As I start to pack up my belongings and prepare for finals week, I cannot believe how quickly my first year of college has flown by. It’s been one of the most challenging yet rewarding years, and I am here to share some things that my freshman year of college taught me.
Disclaimer: This is based on my freshman experience. Yours might have been or will be similar or entirely different— college is what you make it!
1. Friends you make in the beginning of freshman year probably won't be your friends by the end of the year. And it's okay.
I always liked that phrase, “Everyone comes into your life for a reason.” It absolutely applies to college. That friend that you stuck to like glue the first week of college will likely become just a person you wave to on the way to class, even though she was your confidant just months ago. And who knows, the girl you barely spoke to in Chem might be your best friend by now.
Freshman year is when everyone is adjusting and trying to figure out themselves. Eventually, everyone begins to find a place— people will all break off into groups and circles and, honestly, you will be bummed out at first, but it's just a new opportunity to open yourself up to new friendships.
You might keep these friends you make in the beginning, but don’t worry if your friends change. There are so many people you have yet to meet, your future maid-of-honor could be in your Stats class junior year or maybe she’ll be down the hall next semester; you really have no idea!
If you don’t find your niche at first, don’t worry. Freshman year is full of people finding their way and it is okay to get a bit lost.
2. You will make friends in the unlikeliest of places.
I found my best friend at college when she held the door for me one day and remembered me as the “girl with the cool nails” at orientation. I met another one of my friends while I was at work and another after investigating who was baking delicious-smelling cookies in the kitchen. The campus is filled with people just waiting for you to get to know them. I've befriended people from every crowd, from theatre majors to computer geniuses, and it astounds me.
I've always been one of those people in the middle— not into sports or really into any club. Before college, I probably never would have just gone up to somebody and started talking to them, but once I got to college I decided it could only benefit me. I read it in magazines a billion times: all of these people saying, "Talk to new people!" like it was super easy. Believe me, I would not lie to you. It is hard to work up the nerve to talk to new people, but it really can’t hurt you. The worst thing that could happen is that they're rude, and if they are, so what? Try talking to someone else!
In every class, it's so important to make it a point to talk to someone new. It’s always great to be able to have someone to study with or get assignments from if you miss class. Plus, most of the time people will be relieved that someone’s talking to them. Don’t be afraid to sit beside someone and say hello. Freshman year is the perfect time to make new acquaintances, and chances are you’ll be seeing these people around, whether it’s in new classes or at the library.
3. You don't have to go out and party to have a good time.
Yes, weekends at most colleges are typically a time to go out and go crazy, but there are a lot of people who stay in. There are people who occasionally prefer board games over booze and people who would rather bake cookies and watch movies than go to a bar. Even if you plan to go out and party on the weekends, everyone needs a few friends like this.
It’s always nice to make new friends with people who are just staying in. Some of my favorite nights have involved baking cookies, talking all night, or just going to see the school play. The truth is, the nights you’ll remember best are ones that don’t involve a bar. Of course it’s always an experience to go out and dance all night with your friends, but sometimes it’s nice to just stay in (especially when it’s cold!).
4. Dorms are wonderful but terrible things.
Living on your own is a magical and terrifying thing, but it’s safe to say that I have a newly found sense of independence. By the end of freshman year, I can now do laundry without shrinking anything (note: read the tags on clothes before putting them in the dryer!) and I can navigate the halls without having to constantly doubt myself and check a map.
Dorm life isn't perfect, but it’s not too bad. Having your friends a few floors away is perfect for late night hangouts or finding someone to grab lunch with. Yes, the bathrooms aren't the nicest and the dorms are a bit small, but you’ll learn to adapt. Plus, decorating your own space is super-cool. Being able to finally go college dorm shopping at Target the summer before college is an absolutely fantastic experience. Enjoy it!
Furthermore, living with a stranger is a learning experience. It’s important to realize that your roommate will most likely not become your best friend. There are exceptions to this, but most of the time it will be someone you will learn to live with with… but it could also be someone you don’t click with.
The truth is, the majority of students that I know have had at least one problem with their roommate. Very few people lucked out and made a new BFF. Many ended up with a lesson and a new one by the second semester (like I did). Just remember: the roomie situation is temporary. You can always switch out or just tough it out for a few months— next year you’ll have a new roommate and you’ll likely get to pick them.
5. You don't need to be a college senior or junior to get a kickstart on your dream job.
I began reading College Fashion when I was in high school. Once I realized I wanted to pursue journalism, I knew I had to do whatever I could to gain experience, and what better way than to write for one of my favorite sites?
I’m only just ending my freshman year and I'm already writing for CF and have an internship set for this summer. Whoever said you need to wait until you’re a junior or senior to begin interning and focusing on a career was so wrong. Gain as much experience as you can! There are so many internship opportunities for any college student (and even high school students), you just need to go out and take them. Even if you’re not quite ready for internships, you can still get involved on campus to help you gain experience and connections.
