As I write this, there are only two full weeks left in my freshman year of college. And I’m honestly in shock that it went so quickly; it is true what they say, it really does fly by. Over the last year, I have learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my interests and my fears. I was so anxious that everything would blow up in flames when I first moved in, but I’m so thankful that I’m finishing my first year with experiences and relationships I wouldn’t change for anything. So, because I wish someone gave me the “How to be a College Freshman Manual,” below are some pieces of advice and reminders for incoming college freshman or generally anyone going through a big life transition.
- Appreciate the Little Things
One night while my friends and I were in the dining hall an episode of Jeopardy! was playing on the TV. We all eagerly watched and gave our answers for final Jeopardy!, but I found myself feeling a little solemn. My family and used to watch Jeopardy! nearly every night after dinner. I usually participated, but every once in a while I would complain about being too tired or that I had something else to do. My parents would usually reluctantly let me go, but not without uttering a “you will miss this someday.” And while I hate to admit it, your parents are probably right. So, appreciate those little rituals before you leave for school, even if you find them annoying. Because you’ll have a moment where you wish you could just do it one more time.
- Take things seriously, but not too seriously
I was a bit stuck up in high school about grades and academic performance. And although those things are still absolutely important in college, you will be so much better off if you realize there is so much more to life than your grades! Go out, party and have fun! Join clubs and dedicate time to doing things for you and your enjoyment. For those of us who are likely going to graduate school, your grades and GPA do unfortunately matter. But like always, people are much more interested in a well-rounded individual than one whose life strictly revolves around academics.
- Stop comparing yourself
I still struggle to heed this advice myself, but it’s still important, even in college. At the start of the fall semester, I was comparing myself to people I barely knew; other students in my classes with several years of experience under their belts. News flash! You’re going to have no idea what you’re doing and that’s perfectly okay! You are just starting out in a new environment with little knowledge of the resources available to you. But I promise, you will figure it out and find things you enjoy. Just remind yourself that this is your journey and your experience, no one else’s!
- Learn to manage your finances
I consider myself decently financially responsible, but college gives you a new kind of freedom in terms of money. Personally, I came in planning to not work the first semester and use the savings I made from a job in high school. But I struggled to find a job during the spring semester and continued to rely on my savings. Not everyone’s financial situation is the same, but be sure to make some sort of spending/saving plan. Whether that’s an allowance from family, dedicating a certain amount of spending money a month or just getting a job immediately, find something that works best for you.
- Go to orientations, even if they seem stupid
Your first week or so on campus is likely going to be filled with orientations and ice-breakers. I was definitely sick of them by the end of orientation week. However, my advice, go to all of them! If it is truly terrible you can just leave early, but these orientations are the best way to meet other new students in that first week of uncertainty and anxiety. I met my best friends (shout out fellow HC Pitt writers Lauren and Kaitlyn) at an orientation event that I almost ditched early, but I am so, so thankful that I stayed! The worst-case scenario is you waste a few hours when you have literally nothing else going on. So go to the stupid orientations, you never know who you’ll meet!
- Time to get organized
This may be self-explanatory, but you’re an adult now! Time to take responsibility for your own actions! Your teachers are correct in that college is very different from high school in terms of instruction. You will be given a syllabus at the start of the semester outlining every single assignment you will complete. It is your responsibility to complete and submit them on time. Personally, I have a Google Calendar that I swear by and a physical planner to mark what assignments I need to complete. Find what works for you, but do not trust your brain to remember everything you have to do every day.
- You will change
You are an emerging adult now, and you’re not going to be the same person you were when you were sixteen. You may change physically, mentally or emotionally. This can be a frustrating, scary, and overwhelming change, but I think it’s something to embrace. This is the next stage of your life! And you don’t have to discredit and forget the person you were, I am still interested in virtually the same things that I was in high school, but I’m almost in my 20s! It will take some getting used to, but embrace these changes, they are unfortunately inevitable.
- Take advantage of any and all resources
College students get so many perks! At Pitt, you have free access to several museums, discounted theater tickets, free bus transportation, free access to fitness classes and so much more! Every school is a bit different, but take advantage of freebies! Once you graduate you will have to actually pay for all of these things, so get the experiences in while they’re discounted and cheap!
- Prioritize yourself
It’s very easy to get wrapped up in assignments, exams, project and everything in-between. It’s so, so important that you continue to do things for yourself. You may feel pressure on the weekends to go out with friends, and if that’s your jam, go for it! But it’s also okay to stay in and recharge. Do you, and prioritize you and your well-being!
- You will have some big emotions
College is a massive transition. It’s an environment and living situation you’ve never been in before, and you likely don’t know anyone super well. It will probably be overwhelming at times, which can be made even worse if you find yourself being far from home. Let yourself feel sad or homesick, and if it makes you feel better, call your family or friends from back home. Even if you feel like these feelings will never go away, I promise they will. There is also no shame in reaching out for professional help if these feelings are uncontrollable and affecting your daily life. Feel your big emotions, but don’t let them drown you.
Overall, I had a great experience in my first year of college. I met great people, finalized what I want to study and have become more comfortable with myself. It will likely be overwhelming at first, but I hope these pieces of advice will make your transition even just a little easier.