An Open Letter to Incoming Freshmen

As a junior this year, I like to think I have some practice at the whole first day of school thing. This year, my cousin (and best friend) embarks on her college journey. As I was trying to figure out the best advice I could give her, I thought maybe there were some other freshmen out there too that might need to hear it. So, with that, here is my letter to her and all freshmen as the school year begins.

A Letter to an Incoming Freshmen,

In the next week you’ll begin your college adventure. College is a million different things, but if you let it, it will be one of the best times of your life. I hope your college experience is filled with knowledge, laughter, friendship, exploration and amazing memories. You will, for the first time in a long time, get to choose exactly who you are. It’s a lot of pressure, I know; but, if you go into it with an open mind you will be filled with the most amazing sense of freedom.

College will present you with new choices every single day. Seriously, they never really stop coming. Take your time and choose wisely, because the choices you make now will stick with you. Think long and hard about who you spend your time with and what mischief you’re stirring up. Be authentic, don’t worry one bit about what other people might think. Be open and welcoming to things that are new and different, don’t be scared of a little change. The people that accept as you are, truly and honestly, will be your best friends and greatest allies through this process. Show people your truest colors and they will return the favor with their own. Not everyone will be your best friend, and that’s okay. Remember, you’re all going through this crazy time together. It sounds mushy, I know, but the people you surround yourself with will shape your experience in ways you’ll never quite understand.

Everyone has their own way of doing things, but there are some rules of thumb I think ~everyone~ would benefit from. First things first, BE CURIOUS! ! ! The world is quite literally at your fingertips right now. You can learn about anything and everything you want. You can find passions you never knew existed, all by trying something new. If something spikes your interest, do it! Whether it be a club, a class, a sport or a new experience, the worst that could happen is that you don’t like it. The first few weeks will be crazy, but get involved. Look into on campus orgs, introduce yourself to anyone who looks like they might be a friend. Talk to the quiet kid in class, it’ll bring you some of the most amazing friendships. Having a big circle of friends is never a bad thing. They won’t all occupy the same space in your life, but I guarantee you there is room for everyone. I always try to make one friend in each class. Not only do you meet cool people that share your interests, you also get a new study buddy and someone to laugh at all those snide comments you make under your breath in lecture. They might not end up as your core squad, but then again maybe they will! The beauty of college is in how many people you can connect with! That brings me to another tip- stay in touch! With your family, your (real) friends from high school, and the people you meet in college! Grab coffee, go study together, have a wine night, but whatever you do make sure you put the time and effort into the relationships you’re forming. Every connection you make is valuable and has a purpose and a role to play in your college experience. 

If there is one thing college is all about, it’s balance. Balance your old self with your new self, your old life with your new one. Balance your study time with your party time, balance your fun classes with your required ones. Balance your best friend time with your boyfriend time, your social time with your you time. Balance your freedom with your faith, your discipline with some spontaneity. It’s going to take a while to get the hang of such an insane juggling act, and you’ll make mistakes along the way. Just make sure, when you feel yourself drifting from your course you get back on track. Set goals for yourself and make choices in line with them- they don’t all have to be academic, but it's good to have structure in your life. Freedom is amazing, don’t get me wrong, but you have to take care of your sh*t before you can really let loose. Budget your time and I promise there is room to accomplish anything. Work hard, play harder as they say. If you have a system and some order in your life, it frees up time for all the really fun stuff. On another note, one of the most important parts of college is self advocacy! Obviously your family and friends will still be there to look out for you, but college requires you to push yourself. You have to decide for yourself to put in the work. You have to decide to follow through on your commitments. It’s up to you to create the life you want. You need to be proactive- get help when you need it, reach out to people you want to connect with, build an environment you can succeed in.

As you navigate your new life, you’re going to find yourself in unfamiliar situations. I can’t say this enough, TRUST YOUR GUT! Whether it’s an instinct about a class or major you feel called to, or a sketchy party, listen to your gut and act on it! You need to look out for yourself and the people around you. Your gut knows when something feels right, and equally important, when it doesn’t feel right. Act on your instincts and trust yourself. Don’t second guess yourself, be confident and do your very best. Remember, you know BEST my dear!!!

One of the balances you’ll have to practice is when to say yes and when to say no. Be open to new things, say yes if it seems fun or if you like the people going, even if it isn’t something you’d normally try. Don’t say yes to anything too risky or that you know in your heart isn’t for you. Do what feels right for you! “No” is a complete sentence- you don’t owe an explanation to anyone. Life can be overwhelming, sometimes you just need to be alone with your thoughts for a bit. Taking care of yourself is the key to success- you need to be your own best friend. Take time to learn how you fit in your new world and what you need to truly feel fulfilled. Get to know the voice inside your head, when to listen to it, when to override the doubts it might bring you. Knowing yourself inside and out will propel you through college.

College is exciting, full of endless opportunities.. Stay true to who you are, but don’t be afraid to grow and change. Go after what you want, take risks, and never settle. You deserve the best, and you have the chance to do anything your heart desires. Be who you are and explore who you want to be. Lift the people around you and be a genuinely good friend to each and every person you meet. Remember to call your mom (and me). Study hard so you can have fun. Be authentic, be bold, and be kind. See the world with optimism, like anything is possible because it’s true! You can be anything, achieve anything, dream anything you set your mind to. Take a deep breath, take in each moment, and cherish it. Remember, you 100% GOT THIS!

 

All My Love,

    Erin

P.S. I’ll be there for all the mistakes, crazy stories, and successes of your journey. I’m always just one phone call away. You’ll be amazing, and I can’t wait to watch you thrive.