5 Things I’ve Learned from my First Year of College

I did it- I’ve almost survived my first year of college. It’s a little surreal how time moves but here I am. From going to class and going to the late night study sessions, to rushing to work and trying to balance my social life: it’s been a difficult transition into a new phase of my life. So what don’t college websites and tour guides tell you about college? I’ve put together a list of 5 things that I thought students should know before coming to college. These 5 things should help students avoid the negative impacts of a theory I’ve abbreviated “MTLSDR”, it’s called “More Technology, Less Socialization, Declining Retention”. This theory is about how social media and pop culture have detrimental effects on socialization, which I believe can lead to a decline in college retention rates. Ironic given that I’m posting this online, right?

  1. College isn’t all about building up your alcohol tolerance.

I remember sitting on the couch and watching movies like 22 Jump Street and Bad Neighbors and thinking to myself….”Wow, look at those spontaneous and independent college kids, that’s totally going to be me and my friends, I can’t wait to leave high school”. On the other hand, it seemed like those people depicted in the movies barely had time to talk because they were constantly taking shots and smoking something. But I assure you that is definitely not the case at WWU. Also WWU doesn’t have a Greek Life system, which makes a significant impact on the drinking that takes place at a school. It’s true, you’re given significantly more freedom while in college, but all that freedom is tied to something very, very frightening… responsibility. So far, college has been heavily focused on academics and discovering how to independently take care of myself. While all people know how to have a little fun occasionally- I’m usually so busy with trying to juggle everything that I rarely find myself thinking “Yeah I have time to go out tonight, why not”. Which brings me to:

2. You probably won’t put in a lot of effort in your appearance every day.

When I was in high school, I would wake up 2 hrs. before I had to leave, in order to make myself look presentable to my peers and eat a balanced meal for breakfast. Now, I wake up 10 minutes before class starts, put on semi-clean clothes, grab a piece of bread (no time to toast it) and head out looking a little something like this.

3. You’re not going to spend as much time socializing face-to-face with your friends.

Trying to balance all the responsibilities of college is a constant struggle, and I’ve found that the aspect of my life that tends to suffer the most is my socialization. In fact, according to a study by The American Freshman Survey, in 2015 just 18% of students said they spend more than 16 hours weekly with friends, vs. in 1987, when ~60% said they spent more than 16 hours each week socializing. Lacking interaction with my peers and friends definitely has it’s effect on me and I find myself trying to make up for this with social media. But while social media is a great way to stay connected with people, I’ve found myself making a habit of engaging with my friends through social media in more instances, instead of meeting up with them when I’m available to do so.

4. No one really knows what they’re doing, and that’s okay.

I came into college sure of what I wanted to major in, but at this point after the first year, I’ve probably changed my mind about 4 times. The thing I learned about this is you can’t beat yourself up too much about being hesitant towards committing to a career.. take your time at deciding what makes you most happy. Don’t let social media dictate your standards for what it means to be happy either! Stop that. Take this time to really find yourself and blossom.

5. You can cry if you need to, you can reward yourself if you need to.

I’m not trying to sound depressing, but I think a good cry is sometimes the key to making you feel better, at least for me it is. Although there are plenty of good outlets that WWU has for dealing with stress, depression and anxiety, you shouldn’t have any shame in being sad sometimes and letting it out. College is stressful, especially when you’re trying to do well and have a balanced life, but you deserve to treat yo’ self once in awhile! Don’t deny yourself of any rewards. This is a new territory for everyone, so don’t feel like you need to have it together all the time.