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Navigating the Uncertainty of My First College Semester: Expectation vs. Reality

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 MSU chapter.

If I could pick one adjective to describe my first semester at MSU, it would be uncertainty. I was nowhere near the first person in my family to go to college, yet somehow I didn’t know what to expect. I had a lot of anxiety before move-in but remember being surprisingly serene on the hour-and-a-half-long drive up. Since then, it has been a rollercoaster. Being almost finished with the semester, I want to reflect on some of the aspects of college that went differently than I expected.


In a shocking turn of events, move-in was a lot smoother than I anticipated. I nervously envisioned super long lines and for the halls of my dorm to be extremely crowded. I had a late afternoon time-slot, but my parents and I allowed extra time than we actually needed and therefore got to campus pretty early. It also helped that I submitted my ID picture way before move-in so all I had to do was pick up a finished ID instead of waiting in a long line. We ended up driving right up to my dorm and taking all of my belongings up two flights of stairs, since my building has no elevator. 

The most hectic part of the process ended up being the actual unpacking. I had a ton of stuff, including way more clothing than I would ever end up wearing, so I would recommend packing less than you think you’ll need; you can always get things you need during breaks or have your parents drop them off if you live close. There were also three people helping me unpack, which was both helpful and overwhelming at times. Almost three hours after getting my belongings inside, everything was sorted as well as it could have been. As my parents hugged me and said their goodbyes, I did not start crying like I thought I would. I sat in my room for a few minutes until my roommate returned, and that was it. College had begun.

The First Two Weeks

Fall Welcome is a unique experience. One expectation about this that I nailed was that I would be constantly on the move with an endless stream of orientation activities to do. Some are fun, like the UAB movie night that I went to on my first night, while some are strictly informative. And they want you to go to as many events as humanly possible. Even so, I still had a degree of choice in the exact thing I went to do. It was exhausting but a great way to get to know my roommate and some of the people on my floor better. I think my favorite events of the week were Sparticipation and Rock the Rec. While I had a pretty good idea of the clubs I was joining prior to landing on campus, it was still fun to see all the different organizations I could join. At the end of the night, Impact89 hosted a concert, where I met some of the people I would become closest with.

The first week of classes was not as exhausting for me. Since MSU’s campus is so big, my main issue was that I kept getting lost. I biked pretty much everywhere for a while until I became more familiar with the bus system. The first week is mostly introductions and syllabus review, which was what I anticipated. Something I did that helped greatly during the first week was looking at all of my syllabi and inputting all of my assignments and due dates into a spreadsheet. It helped me keep track of all my work and was easy to update if necessary. It feels overwhelming at first, but campus will eventually become familiar and time management will come more naturally.


My biggest anxiety about classes did not actually revolve around the content, but instead time management. Many of my classes were based on writing assignments or finishing projects by deadlines. I also had some challenges learning software like Photoshop. In addition, I had an asynchronous online class that I was able to knock out at the beginning of every week. Maybe my high school prepared me well, but the transition to college classes did not hit me as hard as it did for some people, even with my 17 credits. I was able to manage my time well for the most part, tackling projects in and outside of class as they came.

As a journalism major, I did not take any classes like chemistry or calculus. At times, I honestly felt bad about myself, wondering if I took the easy way out for college. I was not pulling all-nighters to finish assignments or study for exams, and I still had time for myself and for spending time with others. However, it helped to remember that not everyone has the same strengths. Writing comes naturally to me, so in turn a major involving that would come a bit easier. The world needs a balance of STEM careers, social sciences, humanities, and creative professions. Nevertheless, the desire for rigor has not subsided and is what pushed me to add an additional major: political science. I have an idea of my life trajectory, but it is okay to be unsure; changing majors and discovering your passions is what freshman year is about.


I am about to echo one of the most cliche pieces of college advice in the entire world, but here I go. Joining clubs was imperative to my enjoyment of this semester. I was a bit involved in high school but always wanted to do more in college. As a journalism major, I opted to join some organizations focusing on writing. Her Campus was one of them, and attending meetings and events was a great way to meet more people. I also joined my school’s student-run alternative radio station, Impact89. There, I began writing about music; I was even able to interview an artist in my first semester! One of the aspects I like about both of these clubs is that I am gathering experience in a way that does not feel like work. I did not exclusively join clubs relevant to journalism though. I took advantage of some service opportunities throughout the semester, such as Alternative Spartan Breaks. It is super important to make time for leisurely clubs as well: I joined a Dungeons and Dragons club exclusively for fun and to support the hobby.

My main roadblock with clubs is how hard it was to be present in a new environment. Older members already knew each other, and sometimes I felt like an outsider. My biggest method to combat this anxiety was through consistency. I attended every meeting I could, and I also participated in events. Sometimes, I would be the only new member at an event, but I stayed and talked to people anyway. This is also why I did not overload myself with clubs, as I am able to have a somewhat equal commitment to all. Balancing involvement with passion and commitment is the best way to approach extracurriculars.

The Social Side

I had a ton of anxiety surrounding finding friends in college. I am not a huge partier, and I did not rush a sorority, so I was afraid that I would not find my people. At the same time, I was holding out hope that I would come across a huge lifelong friend group within my first semester. Where I actually landed is somewhere in the middle. I met a ton of people during my first two weeks that I do not really talk to now. On the contrary, I have people I met in the middle of the semester that I consider myself close to now. I also expected clubs to be where I made the majority of my friends, but that has not been the case. I hang out with people from clubs sometimes, but I have met more people through classes and online group chats than anything.

It is not difficult to find ways to spend time with friends at MSU. Many of them are in close proximity, especially with Lansing’s decent public transportation system. There are also a ton of events happening on-campus that are often free. Plus, there is a lot to do off-campus. One thing that has helped me meet people is exploring Lansing’s extensive music scene. There, I can have a ton of fun while meeting people with common interests. I would recommend finding something like that outside of classes or clubs. Whether you go to sports games or local museums, try not to limit yourself to only academic activities. 

While college is an inherently social experience, it is good to remember that you have four years to “find your people”. It is okay and healthy to spend some time alone. People eat alone in the dining halls and study on their own all the time. You do not need to have a million friends by the end of your first semester: Putting yourself out there and avoiding self-isolation is what matters at the end of the day.

As I discovered through these past few months, college is like a puzzle without an entirely clear solution. I did not have all of the answers right off the bat, and neither does any new student. Everyone is in a place of growth and self-discovery, even upperclassmen. I am still at the very beginning, but I feel that reflection – even after just one semester – is useful. Everything has changed, and yet I have adjusted. I will carry the insights I gained from my first semester with me through the rest of my journey.

Ashley Morgan is a staff writer for Her Campus at MSU. This is her first year writing for the publication. Morgan is a freshman at Michigan State University majoring in journalism; she is still deciding on a concentration. Morgan wrote for her high school's newspaper her senior year, which solidified her love for the craft. She is also involved with MSU's student-run radio station, Impact89, where she writes for the Entertainment team and is on the Music Review team. Aside from writing, Morgan enjoys going to local music shows, leisurely kayaking, playing bass, reading, playing TTRPGs, and collecting various trinkets to display in her dorm.