Survival Tips for Freshman Year

Listen - I don’t have it all figured out. I’m not claiming to have all the answers - I certainly didn’t knock it out of the park during my freshman year. I have all of the experience of an incoming sophomore. In other words, not much. All I can say is that I’ve been through it. I navigated my way through freshman year at UNH, and I made it out the other side. Granted, the freshman experience is anything but "one size fits all,” but it’s safe to say that every student’s first year will have its ups and downs. Your highs are going to make you feel on top of the world, and your lows are going to drag you through the mud. The bumps in the road are unavoidable, and no matter how it may appear, everyone experiences them at one time or another. Hopefully, the tips I’m about to share with you will help you to navigate your own ups and downs. And trust me, once you’ve made it to where I’m standing, you’ll wish you could do it all again. 

 

1. Don’t put too much pressure on new friendships.

The beginning of your college experience is often full of "firsts" - maybe you’ve never been away from home before and you’ve chosen to attend a school where you don’t know anybody. This will be your first experience; making new friends in a brand new place. Despite your worries, you WILL find people to talk to and hang out with during the early months. Everyone is eager to find their forever friends, and this tends to bring out the best in people. However, your first friend group freshman year may not be the same group you leave college with, and THAT’S OKAY. People are going to come in and out of your life throughout the next four years. As friends become involved in different clubs and activities, you may find that your interests and values do not align. Freshman year is a hectic time, but you will learn fairly quickly who prioritizes your friendship, and who is meant to be apart of your life. While some friendships just weren’t meant to be, I will say that I have learned something from each and every person that has entered my life here at UNH, however briefly. So use this time to get to know new people; learn from them and grow with them. But don’t put too much pressure on your friendship. Everything will happen the way it’s supposed to - trust me.

 

2. Say yes to everything.

Okay, maybe not everything. But, if a group of kids in your hall ask you to join them for a game of Spikeball, SAY YES. If your roommate invites you to get dinner, SAY YES. You never know who may end up being one of your closest friends. You may find a whole group of people with which you share a common passion. It’s so important to stay open-minded during this time in your life. The people you least expect to stumble upon may end up making your entire college experience. 

(And for those living in a dorm, leave your door OPEN - it really helps to promote the whole open-mindedness thing.)

 

3. Join a club, a sports team, a music ensemble, anything.

The beginning of freshman year can feel overwhelming at times. Everywhere you look, there will be groups looking to recruit you. Sororities are pursuing potential new members, intramural teams are actively forming, and music ensembles are advertising auditions. My advice to you would be to engage with as many of these groups as you can. Attending U-Day, a campus-wide event held in the fall, is an amazing opportunity to seek out the groups you might be interested in. Getting involved can help you begin to feel more at home here at UNH- it will also open doors for you down the road. So don’t be afraid to sign up for anything and everything that piques your interest. You can always narrow down your options later, but in the meantime, GO CRAZY!

(Shameless plug: stop by the UNH Her Campus table at U-Day this year - September 10th!)

 

4. Talk to your professors before you need them.

I can’t stress this enough. Do not wait until you are failing the class to stop in for office hours. Your professors have hundreds, sometimes thousands of students. Take my advice- introduce yourself in office hours BEFORE your grade depends on it. You are much more likely to get a grade bump if your professor knows your name. In some cases, professors don’t get a lot of visitors. Take advantage of this. By building a relationship early on, they might just keep you in mind for internship and research opportunities down the road. And honestly, many of them are so full of wisdom - so get yourself into office hours and soak up the knowledge!

 

               happy university GIF by Roanoke College

 

5. Learn to be okay with alone time.

This is something that I still struggle with as a college student. While I stress the importance of putting yourself out there and meeting as many people as possible, I urge you to value your alone time as well. There were a number of Friday nights during my freshman year when I found that I just didn’t have the energy or desire to go out with friends. I recall thinking there was something wrong with me. I wondered why I couldn’t be like the social butterfly from down the hall, who seemed to have unshakable confidence and an endless supply of friends. But as it turns out, that just wasn’t me. I, like many people, need time to rejuvenate every once in a while, and that is nothing to get down on yourself about. So if you find yourself alone on a Friday night, take joy in doing something that you like to do. Read a book, do a facemask, go to a late-night yoga class or movie. Use this time to reflect or just relax. Freshman year is hard, and you deserve a break from time to time.

(And a protip: stay off of social media during this time - scrolling Instagram will only send you down the rabbit hole. But, if you find yourself checking Snapchat (we’re all guilty), just remember, not everyone is the thriving social butterfly they appear to be.)

 

6. Take advantage of opportunities the FIRST time they present themselves.

In this case, I’m referring to any opportunity that could potentially enhance your education or your future. This could be a unique employment opportunity, a study abroad experience, an opening for a teacher’s assistant position, a research experience, or an opportunity to mentor or be mentored. There were a handful of times during my freshman year that I hesitated when applying for certain positions, scholarships, or mentorship opportunities. It’s important to jump at these the minute they become available to you because you never know where they may lead you. And say you change your mind? Well, you can always turn something down, but you don’t want to have regrets about the chances that you didn’t take.

 

So, to all incoming freshmen: If you take nothing else from this article, remember that everyone around you is going through or has gone through the same thing. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and don’t take yourself too seriously. Everything will work out the way it should - so just enjoy the ride! It’ll be over before you know it.