5 Things No One Tells You About Your First Year of College

1. No, You Don’t Need To Have It All “Figured out” But Limit Your Time Wasted

Ah, the beauty of the undecided. Not knowing what you want to do, what direction to take, what career to pursue. We get it. We’ve all been there; colleges expect way too much from young adults, right? Well, yes and no. We start now because when else can we start? Career paths are not short and sweet. They are long and tiring, but that is what allows you to be super qualified and have a sense of experience once your culmination arrives! So, we start young.

Experiment as much as you can without wasting too much time. If you can’t figure out what your major is, try a few classes that reflect more than just your interest in one subject, or simply dive into the interdisciplinary subjects! For example, instead of taking an English Composition class, take an application of English. This way you are incorporating both English and an array of other topics within one course. That English Comp class is strictly English Composition. If you want to “see if you like English," take a political science class. This is an application of English that also includes a social science aspect, meaning upon finishing the course, you’ll get to conclude whether you like writing essays, reading papers, reading long chapters in a textbook, studying history and public speaking. And of course, English is embedded throughout. See how much time you just saved?

Colleges like money. They get money through registration. The more you register into classes, the more money they get. So they don’t mind wasting your time, at all. In fact, they’d LOVE for you to be wasting your time with classes that don’t help your degree. They have no problem keeping you at the university for over 4 years. So, it’s up to YOU to stay on top of your degree and work on grabbing that thing on time! Do not hesitate to utilize the resources on campus. There are academic advisers for nearly everything, so schedule an appointment to map out your college academic career. This way, you’ll have a general idea of the direction you’re heading into and won’t waste time taking classes that are not actually pushing you forward.

2. You Don’t Need To Have Your Best Friends By Week 1

I really can’t emphasize this one enough. I came into college with the highest expectations for myself socially. I thought I’d find my best friends for life super quick and have it all figured out. Spoiler: This is a false expectation that once I lost made me so insanely relieved! How can we expect to find our best friends, friends that we’ve cultivated from potentially junior high to high school, in such a short amount of time? It’s not possible! Take it slow and admire the slow process. You do not need to have your “group” the moment you step foot onto new ground. Give it time. Get involved in clubs, talk to people in your classes and put effort in the relationships that help you grow. In no time, you’ll find yourself surrounded by true friends with pure intentions that came about naturally, and just for that, they will be so much stronger.

Don’t be fooled by everyone posting pictures with all the people they’re meeting, for all we know that could be just one moment that they captured that obviously comes across as an amazing social environment for that person at their university. We know nothing of what goes on behind these screens, so don’t make assumptions. Keep to yourself and allow social media to inspire you, don't let it make you feel like you’re not doing enough. Because trust me, you’re exactly where you need to be.

3. It’s Not All Rainbows & Butterflies

Yes, game days, Greek life events, dorm socials and “college ventures” are all super fun and amazing to experience. But, there’s also a pretty crappy side to these 4 years. It’s stressful, hard and can get overwhelming way too fast. So don’t feel like you are not getting the “college experience” if you’re struggling in your classes and not spending as much time being social as others seem to be. Everyone has homework and studying to do. If they’re not doing it now, they’ll do it another time. Manage work and play based on your schedule and don’t feel pressured by what you hear and see online. Focus on YOU!

It also gets overwhelming, and that’s a part of the process! The experience! You are confined in a space, the space where the stress of college originates, meaning you are essentially living in the creator of your troubles. So yes, it will get stressful far more quickly than how stress would rather arise in high school! But that’s OKAY. Accepting that classes will be difficult and managing your time can get hard allows you to analyze your situation and make the appropriate changes. So yes, college is a fun and exciting time in your life, but it’s also a hard time too. Don’t be fooled by what you see online; it all seems fun and great, but there is so much more to it than smiles in front of a cute backdrop. Trust me.

4. Sleep Deprivation & Overdoing Caffeine Isn’t Cool

The college academic scene glamorizes drinking tons of caffeine to compensate for just about anything. There’s also a stigma in relation to not sleeping. But please, do not fall susceptible to this trap. It’s setting up this expectation for yourself, an expectation you unconsciously feel you are obligated to meet. But no! It is so possible to get your hours of sleep in and limit your caffeine intake to 1 cup per day. In high school, my bad time management meant I was sleeping at midnight nearly every single night and waking up at 5:30 am. This meant rocking 5.5 hours of sleep on average per night. In college? I’m sleeping 8-10 hours per night. Not what you expected, right? Remove the unhealthy expectations and create your own, and work to meet those! If you want a healthy lifestyle, you can make it happen. Likewise, if you want to stay up super late studying and flooding your body with far too many mg of caffeine, you can do that too. Life really is what you make it.

5. You Don’t Need To LOVE Your University So Early On

It’s completely normal to feel a range of emotions when living in what is initially a completely unfamiliar place. With that, we are all also super excited to get onto campus and start the college life. But, if a few weeks or months into the process, you’re questioning your presence at that university, do not fret. As humans, we don’t form a love for things instantaneously. So what makes us think we should feel a strong connection to an unknown place so darn fast? Once again, give yourself time. It is totally okay to have mixed feelings. Some days you might love your dorm and others you could feel overwhelmed by the small spice and living style. Take a breather, and live day by day. We always have options, so never neglect the idea of transferring if you don’t feel fit after enough attempts of testing the waters. Don’t let yourself suffer. Experiment with what you have and make adjustments accordingly. There is no rush when it comes to feeling acquainted with something new.

With that, I am very lucky that I am super happy at my university, but keep in mind, it took TIME! Yes, the initial few days were amazing, but then I got stressed and began to overthink my place here. I questioned if I should have committed somewhere else, or that I just wasn't qualified to be here. And I've talked to a bunch of my peers, and these feelings are NORMAL! So once again, take it slow, and let your feeling of belonging, in every aspect (friends, academics, events, etc), form naturally. There is no rush.