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Freshman Year Wrap-Up: What I Learned During My First Year at UF

Your first year of college will be one of the craziest years of your life. Of course, college can (and should be) incredible, but it can also be overwhelming. I have learned more about myself throughout my first year of college than any other period in my life.

You will learn how to be independent, but also how to allow other people to support and help you as you try to find your way on your own. Most importantly, you will officially become a part of the adult world – do not worry; we are all still trying to figure out this adult thing. Here are a few key things that I have learned that I want to share with anyone going into their freshman year.


College is honestly the time to become a little selfish. You need to focus on what makes you happy and what helps you be successful. Sometimes that means getting into your zone and focusing on what you need to do. Make sure to prioritize the things that mean the most to you. Hopefully, that is your education.

We are all so privileged and blessed to be able to study at an amazing university; a lot of women do not have that luxury. Remember why you are here and what you want to do. But, do not let school consume you entirely. Focus on organizations that will help you in your future career and your personal relationships. Do not make the mistake of trying to rise to the top alone. Relationships are what make us whole and healthy human beings.

You can develop strong relationships through the people you meet in your major or in extracurriculars. When you first start out, join anything and everything. Now is the time to experiment. But, by the end of the year, try to really narrow down your involvement to things that are important to you.

Devote your time to a few organizations that make you excited and want to be involved, do not just try to jam your resume full of leadership and as much involvement as you can. Your dedication will show, and it is much better to have quality over quantity.

Finally, try not to get caught up in things that are not good for you, like doing things just to fit in or make your life seem perfect on social media. It is just not worth it.

Do not feel guilty for those lazy days

If one Saturday you need to lay in bed with a face mask and watch Netflix, it is okay. You deserve a break every once and a while, especially after a long and grueling week. Repeat after me: It is okay to take time for yourself.

The time you take to rest and recharge is so crucial and it will help make your quality of work so much better. You are putting in work by allowing yourself to renew your passion and excitement to tackle all your commitments. 

Burnout is a very real issue and is something that can happen gradually and with a devastating force if you do not take time to listen to yourself and your body. According to Mindful, “genuine burnout leads to an inability to successfully function on a personal, social and professional level. It steals hope. It squashes motivation. It, quite literally, sucks the life out of you.” This is a terrifying thing to happen and can leave you questioning your major life choices.

Even the things that bring us the most joy can leave you feeling exhausted and confused. Combat burnout by practicing self care and allowing the people in your life to support you and love on you. You can always find your way back.

Set good habits – early

The habits you set now will stick with you for a long time. While that sounds intimidating, it does not have to be. Your habit can be as simple as changing your way of thinking, whether that be about yourself and your surroundings.

Taking time to meditate or sleep can make all the difference in your mind and wellbeing. An app I really enjoy called Insight Timer helps a lot when you are feeling overwhelmed and anxious. The mind is so powerful, and these seemingly minor changes or steps to help relieve the pressure you’re putting on yourself can make all the difference.

Other changes can include deciding to create a budget and saving money, exercising regularly or creating a skincare routine. But, do not feel discouraged if you suddenly do not have your life altogether. It is important to remind yourself that you cannot have everything at once.

If you mess up, need a break or just want to focus on bettering yourself first before you try to add new habits – that’s perfectly okay. We are all in separate phases of our lives and that does not mean you are ahead or that you are behind. Try not to compare yourself.

Set time aside time for new (or old) friends in your schedule

The easiest, and one of the most harmful things to do, is to push people out when you are feeling down or overwhelmed. When you are planning your week, make sure to make time for spending time with those you care about and enjoying yourself.

Do not overbook yourself to the point where you to start to lose friendships that can help make your life so much better. Take advantage of all the new people that you can get to know during your time at college. One of my biggest regrets is not pushing myself to get to know new people sooner.

If you carve out a time at the beginning of the week to get to know new people, there is a better chance you will follow through. I know it is so easy once the weekend rolls around to binge Netflix or spend time with people you are comfortable with.

Do not get me wrong, this is not bad, but you need to balance it with getting to know new people. Our happiness is often dependent on how fulfilled we feel in our relationships. Focus on your relationships and push yourself to step out of your comfort zone occasionally.

Friends will come with time, so do not get discouraged if you do not find your people right away or even during your freshman year. You have four years, if you take away anything just remember to relax and care for yourself.

Do not be ashamed to ask for help

Not everyone loves college at first – that is normal. If you feel trapped or lonely on campus do not feel afraid to ask for help.

The UF Counseling and Wellness Center is an incredible resource if you are having trouble acclimating to the college life. Sadly, there are still stigmas that exist about mental illness, but you should never feel ashamed for seeking help for your mental health.

Too often, we neglect our own wellbeing because we feel ashamed or weak. Let me assure you, you are not weak. Taking care of your mental health is brave and should be one your top priorities. Our college has incredible resources that are usually completely free. Please take advantage of the high-quality help offered. At times you may feel overwhelmed or overbooked and taking a minute to attend a UF CWC event or personal meeting can make all the difference. 

Freshman year is exciting and can be a completely fresh start. But, make sure you do not lose yourself and your passions. College is competitive, classes are hard and there are so many things to join it feels impossible to know what you should do. Focus on what you want to do and do not worry about how much everyone else is doing. You are going to do great and you are going to have the time of your life. To all the incoming freshman at the University of Florida, or anywhere for that matter, welcome! Take advantage of everything you can, and be open to new people and experiences. 

Julia Mitchem is a University of Florida junior majoring in journalism and minoring in Spanish. She is currently Co-CC for Her Campus UFL. She believes in empathy and inclusivity. She works to empower women in everything she does.
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