Advice I Would Give to My Freshman-Year Self 

It seems like forever ago that I was sitting in my intro classes, trying to come up with new ways to make the dining hall food a little less awful, and thinking, “Well, I feel like I’m finally starting to get the hang of this college thing.” And although it feels like it’s been forever since I felt that way, it really was only three years ago. I remember thinking that all I wanted was an older friend to give me some advice about my college career and what the next few years would hold. I imagine a lot of freshmen feel the same way. Thankfully, I figured out pretty well on my own, and I’m sure most of you will too. Nonetheless, here are a few things I wish someone had told me freshman year.  

The friends you start freshman year with probably won’t be the ones by your side at graduation.  

As a freshman, I was so nervous I wouldn’t make very many friends. My whole floor seemed to know each other already and I didn’t really know how to make friends. I’ve made some amazing friends now and I’m so grateful for the ones that have stayed with me throughout the years. Not every friend I’ve made has stayed a close friend, and that’s okay. I wouldn’t change things for the world.  

Take a night off of studying.  

There have been so many nights in the last three years when I’ve finally gotten home from classes or work or meetings, sat down and immediately realized that there was no way I would be accomplishing anything that night. That’s okay! I used to feel very guilty about those days— like if someday I failed, it would be because I didn’t force myself to power through. It took me a while to realize that those breaks are the reason that I can get up another day and conquer everything on my to-do list. Take a night off once in a while, watch Netflix, get food with your friends and just relax for a few hours.  

Burn out is real, it will happen and it absolutely sucks.  

I’m sure somebody has told you at least once by now to slow down and take time to breathe or else you’ll get burnt out. Take it from me: you will get burnt out, and it’s going to feel terrible and you’re going to have to fight your way out of it. I’ve penned a few articles about burn out during my time here because, like many of you will, I ignored the warnings from my friends and family. When you need to bounce back, it is absolutely okay to take a little time to yourself to reorganize before jumping back into everything… which leads me to my next point:  

Learn to say no.  

You absolutely have to learn how to say no. It seems that, at least once a week, I get a text or an email or somebody passes around a sheet of paper asking me to help with something extra or to attend an event. This has been the hardest part for me because saying no has never been my forte. You may find that you enjoy participating in some of these extracurriculars, but there may come a point where you become overextended. People will not stop asking you to do things just because you’re busy, so you have to learn to say no. As much as we’d all love to be superhuman, we can only do so much. Learn those limits and stick to them.  

You don’t have to move off-campus, but if you do, it doesn’t have to be ridiculously expensive. 

I’ve had plenty of friends stay on campus for their freshman, sophomore, and junior years and love it. There’s nothing wrong with that. Dorming is expensive but it definitely has benefits you won’t find living on your own in an apartment. If you choose to live off-campus, especially in Pittsburgh, you’ll probably be living in a pretty mediocre apartment that costs more than it should. I started college off in the dorms, spent two years in an apartment less than half a mile from school, and finally moved a couple miles off-campus this past year. While dorming wasn’t for me, I’ve absolutely loved living in an apartment. Living close to campus was nice because it was an easy walk to classes, there was plenty of food around and all of my friends lived nearby. Living close to campus was also crazy expensive, my apartment was tiny and poorly maintained, and it was very loud all the time. Since I moved out of Oakland, my rent has dropped by a couple hundred dollars a month, my apartment is way nicer and my new neighborhood is quiet and friendly. Unfortunately, it’s a longer commute to campus but the money I’ve saved has definitely been worth it to me.  

Keep a budget (even if it seems like a waste of time).  

I never paid much attention to keeping a budget or tracking my spending. Then one day, I took a look at my spending and was absolutely appalled at how much money I spent eating out or buying coffee. While budgeting might not seem like an absolute necessity at this point (especially if you live off of your student loans or your parents help pay for most things) it’s a good skill to have and you may realize that you spend a lot more money than you thought on some things you don’t actually need.  

Take pictures and videos and hold on to keepsakes.  

When school gets to feel like too much is happening, I like to look through all my pictures and videos from the last few years. College goes by so incredibly quickly, and you’re going to want to hold onto the memories you’ve made. Take silly pictures and videos, keep the ticket from the movie and even keep the oddly-shaped rock you and your friends found one day.  

And finally… breathe.  

Just take a second and breathe. You will get your work done. You will pass the class. You will make friends. You will make it through another semester. You will graduate. It is so easy to get caught up in the “what-if’s” and the timeline of how quickly you go from a college freshman to someone about to graduate with no idea what to do next. It’s okay to worry about these things, but every once in a while— just breathe.  

 

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