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It was only a year ago that I was a freshman in college. Not such a long time, huh? But let me tell you, I have learned so much in such a short amount of time.  It was a great year, full of laughter and tears, new friends who quickly became best friends, and so many new life experiences–and it was great! But, I could have definitely used some advice from someone more experienced and knowledgeable. We all wish someone had been there to give us some tips and advice our first year, so here are some of the things that I wish someone had told me, and that I would tell myself if I could go back in time.

Don’t Over-Commit Yourself

When I came to college, I wanted to join every club, make good grades, study abroad, have friends and a boyfriend, and get eight hours of sleep every night. Guess what? That didn’t work out very well. I had to realize that I couldn’t join every single club, and that getting a B instead of an A wasn’t the end of the world. I had to learn how to say “no” to clubs that I wasn’t absolutely in love with and that I couldn’t hang out with my friends every single night. Over-committing myself was a big problem for me—I wanted to be involved. But I learned that I still could be involved without wanting to pull my hair out from exhaustion and frustration. Sometimes I would even say that I would go to a meeting or hang out with a friend, but forget about it later, which left me and the other person feeling bad. If I could go back and tell myself not to over-commit, I would have saved myself a lot of stress.

Study

In high school, I was the girl that didn’t have to study because everything had come easy to me. College was, and still is, a different story. I learned that I actually had to read the pieces for my literature classes multiple times and make notes in the margins. I learned that I actually had to do the assigned math problems even though the professors didn’t collect them, because I needed the extra practice. I needed to read summaries and watch YouTube videos for extra help and practice speaking Spanish outside of class. I felt so discouraged when I made a B in my freshman math class, but I learned that if I wanted A’s (I’m an over-achiever), that I would have to work hard to earn them. Good grades will not always come easy, so work hard—it will be worth it.

Take Care of Yourself

Last year, I spent a lot of time studying, going to club meetings, trying to stay physically fit, hanging out with my friends and worrying about boys (I’ll get to that next). So, by the end of the day, and especially the end of the week, I was mentally and physically exhausted. Not fun. The problem is that I didn’t know how to take care of myself mentally. I didn’t journal or go to a counselor, so I advise you to do both. I did have a group of friends that I felt comfortable discussing my problems with, and that was very beneficial. Have those people in your life! Talk to your mom. Talk to your sister. Talk to someone; do not keep your pain bottled up! In order for you to be successful, you need to be mentally healthy.

Boys Are Not More Important Than Books
I told you I’d get there! I had a boyfriend during my freshman year, and that was great–I’m not discouraging that! Our relationship was awesome and I do not regret it one bit. However, I will say that boyfriends are not more important than being successful and hanging out with your new friends. They may be equally important—but not more. You should never feel bad for hanging out with your new friends instead of spending time with your boyfriend sometimes. You should never feel bad for studying instead of being with your boyfriend—if he’s the right one, he will understand! I can’t stress that enough. If he is the one for you, then he will support you in whatever you do, and understand when you have to take some time for yourself.

Friends

This one is tough: friends. It’s sometimes hard to make friends as a freshman, and its sometimes even harder to know which friends are the right friends for you. I don’t know about anyone else, but I had this problem. When coming to college, I wanted to make friends, but it didn’t occur to me that I needed to make the right kind of friends. At first, I became friends with people whose interests, morals, and beliefs did not match up with my own, which is not a bad thing. It became a bad thing when they did not accept me for who I am and what I believe. I needed friends who accepted me, who encouraged me, and who added positive things to my life, but I didn’t have that. I had to learn that I needed to let go of those people who drained me, and fill my life with people who lifted me up, encouraged me in my endeavors and beliefs, and added joy to my life. Freshman, make friends who will love you for who you are and support you, not friends who make you feel bad about yourself. You don’t need that negativity.

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

Another problem I had last year was taking myself too seriously. I worried about whether or not my makeup looked good, if my outfit was just right, and what people thought of me. News flash: I had better things to think about and occupy my mind with. College is stressful enough without adding superficial stupidity. Who cares if I don’t look runway perfect? Who cares if my eye lashes don’t look “flawless?” I worried what people thought of my appearance, my personality, and my beliefs. I worried constantly that people didn’t like me. I worried that I wasn’t good enough. In the past year, I have realized that I am a flawed person. And more than that, I don’t simply accept my flaws, I love them. If I had begun to love my flaws last year, I could have saved myself a lot of stress and anxiety that I did not need. I advise you, dear freshman, not to be too hard on yourselves! 

Everything Doesn’t Always Go According to Plan–And That’s Okay

I am definitely a Type A person, so I love to plan things—my schoolwork, my work outs, my club meetings, everything! But last year, I had to learn that my schedule will change and that I will have to erase things in my planner, move them to other times, and squeeze in events and meetings I didn’t think I had time for! But guess what? I learned that I will survive if I have to erase and re-write things in my planner. I will survive if plans get changed and I have to move things around–and so will you. I struggled with stress last year, but the problem was that I stressed about things that didn’t really deserve it! If I had let go of that, I would have had a better year. I hope that you will take this advice and refuse to sweat the small stuff!

Have Fun

As someone who is all about being involved and making good grades, I failed last year to make sure that I had fun things planned for myself, too. I did go to plays and events, but not often enough. I should have made it more of a priority to enjoy my freshman year more, not stay holed up in the library studying. I had a good year, but I urge you, freshman, to take advantage of all of the opportunities your school and city provide you with! There are plenty of things to do for fun, so do them! You’ll have a great time, and great memories later. You only get one freshman year, so make it count!

 

Be Yourself, Not Who You Think You Need to Be

Last year, I thought that I needed to reinvent myself because I was now in college. If you truly want to reinvent yourself, go for it! I urge you to be the best version of yourself, but if you feel like you have to just because you’re beginning a new chapter of your life, don’t. You can still grow and change without giving up what you love about yourself. If you love the way you dress, the type of music you listen to, the Netflix shows you watch over and over again, or the way you present yourself to the world, guess what? You can still add new things to your life without giving up the old. Old does not equal bad or uncool. Be who you are, not who you think you are “supposed” to be now that you are in college. One of the reasons college is so great is that no one is exactly alike—there are all kinds of people and styles, and your style can and should be one of them! You add something to this world, so don’t doubt yourself! You are awesome!

College is new and exciting and stressful–but don’t be overwhelmed. You can get through it, but not only that, you can conquer it! Take my advice. I didn’t know these things last year; I had to learn them on my own. But I can tell you that it will save you a lot of stress and worry to simply love yourself and take time to make your first year in college the best—you only get one first year!

 

Allison is a sophomore at Winthrop University where she majors in English and has a concentration in Secondary Education. On campus, Allison is very involved-she is an Honors student, Admissions Ambassador, and a member of Her Campus Winthrop, Baptist Collegiate Ministry, and Ratio Christi. Allison loves her family and friends very much, and tries to spread the love of Jesus wherever she goes. In her free time, Allison loves to travel (Paris, France is her favorite!), read classics like Pride and Prejudice, and drink iced coffee while binge-watching New Girl on Netflix. Follow her on Instagram to see her attempts to be artistic @allisondsnipes
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