Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Life > Experiences

Four Lessons I’ve Learned As A College Freshman

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at ODU chapter.

Freshman year is an exciting new chapter in anyone’s life. It’s one of the first moments where you’re truly on your own, taking responsibility for yourself and your future as you explore the world. However, it can also be some of the hardest times. Navigating new people, new freedoms and new pressures can be just as stressful as it is thrilling.

As I finish my freshman year of college, I’ve been reflecting on how transformative this time has been for me. There were many ups and downs, but I can ultimately say that I am better because of them all. With this article, I hope to pass on some of my wisdom to anyone who needs it.

Whether you’re gearing up to start your college journey, or you’re simply looking for advice for your own journey, here are five lessons I’ve learned as a college freshman.

Your Journey Is Yours Alone

College is filled with a surplus of new decisions and choices, all of which carry more weight than before. “Which classes do I choose?” “Which clubs should I join?” “Should I distance myself from this friend?” “Should I speak up about this issue?” “Should I switch my major?”

It’s only natural that we look for advice when we’re unsure. We lean on friends, family, teachers and colleagues alike when we’re indecisive. We’re even prone to following our peers instead of being independent because it’s easier.  Trust me, I understand. However, the most important thing you can do in college is develop a voice of your own and recognize that this journey solely belongs to you. You have to choose what’s best for you, not others.

While it’s scary to understand, you are now in charge of your future. You have to be okay with the life you create. You are the one who knows yourself best. Strive to create a life you are comfortable with and make choices based on what will best improve your well-being and surroundings. When you’re unsure of a decision you’re making, you can ask yourself these questions.

What will benefit me the most?

Am I okay if this decision doesn’t turn out the way I planned?

Am I okay with the consequences of this action if there are any?

What is my heart telling me instead of what others are telling me?

Am I only making this decision because of other people?

Am I happy with the future that’s ahead of me if I make this decision?

Remember that the people in your life make choices based on their unique experiences, and no two lives are alike. What works for others may not work for you. Your ultimate goal is to create a life you’re happy and comfortable with. With that in mind, make sure you’re taking your aspirations, wishes and health into account instead of prioritizing other people’s opinions. If that means taking time to yourself to weigh out the pros and cons, so be it. If that means taking that class you’re really interested in or switching your major to what you truly want, then do it! The power is in your hands, and while that can be daunting, it’s also freeing!

You Do Not Have To Do Everything At Once

College brings newfound freedom, experiences and more. There are opportunities for leadership, ambassadorship and community involvement besides your everyday classes. Not to mention parties and social functions. You may feel tempted to take on much at a time because it’s right there in front of you. However, overestimating your ability to handle these things could be your downfall. As an ambitious overachiever, I’m speaking from experience.

You have four long years ahead of you, maybe more. There is time to do everything you want to do. There is time to become the person of your dreams. It does not all have to happen all at once. You will become the person you’re meant to be regardless, but rushing into things before you’re ready can sabotage your health. Your academics are important, but so is your rest.

When I got to college, I underestimated how much strength it took to get up, go to classes and complete work on time. I found myself exhausted on the weekends, wondering why such “simple” things had me overwhelmed. I wanted to do more, but I found my body needing something else in those moments.

And that’s completely okay.

The positions I wanted were still there when I was rested. There were more parties to go to every weekend. There was always another event to get involved in. Saying no to opportunities with your health in mind is just as much of an achievement as taking the opportunity. You have to make your well-being a priority.

It takes effort to get up each morning, take care of yourself, and keep up with academic responsibilities. Take the time to simply do that before anything else. There is a time and place for everything, and your time will come.  

Mistakes Are Unavoidable And That’s Okay

As you experience new things, you’re bound to slip up or do something you’re not proud of. There are many situations you’ve never been in before, and you won’t always know what to do. As you figure things out, anticipate things not always going your way. But also, be ready to accept these mistakes for what they are.

You will have moments you look back on and cringe at. There will be situations you wished you handled better, and situations you wish you didn’t get into at all. But they’re all lessons. Don’t let an experience pass you by without learning from it.

Remember, it’s not the mistake that matters. It’s how you handle it, how you move forward, and how you learn from it. Don’t let yourself get caught in a cycle of regret.  It’s not easy, but there is incredible power in learning from life. Take that power and use it to help yourself instead of hinder yourself.

Have Patience With Yourself

As I stated before, you will make mistakes.

You are growing into someone completely new. You are changing in ways you wouldn’t have thought possible. Give yourself the grace to mess up, to not know the answers, to change. It’s what you’re supposed to do. You must allow yourself the space to do that without the pressures of being perfect.

You may receive a bad grade on an assignment and feel like you should’ve done better. You may lose that opportunity because you were indecisive and it’s easy to beat yourself up and wonder why that happened. But that’s exactly when you should remember that you’re human. This is your first time in life. You are working with the resources you’ve been given, and that’s admirable. You must train yourself to celebrate the effort you put into something, not the outcome. You deserve to be celebrated. Recognize how hard you’re working and extend yourself that patience.

This may look like getting yourself a treat to celebrate that B or C because you tried your best. It may look like giving yourself extra time to study because this particular unit is harder for you to understand. Sit with yourself, figure out what you need and honor that. At the end of the day, you are taking care of yourself more than anyone else. Make sure you’re doing it with kindness.

Your freshman year should be one of fun, happiness and growth. There will always be a balance of good and not-so-good moments, but you can make it through whatever comes your way. Remember that you are doing wonderful, and all things shall pass. Take this advice and create a life you cannot wait to wake up to. 

Hi there! I'm Sydney. I'm a fashion merchandising major with a journalism minor. I'm an ambitious creative with a passion for writing and a love of all things humanities. I also love wellness, beauty, and reading. You'll find me indulging in the arts in my free time!