What I Want Freshmen to Know

School has been in full swing for close to one month now. But here’s the thing -- a week or so before classes started, my dad asked me a question that I’m still thinking about: what advice would you give this year’s freshmen?

I immediately started thinking about myself as a freshman. I vividly remember pulling into campus with all my stuff piled in the back of my car on move-in day, feeling a strange mix of excitement and nausea. I read hundreds of articles about the transition from high school to college. Some were about how amazing and magical university life is. Others spoke about the heartbreaking nature of moving away from friends and family and essentially starting over. A select few simply detailed cringe-worthy roommate experiences and warned of dining hall food. Advice from platforms and people of all kinds buzzed around in my head from the moment I was accepted into UNCW until the moment I arrived. Yet, there were some things about college none of those articles prepared me for.

Freshies, listen up. Here are some things I wish I had known going in, starting off the list with a complete downer:

 

1. You will have moments of utter loneliness (at least for a few weeks).

Shout out to my shy, introverted babes out there! Believe me when I say, making friends is NOT always easy. I’m a junior now and I still struggle with this. You go from having every class with your besties in high school to knowing absolutely no one in college, especially if you choose an out of state school. This is a difficult adjustment for many people, but you will find your crowd. Please be patient, as your best friendships will come naturally and unexpectedly. A little effort often goes a long way here: 98% of your freshmen colleagues are also trying to make a friend or two. Approaching people you may want to befriend with this mindset can be helpful.

 

2. You must read your textbooks (and take notes, for goodness sake)!

Please, please, please. This isn’t high school where you can do the bare minimum and still make an A on tests and papers. I learned this the hard way my first semester freshman year. For nearly two months, I hardly put effort into my reading assignments (being so used to the ease of high school) and it came back to haunt me. Do the readings, take notes that will help you study, and stay on top of it. You will thank me later.

** As a side note, there will come a time in your educational career when you begin to understand what assignments deserve more effort than others. But as a freshman, take time to get used to the new workload and develop good study habits.

 

3. It is easier to be healthy than you think.

I was always so intimidated by the “freshman fifteen” myth. I was almost certain I would succumb to bad habits my freshman year, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It certainly takes a conscious effort to eat vegetables from the dining hall and go to the gym sometimes, but in my opinion, it’s one worth making. The long-term benefits of cultivating a healthy lifestyle outweigh any short-term pains/inconveniences. It shouldn’t always be pizza and Netflix (as wonderful as that sounds, wow).

 

4. You will learn new things about yourself and discover who you really are.

To the present or future freshman reading this, do you think you know what kind of person you are? Even if you think you do, you don’t. I certainly didn’t (and I still might not, who knows). I came into college with aspirations of teaching elementary-aged students. Now, as a junior, I’m on a path towards double majoring in criminology and sociology with particular interest in the recidivism rates of criminals. My college experiences made me realize that I prefer criminals over children in the span of two years, but hey, that’s life! It might happen to you, too!

 

If you want to get to know yourself, look at the clubs and organizations on campus and join the first few that really jump out at you. The same goes for when you sign up for classes. Are you kind of interested in the history of art? Take that art history class! Are you feeling like sociology could be cool? Take intro to sociology! Find out what you REALLY like and run with it.

 

5. You should really take advantage of your resources.

The library. The rec center. Your counselors and nurses. Your professors. The writing lab. The list goes on forever! Use those resources that you so lovingly pay for with your tuition to make you not only a better student, but a better person. College is not always a battle, but when it is, you are never asked or expected to fight it alone. Make use of what’s around you whenever you can and get the most out of this experience!

 

It’s a short list, but these are things I wish I had known coming into college. May they prove helpful in either preparing you for college or making the remainder of your first year more comfortable. Either way, I wish you all the best of luck! Maybe one day, you’ll be in my shoes, giving more advice to the next generation of college students.

 

(Photo courtesy of Anete Lūsiņa via Unsplash)