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End-Of-First-Semester Advice From Sophomore UMass Students

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 U Mass Amherst chapter.

Looking back on my freshman-year self a year ago today, I’m filled with a lot of emotions: gratitude, sadness, relief, and so many more. I think the college transition is overall an experience that you look back on and feel silly for how scared and nervous you were. The uncertainty was overwhelming and felt like it would never end. Now, halfway through my sophomore year, I thought it would be interesting to ask my friends what has changed for them and what advice they would give to those in their position last year.

One major theme I got back when asking people was about how their circles and friends weren’t even fully formed yet. Many of them felt like an outsider or still not as close with people as they should have been.

“It felt like people were already making friends with their ‘besties for life’ and I didn’t have that yet,” said Meghan McNulty. “I had people to go out with and people I was friendly with but hadn’t made those strong connections as I have with my friends today. I’m so grateful I stuck it out and made more friends as well as the connections I had already made stronger.”

I resonated with this as well. I had made friends but still didn’t feel like I was as close with anyone as I should have been. I still missed high school and my friends from there because of the closeness that felt so much harder to achieve in a new environment. As time went on, I was able to become closer with people I met through classwork and just proximity.

“The first people you meet are probably not going to be your group for life… or for the next couple months as a matter of fact. People often mesh out of convenience rather than genuine connection at first, so don’t feel bad if you’re not ‘besties’ with that big group in your dorm hall,” says Lauren Schulz. While there is a rare case in which the people you first meet are ‘your people,’ most likely this is not the case. It takes time to build a real connection with a person or group. While one of my best friends has been with me since the first day, it really took until the second semester to solidify who I really considered my friends and wanted to make an effort to remain close with.

Social media can also make it seem like everyone is having the time of their life while you are struggling just to get through the week. Most of what you see on Snapchat and Instagram is just a snapshot in time with everyone smiling and perfectly posed to look like they’re having the most fun. More than likely, those people posting feel just the same as you do.

“Everyone is most likely struggling and feeling the same way you do even though no one says it,” says Erin Sharkey. She continues, “I feel like it’s hard to communicate that when everyone is always saying ‘College is the best four years of your life and you need to enjoy every second of it!’ You aren’t going to, and that’s perfectly okay. There are photos on my Instagram of me smiling and looking like everything is perfect when in actuality it was the opposite of how I truly felt.”

Caden Ghannam and Sarah Gustafson had more reflections on the academic side of things.

“Don’t get too caught up in going out that it negatively affects your academics. You’re here to get an education, so don’t waste it and take a bad grade on an assignment just to make it out on Thursday night,” said Caden.

Sarah also emphasized the importance of prioritizing school: “You have the whole rest of the year to go out and have fun with friends. It won’t be the end of the world if you miss one night in order to take care of you or get your assignments done on time. Plus if you finish, you’ll feel much better with that weight off your shoulders for the next day.”

You’re most likely paying a lot of money to come to college. If you have no other motivation, make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. If you’re unsure about what you want to do or pursue, that’s perfectly okay, too!

“I had no idea what I wanted to do when I decided to come to UMass. I was pretty sure I didn’t want anything in STEM, but besides that, I didn’t know. I felt a step behind everyone else who was so sure and had a plan for the future. I tried to take as many different classes in different fields as I could and eventually felt like education would be right for me. But it definitely took time and you shouldn’t be upset if you don’t know yet — you still have time,” said Zach Shapiro.

There’s no need to have your entire life and plan figured out by the end of your first semester. Even though it may feel like everyone does, no one really knows. You still have so many months to meet people, try new things, and have new experiences. I think Casey Conville summed it up best:

“You have four years here, and to think everyone you meet and every life problem you have to solve will be found in the first semester is unrealistic. There is so much more opportunity waiting for you, so don’t be discouraged if things aren’t picture-perfect. You are right where you’re supposed to be.”

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Olivia Vadnais

U Mass Amherst '25

Hi everyone, my name is Olivia and I am a freshman at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. I am very excited to join HerCampus this fall! I love reading, Taylor Swift, sports (especially basketball) and hanging out with friends and family. I am a management major and hope to end up double majoring in journalism as well.