How to Survive the First Few Weeks as a College Freshman

As most of us do, I often think of life in regards to my timeline. You know, the one that starts with birth, ends with death, and includes big events like graduating high school and getting married. Starting college is something that everyone talks about before it happens as if it’s going to be the most magical experience they’ve ever encountered. Not only is it a turning point, but it’s the place where you get to reinvent yourself and be whoever you want to be. So moving in, whether that’s into a dorm, apartment, sleeping porch, or even if you’re staying home, should be just thrilling right?

Theoretically, maybe for some, it is that wonderful. But, for most of us out there, it can feel like taking everything that you know and chucking it into a fishbowl, shaking it, and pouring it down the toilet—only to be asked to go find the fish somewhere in the sewer pipes. Somehow we’re supposed to find ourselves, right? What I’m trying to say is that it isn’t easy. Whether it’s homesickness, a loathing your roommate, a miserable schedule, or a complete lack in community, you must know that you are not alone. As all other changes in our lives have needed, this change needs time to adjust and lots of self-compassion.

If someone were to have asked me a month ago what I expect for my first few weeks of college, my response wouldn’t be anything like what actually ended up happening. I never would have expected the number of times I would hear people asking, “What’s your name? Where are you from? What’s your major? What dorm are you in? What house are you in? What classes are you taking?” I mean seriously, I’m ready to start sticking pins in my eardrums. 

So, what may help you get into the groove?

Remember that things take time.

This first tip for settling in is relatively simple, but can be the most difficult to grasp. I came in expecting a lot of picture-perfect moments to hit me where I would simply watch as everything fell into place. It’s okay if that isn’t true for you because it definitely didn’t happen for me. You can’t wait for a magical moment to make you feel great in this new place. Each day you’ll get a little more comfortable, and one day you’ll realize that you chose this place for a reason. You're where you are meant to be. But, you can’t plan when that day occurs.

Say yes to everything.

Say yes! This little trick is the golden ticket to not feeling so stuck in this new environment. No matter what it is, just give it at least one try before you turn it away. If someone asks you to a snow club meeting and you’ve never skied a day in your life—say yes. If your roommate asks you to go to a church with her and you don’t even know if you are religious—say yes. If your hallmate asks you to cook with them—say yes. It will benefit you so much in the long run! And it also helps you from getting too caught up in this newness if you’re too busy to feel alone or confused. If you start feeling that way, at least you’re surrounded by tons of other people going through the same thing. 

Do things that make you feel at home.

For me, this involved doing homework at Starbucks and drinking a warm and toasty vanilla latte every morning. I’ve been doing that for the past six years of my education, and there’s nothing quite as peaceful as the quiet jazz music and light buzz of voices from fellow students. It’s my happy place. I suggest trying to find something that makes you feel more comfortable. You may need to run ten miles, watch Grey’s Anatomy, eat pasta, do yoga, go bowling, read a book, stand in the shower and stare at the drain, scream into a pillow, climb a tree, or scale the space needle. I'm not here to judge what you do, just figure out what makes you more comfortable. Your happiness should be your number one priority. In addition, remember that not everyone's as happy as they may seem. It’s called a fake smile, and as the lovely Ariana Grande once said, “F*** a fake smile.”

When you really just want to be sad - let yourself be sad.

One of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned is that in order to move forward, you must be present each and every day. That means that when you need to cry and stay in bed watching Gossip Girl, that’s okay. The more you push away your emotions, the harder they are to deal with. They are always going to be there waiting for you to handle them. And if you decide to go out, you don’t have to plaster a fake smile from ear to ear the entire evening. You must get comfortable in the uncomfortable and know that in time, things will get better. 

Realize that your old life isn’t gone forever, you’re simply adding onto it with this new experience. 

I started to realize that I was acting like my friends and family were dead. I was so scared of being all alone. I was acting like saying goodbye to each person was my way of attending our relationship’s funeral. How morbid is that? I slowly started to figure out that I’m the same me as I was before I got here, and my people are still there. I’m not alone, and I’m never going to be. This change is a big one. Change is easy for some and really difficult for others, I fall under the latter category. Whatever you are, it’s okay. You just have to be really kind to yourself in this big transition and remember that you’re not alone. 

 So, from one freshman to the next—we’ve got this! We just have to take it one day at a time.