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There are a million articles dishing out unsolicited advice to new college freshmen. The transition between high school and college is an overwhelming period of your life and it is only natural to seek out help during this time. I could rattle off the typical advice that is found in articles like this one. The tips aren’t wrong; you should actually go to class, take advantage of office hours and put yourself out there. All of this is sound advice. Yet, it isn’t exactly concrete and it certainly isn’t something you haven’t already heard a million times. 

I have taken it upon myself to be the older sister you never asked for (or the cool cousin at family holidays) and give you my honest advice from the heart — and perhaps a bit of unconventional advice for your first year at college.

Don’t be afraid to find the new you

There is something magical about finding out exactly who you’re meant to be without the influence of high school. If you came from a small, insular town, like me, college is going to be a whole new and overwhelming world. While it may seem scary at first, take a look in the mirror. Ask yourself if the person looking back at you is who you truly are or just who always have been. Try out a new nickname, change your style or stay exactly as you are. Whatever you choose to do, do it for yourself and not for anyone else.

Don’t put anyone on a pedestal

I know it's hard to believe, but other people are just as human as you. It’s so easy to feel caught up in the idea that everyone has it figured out but you. It can feel like the new girls that you meet here are so much cooler than you’ll ever be. You think that this frat boy you've met is perfect (trust me, he definitely isn’t) and you’ll never be good enough for him (trust me, you’re better than him by a million miles). These imposter syndrome feelings will eat you alive. You are just as worthy as everyone else.

Nobody cares as much as you think

Who you are and how others view you are at the center of your world. Despite this, people are not thinking of you every second of the day. No one remembers that super embarrassing memory you replay in your mind when you go to bed every night. The overthinking is natural, but in the end, it's unnecessary. College is just a series of horrifyingly embarrassing moments that you will laugh about later. I promise you, the rest of the world is too busy obsessing over their own life to worry about your every move.

It’s okay to lose friends

We all go into college thinking that our childhood best friends will always be our best friends. While you’ll stay close to many, it’s naive to think your relationships won’t fade with others. College is the unfortunate reminder that often childhood friends are your friends because of proximity and history. When you remove the proximity element, you realize that a friendship entirely riding on shared memories is destined to grow apart. The heartbreak of a friendship breakup can rival a romantic one. However, college is also the place where you meet friends you don’t understand how you lived a life without.

Push your boundaries

This sounds scary and not like great advice, but I made some of my best friends and had the most fun when I was just a little bit out of my comfort zone. I was completely terrified of sorority recruitment and thought about dropping rush a million times, but now I am in a sorority I love with my best friends. I was completely terrified to go to my first college party but I will cherish the memories of that moment forever. (Please learn from my mistakes and don’t wear Birkenstocks!) If I never pushed myself outside of my comfort zone, I would forever be in my dorm curled up watching Netflix. Saying "yes" to opportunities and adventures is, without a doubt, terrifying, but in my experience, it's worth the risk.

Live in the moment

This is the last stage of your life that you can live with minimal amounts of responsibilities. Katie Roiphe, author and The Atlantic contributor describes appreciating college the best:

"Even when you are stressed about an exam, or nauseous from staying up all night writing a paper, or racing to class on a cold day, try to appreciate the onetime splendor of being immersed in friends, eating every single meal with them, discussing blooming dramas in every waking hour, having nothing expected of you from the universe but reading and thinking and arguing and expanding your known world," Roiphe wrote.

This truly is a magical time in your life. Don't take a single day for granted, because before you know it, you'll be moving out of your freshman year dorm.

Going to college is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I found myself and an amazing group of people to surround myself with. College is what you make of it, which is equally terrifying and spectacular. You are the captain of your own ship. The journey may not be smooth, but the destination will hopefully be worth it.

Jordan Smith

Mizzou '25

Jordan Smith is a freshman journalism student at the University of Missouri. She is a lover of Taylor Swift, a good book, and overpriced iced coffee.
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