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A Letter to the Freshman Me

How many times in your life have you wished you “knew then what you know now?” When I look back on my freshman year, there is so much I wish I understood and knew about life, love, friends, school, success… the list goes on and on. As a senior, I realize I have learned so much in the past three and a half years–more than I learned in high school or any time before that. If I could talk to my 18 year old self embarking on my first year at UNCW, I think this is what I’d tell her:

Leave high school behind you.You have built four years of friendships and memories that are going to be so hard to let go of. You may be so excited to start fresh and move away from home, but the blank slate you have waiting for you won’t be able to be drawn on until you let go. It will be hard to go online and see pictures of your friends still partying without you. They are going on with their lives like you were never there, but so are you. Right now it may hurt, and you may feel tempted to go home every weekend and relive the past you are so afraid to let go of, but in a few years, whether you like it or not, most of these people will find a way out of your life anyways. Your true friends will stay in touch with you and make an effort to keep your friendship going strong. Take advantage of your new environment and the fact that you are surrounded by people from all over the country that are also looking for new friends and new experiences. One of my biggest regrets is wasting most of my freshman year by sulking over the traumas and dramas of my hometown life instead of living in the moment at my new school. You can’t write the next chapter if you are still reading over the last.

Do not go looking for a boyfriend.Yes, I know, there are parties every weekend with dozens of boys that just can’t wait to get to know freshman girls like you. Of course it’s okay to meet new people and make new friends, but I can promise you that none of these boys are looking for a girl to be serious with. Your first year at school isn’t the time to be settling down with someone. It’s the prime time to discover yourself and figure out interests that you didn’t know you had. Join an organization, find a new hobby and create a life for yourself that will be worth sharing with someone in the future. Just don’t go looking. If you are busy doing what you enjoy doing, you may just stumble upon someone that is doing the same things as you.

Your friends will come and go…and mostly go.People tell you that the friends you meet in college will remain your friends for the rest of your life. This may be true at times, but it usually is not. You will meet a group of people early on and you will go to parties with them and hang out in the dorm all year, but this core group that you hang out with will likely change as time goes on and you will each find different interests and new friends. And that’s okay. Losing friends is not always a bad thing. Weed out the people that are negative and bring you down. Weed out the people that love to argue and find reasons to get upset. Hold on tight to the friends you meet that encourage you to be successful, inspire you, motivate you, and contribute to your happiness. Hold on to the people that say, “we should hang out” and actually follow through. These are the people that will likely remain in your life after college ends.

Be patient with your roommates.Throughout college you will find yourself living with a number of people that are very different from you–be patient with them. You are likely just as difficult to live with as they are. Each person is from a different household and family and were raised a different way than you. Their parents may not have nagged at them to turn the lights off when they leave the room like your parents did. They might not find locking the door even when you are inside of the apartment as important as you do. Remember that these are little things and they can be solved by confrontation. Do not be afraid of confrontation. If you want something to change, you have to face it calmly and with respect. The issues that cause tension between you and your room mates are so minor that they should not cause resentment and anger, but they will if you do not make the effort to resolve them.

Take advantage of all the resources that you are paying for.Now that I am a senior and it’s time to get serious about graduation and a career, I wish that I took advantage of what my school had to offer. When you are a senior you would have wished you made a B+ in that class you took your second semester instead of a B- so your GPA could be just a few points higher and you could graduate with honors. You will wish you stayed in the organization that you just didn’t feel like going to weekly meetings for so that now you could hold a leadership position. You will wish you had actually sent that letter in to city council for extra credit because you may have gotten a response and made a difference in the community. Missing the season finale of your favorite show to attend an alumni panel will be more than worth it. You may just meet a successful recent graduate who will serve as a connection for a job interview later on. You will never regret getting involved. You will regret being lazy and missing out on opportunities over something that will not contribute to your future. Your success is in your hands, use them.

The memories you take with you will not always be of frat parties and bar crawls.Don’t feel bad if you can’t find anything to do on a Friday night. Don’t beat yourself up when most of your friends have turned 21 and you can’t join them for a night out. One day you will be able to, and you will forget about all the nights you spent at home wishing you weren’t at home at all. Instead of sulking over your lameness and trying desperately to find a fun party to attend, do something that you will remember doing. All that your friends that did go out will have is a blurry memory of the night and a bad headache in the morning. One day when you have the opportunity to go out drinking and partying, you will choose to stay in because you will realize that there are much more important things to be done. The relationship you have with the couch, a glass of wine, and your laptop (and Pinterest, let’s be honest) will grow stronger and stronger as you near towards graduation.

If I had known the things that I know now, I would have saved myself a lot of anxiety and energy. Of course, college is a time for living and learning, making mistakes and growing. You can’t do everything right and you most likely won’t. But, for those of you that are new at this whole college thing, don’t sweat the small stuff so much that you can’t enjoy the big stuff. You will never have this experience again. Make it worth it.

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