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5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before Entering My First Year of College

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Hawaii chapter.

Let’s take it back to high school. You have four to six classes, and every teacher assigned an assignment due this week for you to finish. After school, you either hang out with friends, go home, or go to work. After that’s done, you work on those assignments. College is not the same. It is vigorous, intense, and scary for some; especially knowing that money and your degree is on the line. So, if you’re a freshman and currently feeling nervous about what the future holds for you, this list of five things that I wish someone told me before going to college is for you.

Discipline > Motivation

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

– Lao Tzu

This is very true in many ways, but what Lao Tzu doesn’t say is how that journey is filled with groggy mornings after having an all-nighter. It’s filled with not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. It’s filled with wanting to skip class to get caught up in other classes. It’s filled with truly considering dropping out. It’s filled with feeling like there are so many things to do with so little time. It’s filled with prioritizing your degree over your health. But what holds true to this quote is that there is just one step. To discipline yourself.

Motivation is great, it helps you to stay on top of things while also keeping yourself faithful to the purpose of going to college. But on the days when you don’t have any motivation, discipline is your best friend.

On the days when I don’t want to get out of bed, I say to myself (yes, out loud) to get up and get it going. On the days when it feels like I’m drowning in assignments, I tell myself to get it done and I won’t be drowning anymore. Discipline goes a long way when your motivation is lacking. In high school, teachers told you to stay motivated to get through the stress. In college, motivation and discipline go hand in hand. And sometimes, discipline will be the only thing to get you going.

don’t bite off more than you can chew

You’re in college now, and that means you’re in control of what classes you decide to take. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can choose any class you want and you’ll graduate with a degree. In my high school, classes were on a block schedule. This means that four classes were about an hour and a half long, with a break for lunch in between. This is very similar to how college classes are scheduled, so I had a basic understanding of how classes were going to be in college. With only four classes, I could handle the load very well. And I thought that in college, I could do well with seven 3 credit classes in my first semester. That was a mistake. A huge mistake.

As a freshman choosing your classes, prioritize the general education requirements to knock them out of the park early on in your college career. Do not try to go for a 300+ level course, because things will go from 0-100 real quick. You’re basically throwing yourself into the ring of fire. Be vigilant about your major, and choose courses based on what you’re interested in as well as courses you think would be helpful for you in your career. Be mindful of the graduation requirements and requirements for your major.

Finally, do not pack on seven courses your first semester like how I did. If you plan on having a job or participating in extracurriculars, it’s important to see how you juggle everything you’re putting on your plate. Feel how 4-5 classes are first, and then based on how well you handled the course load, make that huge jump in your second semester.

the first year is essential for making friends

It is extremely difficult to establish friendships in college if you are not residing in the dorms or that social of a person. Not because people don’t like you, but because classmates are hard to transition from “just a classmate” to “bestie 4 life.” Usually, you’d have a cool conversation with a classmate and think that you’d both be really great friends, and once the semester is over, you never hear from them again. Students that dorm tends to have an easier time making friends because of having roommates and other residents in those dorms, especially during their first year of college. If you skip out on dorming for your first year and dorm during your second year, you will find that everyone already established friend groups. The first year of college is essential for making friends. 

If your goal is to make friends and meet new people, involve yourself! Get out of your comfort zone and join some clubs, eat at the dining hall, hang around the campus, maintain relationships you create with classmates, and make yourself visible. The only way to make friends is to show yourself around. Have confidence in what you can bring into people’s lives, and if it doesn’t work out like how you wanted it to the first few times, don’t worry! There’ll be more opportunities for you to meet new people as long as you commit to that goal.

manage your time. seriously.

Turning in assignments on time is crucial for most classes in order for you to be on top of things and to have a satisfactory grade. Throughout my years in college, I’ve worked one full-time job as well as a part-time job with 4-6 classes while taking care of myself and my loved ones. I passed classes with A’s and B’s. How do I do it? I always set time for my responsibilities while also acknowledging the importance of taking care of myself and my relationships with loved ones (family, friends, and my significant other).

Before the semester even starts, look at the syllabus. Plan out your first few weeks of classes (although, keep in mind that things may change over time), and leave a day or two for you to relax throughout the week. Like truly, relax. Know your limits and also recognize when you’re starting to slack off. This will be helpful to you when working on assignments.

This is where discipline also is handy. It helps you to realize when you’re off balance and helps you to remain in balance. If you’re hanging out with friends way too much and not getting stuff done, take a moment to pause. There’s all the time in the world to make memories, but there isn’t all the time in the world until that 10-page essay is due.

Also, recognize when you need to take a break. Don’t just dedicate your whole life to school and extracurriculars. Take time for yourself, read that book you’ve been putting off reading, give your family a call, and go to the gym like you said you would. You are a human being, not a homework machine. It’s okay to do nothing for a day or two, or for even a few minutes.

no one actually cares

College is different from high school in that, no one cares. You can literally show up to class in a big shirt and sweatpants and no one will care. You can show up in full glam and a dress and no one will care. You don’t need to impress anyone, and you don’t have any competition. Be yourself. The beauty of college is knowing that (almost) everyone is there for only one thing: that degree. So you won’t need to feel pressured to be someone else other than yourself!

So, if you’re a freshman and you’re anxious about what the future holds for you, that is totally normal. Going out of your comfort zone and moving to a new state or even going to college, in general, is a huge step in your life. Don’t forget to pat yourself on the back from time to time.

Your college experience is totally up to you and how you want it to go. Focus on yourself and your career, on finding yourself, making new memories, exploring what the world has to offer, learning new things, and growing. I promise you, college won’t be as bad as you think it will be!

Jessa Tadeo

Hawaii '24

Howzit! I'm Jessa, a self-proclaimed music enthusiast, born and raised on O'ahu. I'm in my third year majoring in Social Work and I love to go on way too many coffee runs.