How-To Survive Your First Semester of College
- It is OK to be scared about leaving home. Starting about 3 weeks before move-in day, the anxiety of leaving the only life and home I had ever known suddenly began to cripple me. Throughout my entire life I was one of the “weird” kids that didn’t like staying away from home for more than a night, maybe two. I was never one of the kids that went off to summer camp for weeks at a time only to talk to their parents by phone. So, as I began to realize that I was going to be away from my parents for more than a few days, panic set in. It was not the fact that I didn’t know how to do anything on my own, because my parents had always raised me to be very independent. It was not the fact that I was going to be far away, I mean I am only one hundred miles way. It was just simply the fact that this was a big change and I was not used to having to deal with change. So, it is okay to be nervous about leaving home, because yes, it is scary, but it is also liberating and exciting. Not to mention leaving home is a necessary part of becoming an independent adult.
2. Make NEW Friends. In high school I was a cheerleader which led to having the typical group of friends mainly comprised of fellow cheerleaders and other athletes. As I began my time at my university I realized that pretty much everyone here is looking for a new start and new friends. It is so easy to stick to the people you knew in high school but if you do that, then being able to have a fresh start will almost be impossible. College is filled with a huge variety of people with different backgrounds and experiences. Some of them will have things in common with you, while others will bring something completely new and different into your life. Sure the sheer number of people at most big college campuses seems overwhelming and you feel like you might get lost in the crowd, but if you can get involved in something and step out of your comfort zone, I can assure you that you will be able to make an entire new group of friends. This does not mean to abandon your old friends, because they will be there for you when things from the past arise, that your new friends don’t know about or won’t be able to understand. Start your new life with new friends, but never forget the people and experiences that got you to this point in your life. Your college friends will more than likely be your friends for life.
3. Remember this is your chance for a fresh start. It is so easy as times get hard in college to turn to a past relationship, or go back into bad habits in order to get that comfortable feeling of what things used to be like back in your life. Just try to find a new way to cope with things as you start your new life so you don’t have to revert back to the past and potentially harm your progress. That being said, don’t completely give up your life back home. Always remember your parents have been there for you through everything and they should be a part of your new life. I know for me that having my parents there for me has really helped me get through some of the tough and unsure times of college. I also see that this new found life I have for myself has allowed me to create a new and unique bond with my parents that I never had before.
4. The ‘Freshman Fifteen’ is not a myth. When you enter college you find yourself on a meal plan where you can eat basically anything and everything you want whenever you want. Try and keep in mind that that additional food has to go somewhere and if you’re a girl it will more than likely go to that problem area we all have in our lower abdomen. There’s also the likelihood that you were an athlete in high school and you more than likely worked out a few times a week. Unless you are a college athlete, those practice times go away, and it is now on you to have the self discipline to make yourself workout. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the occasional late night snack, or those chicken nuggets you just want to make a bad day better, but just keep in mind your body changes. The most important thing to remember is that no matter how hard you workout or how good you eat, this is a time in your life to where your body is going to change in some form or fashion, so learning to accept and cherish your new body will be very beneficial to your happiness.
5. Learn to love yourself. Learning to love yourself can be so much harder than loving another person. It is so much easier for us as humans to find the good in another person and accept their flaws, but when it comes to ourselves we allow our flaws to overshadow our good qualities. As mentioned above, the stress and changes that college can bring to your body can be hard to deal with and accept. I know for myself I have had a hard time finding the energy and motivation to workout and am now experiencing body image issues. It is okay to want more for yourself and to try to be the best you that you can be, but you also need to accept the person you are and love yourself no matter if it means you are a few pounds heavier than you were your senior year of high school. Be the person you are and be happy. It is hard to let others love you if you can’t love yourself. And honestly who’s going to be there for you better than you are going to be there for yourself?
6. GO to class. I know everyone tells you this but if your teacher takes attendance then having a perfect attendance grade will not only give you a better grade, but it will also make it more likely that they will help you out come the end of semester and you’re missing that .02 to get the grade you want. Also going to class ensures you are up to date on the information you are going over as well as important due dates. Everyone needs a day off now and then, just don’t make a habit out of it.
7. Don’t beat yourself up over one bad grade. In college it is easy to feel an immense amount of pressure to be successful and make the grades. You feel the pressure from your parents, from your fellow classmates, and even from society itself. You want to make your parents proud, because you know that they are footing the bill for your college experience, so the least you can do is make good grades. You feel like you are in constant competition with your classmates, because chances are you all will be going after the same jobs some day. Society has built this ideal in our minds that the only way to be successful is to make good grades. They have us believing that if you do bad in a class your chance for a good career plummets. The truth is, at some point or another everyone is going to do bad on a project, or bomb an exam. It’s college and it’s hard, and it’s okay. You may have been like me and been valedictorian of your senior class, but college is filled with valedictorians and it’s okay not to be the smartest one any more. Just shake off the bad grade and try harder the next time.
8. Get involved. Whether it’s a club, an honors society, or even a Greek organization, getting involved can be the difference in a fun college experience and a boring one. For me I decided to go Greek and join a sorority. I almost didn’t do it because of the negative comments I was getting from people back home. The information that they based their opinions on was in general from cliché movies, and had no idea the actual benefits Greek life can give a person. The connections you can make in various organizations can benefit you not only socially but also professionally. Being a part of something bigger than yourself in college can also help you have a better outlook on life and make you happier. Not to mention being a part of an organization forces you to have obligations and events you need to go to, which ensures that you aren’t cooped up in your dorm room all day every day.
9. Maintain a balance between work and play. Treating college like a 9 to 5 job is honestly way easier said than done. One reason is that after you’ve been to your 8 am and you have a huge gap in your day there is nothing that sounds better than a nap. Napping is one huge essential to college but making sure you have your homework done first is very important. This helps ensure you don’t nap all day and are up all night doing homework and completely screw up your sleeping schedule. That doesn’t mean you won’t still pull all-nighters, but it will maybe help minimize them. Going out on the weekends is a fun part about college, but remember you are at college for school, not partying. So only go out if you are completely done with your homework and you have no big tests to study for, because you say you will do it on Sunday but Sundays are best spent eating hangover brunch and napping. There will always be another weekend but there won’t be another try on an exam.
10. These are the best years of your life make the most of them. College is your last fun time before real life begins. These are your last years to make dumb decisions, eat cookout at 2 am, go crazy on Saturday nights, and just not have the complete responsibility of the adult world on your shoulders. Just have fun these next 4 years, because the real world will be here before you know it.