As this school year is coming to a wrap, it’s time to come to reflect on all of the good and bad times. As a freshman, I can confidently say that I have never changed so much as a person, in just one year. This was the year we freshmen had to fend for ourselves and make our first independent decisions. There were certainly some failures along the way, but also some amazing life-lessons learned. Here’s a list of the top 8 lessons I have learned freshman year.
1. You’re going to have to work harder than ever.
You probably graduated in the top 10% of your class and got straight A’s throughout all of high school and got accepted into this amazing school. However, take a bunch of kids who were at the top of their classes and put them in one school, and some are bound to struggle a little more with the transition, or ocassionally feel inferior. You’re going to score lower than average on some exams and it’s going to be a huge slap in the face, because it is such a foreign feeling. College is high school on steroids. The curriculum is harder and the time to absorb the information is MUCH shorter. You will need to hit the books more often than you used to.
2. How to eat healthy.
Your mom isn’t around anymore to do shop or cook for you. And as convenient as the DC may sound, you still have to be careful of what you eat. There are fries, burgers, cupcakes, and cookies served almost everyday and it is up to you to be an adult and make the correct decision for you and your body. After all, the freshman 15 is no myth. The temptations will be strong, but some days you need to remind yourself that perhaps having a burger for the third night in a row isn’t the best idea.
3. It’s okay to ask for help.
Because we all landed us admission to this incredible university, we are all bound to have a seed of pride planted inside of us. Sometimes, this seed of pride can be good to keep us working towards our goals, and other times it can be detrimental to our progress; it can make us feel too proud to seek help. You didn’t seek help for any of your classes in high school, you just studied on your own…why should you seek help now? Well, in high school you probably didn’t have the workshops and drop-in tutoring sessions like we do here, because you probably didn’t need it. But the fact that we have such great recourses at UCD shows that there have been a lot of bright students like you who have needed some help along the way to get back on their feet, and that’s totally fine! Take the initaitive; most professors won’t reach out to you even if you are struggling in the class. It’s up to you to realize you are not doing to well in a class and seek help. Remember to take care of your mental health as well, and make time for relaxation.
4. How to manage your time.
When I first made my fall quarter schedule during freshman orientation I was so shocked to see all of the giant blocks of free time between my classes. I was so used to taking six hours of classes a day in high school that it seemed very odd to me that I only had two to four hours of classes a day. I was on cloud nine; I thought I always had enough time to make a trip to the moon and come back just in time for my next class. What I didn’t realize is how much more time and effort needed to be put into studying. Your parents aren’t around anymore to tell you when curfew is, when to be in bed, or when to come back home from your friend’s house. You have freedom- a very bittersweet concept! As nice as it is to be free to dictate your own life, you also need to learn how to discipline yourself and know when it is time to stop having fun and go back to studying or when to go to sleep so you won’t be a zombie the next morning.
5. It’s okay to make out-of-character decisions. You’re still finding yourself.
There will be a time, or many times, in your freshman year where you face-palm yourself and miserably ask our favorite infamous question: “did I really just do that?!” Welcome to adulthood, where the only way through is experimentation. There’s no one telling you how you need to act or speak. You’re going to make some choices your high school self wouldn’t necessarily make, and you might feel super liberated by them. Recognize what life changes work for you, and stay open-minded! It’s all trial and error until you uncover more about who you really are and what you feel comfortable doing. So it’s okay to make mistakes along the way… it’s all a part of the process.
6. Your plans for the future will change.
Let’s say you’ve wanted to major in Biology since you were 8, then go off to medical school and specialize in cardiology, get married by the time you’re 32, and have kids by the time you’re 35. Does this sound familiar? Prepare yourself, because that plan will change. Once you get into college, you find that it’s less planning and more doing, and the doing is where you learn about yourself. You may find that you hate the essential classes for your major. You may fall in love with a random GE class, enough to voluntarily wake up 7:30 in the morning for it. It’s ok to change career paths or just say “I don’t know what I want to do yet, and might not have the answers for a couple of years.” Don’t feel like you’re letting society, your parents, or your younger self down. Your younger self was not aware of the complications of the path you had planned. It may feel scary, but that is why we have major advisors: they’ve seen this happen many times and are professionals when it comes to addressing this issue. Everything will be okay! Do what you love and everything will work out! This is your journey.
7. You don’t owe anyone anything.
I don’t know about you, but when I was younger, I always felt like I had to explain myself or repay people for every little thing they did for me. Once, my nonexistent cat “died,” when my friends wanted to get manicures on a Saturday and I just wanted to lay in bed all day. I felt indebted to anyone who was nice to me. After 9 months of living surrounded by people in the dorms, I have learned to be straightforward. If you feel like being alone on a Friday night, just say you’re not going out. If a frat boy gives you a VIP bracelet, you don’t owe him a kiss for his kindness; you don’t owe him anything at all. You won’t be seen as rude for doing these things. You’ll be a girl with her head on her shoulders. If you do get viewed as rude, then know you don’t need people in your life who don’t respect your personal space. You are living your life and you should be able to do so in peace.
8. You find out which friendships will last.
It doesn’t matter if you sat by your best friend from high school at graduation and threw your caps in the air together. If she hasn’t texted you at least once this quarter or put in an effort to keep up a conversation, then she may not be a true friend. You will find that some of the close relationships you had with people in high school weren’t necessarily close because of the bond itself, but the amount of exposure you had to each other. You had almost every class together during senior year- no wonder you thought you two were amazing friends. Going off to college could be considered a useful filter to find who really are the true friends you have from back at home. And college is the best time to make new life-long connections!