focus on self-care.

  1. Speak up more in class!

It wasn’t until my second semester on campus that I really started to speak up in class. Sure, I’d contribute every now and then during discussion time or when professors asked questions, but I was terrified to ask questions during class or put my thoughts out there in seminar classes. I wish I had started doing this more consistently earlier, because especially after starting to engage more during discussions in an English class my second semester, I realized how much it helps. By doing that, your professors know that you’re engaged with the material, and I also found that I got more out of class when I was actively contributing to our discussions. It was brutal when I first started trying to speak up, since I’m naturally very quiet and introverted, but once I did, I never looked back.

  1. Be intentional about finding and getting to know your academic advisor.

I didn’t really get to know my academic advisors until I switched from my randomly-assigned freshman year advisor to my primary and secondary advisors in the spring. I wish I had made this switch earlier, because they have provided me with endless support and opportunities, not only academically, but also personally. Granted, this is a perk of going to a small, very student-oriented school, but my advisors are amazing people that have made the rest of my time here since my first semester much easier, and I wish I had found them sooner.

Emily Bost

Denison '25

Emily is a sophomore at Denison who is a biochemistry major and English minor on the pre-med track. She's involved in choir, newspaper, and medical volunteering alongside Her Campus, and loves reading, playing piano, getting involved in theatre, and thrifting in her spare time. She's passionate about environmental sustainability and breaking down the stigma of mental health on college campuses.