Want to be a writer? Join the school’s newspaper. Want to go into business and management? Try becoming a stage manager for the school’s theatre production. There are countless places to get involved and meet new people while doing it. Also, many colleges have career centers that will help you with your resume, so don’t be afraid to get a second opinion on yours.
6. Morning classes aren't that bad.
By the second semester of college, registering for classes has become a game of “No 8 AM classes” for many people, but I don't think I'm part of that group anymore. I admit, I complained about 8 AM classes to anyone who was awake to listen. I am no morning person— I dreaded my early morning class and my brain cried each time I set that alarm for 7:15.
Looking back, I’m glad I took my early morning class. Yes, waking up early is awful. BUT, getting done with your classes for the day and being able to nap, watch Netflix, and sunbathe in the afternoon is amazing. I'm not saying you need to take five morning classes, but one or two could be a wonderful thing. Waking up is a pain, but once your class is over with, your day is wide open and free. Plus, you can always go back to sleep after.
7. Food is a precious commodity.
Everyone hears about the Freshman 15, right? How you gain 15 pounds freshman year? I can't really verify or deny the claim, but I will tell you one thing: food is precious.
The dining hall gets old really fast and living off of snacks is not an easy feat. No matter how many options your dining hall seems to have, I promise you that the honeymoon phase of loving the dining hall food will quickly wear off. You will get sick of french fries and pizza and the thought of eating more sushi rolls from the sushi bar will make you sick. When you get home, the first thing you do is binge on mom’s cooking and your favorite local takeout place. Events with free food are a godsend.
You will find a local takeout Chinese place, diner, or pizza parlor near your college that you love and it will become a true hero when you’re sick of the dining hall, studying for finals, or just need to eat something delicious. Plus, the best way to make new friends (and unite with old ones) is by baking in the dorm kitchens— nothing attracts people more than freshly baked cookies.
8. Professors (usually) aren't as awful as you think.
Let’s be real— I think all college kids look up our professors on Rate My Professors to see if they’re an easy grader or if we really need to show up to class. Sometimes these reviews are accurate, but oftentimes they are far from it.
Example: one of my professor’s online reviews were awful. Reviews claimed he was boring, useless, and a terrible teacher, but he ended up being one of my favorite professors! This works both ways— there will be professors that everyone loves and raves about online, but when you get to class you begin to believe that evil does exist.
If you do read professor reviews, take them with a grain of salt. The review that says, “HATE HER!!! She’s so mean!! She failed me, she can’t teach!!” might not be too accurate. Try to stick to the somewhat neutral and informative ones. Wait until you’re in the class with the professor before forming an opinion on them. I’m incredibly guilty of forming opinions on professors before I even meet them, but I can readily admit that most of my opinions turn out to be a little bit wrong.
9. You'll do things you never thought you would!
I am not an outdoorsy person at all. I would take air conditioning and Netflix over trees and sunshine any day, but just a few weeks ago I was in the treetops fearlessly zip-lining and climbing on wires dozens of feet off the ground.
No matter where you go, every college is full of opportunities. During my freshman year, I was also able to see two amazing Broadway shows and meet one of my favorite bands. (Anyone else a fan of All Time Low?!) I never thought I would be able to do those things, especially not for free or a few dollars.
It’s so important to stay updated with your campus activities and events. Be sure to subscribe to student activities and event committee newsletters— or better yet, join the clubs.
10. You’ll have to balance your social life.
I don't think I realized that when I got to college I would literally be with my friends all of the time. They're down the hall, a few dorms away, or even next door. It’s great being surrounded by friends all of the time, but it’s hard to balance it out.
Being around people is a wonderful thing, but it’s so important to learn how to be alone. Netflix binges are okay. Staying in for a weekend to study Psych is okay, too. Finding a balance between socializing and staying in can be difficult, but it’s absolutely possible.
My main strategy was doing work while my friends were in class or simply inviting a group together to hang out and do work together. Everyone has some homework or a paper to write— merge together and sit outside to complain about work, snack, and hopefully get some of it done together.
Don't forget that college is still school. Hang out with friends but get your work done, too.
11. Enjoy free (or heavily discounted) stuff while you can.
You paid for tuition, right? Get the bang for your buck! Use your school’s gym facilities and attend the free Zumba classes. You have to pay for gym memberships in the real world, but not here. Attend the free comedy shows. Go on field trips. My college went on Broadway trips where we could purchase $150 orchestra seats for $25.
If your school’s library has unlimited printing like mine did, utilize it. Ink is expensive and you're going to have to print out so many papers. The real world is going to kind of suck when it comes to having to pay for everything, so enjoy freebies and discounts while you can.
12. You start to call your college home.
The first time I visited my house after moving away to college, I had this strange feeling. Everything felt wrong— I felt like a visitor in my house because I didn't feel like I was home. You know it’s bad when you’re heading back to school and tell everyone that you’re going home without even meaning to.
When you’re in college, you miss home a little, but when you go home you really miss college. In fact, call me crazy, but I’m pretty sure my bed at college is comfier than my bed at home.
Perhaps this post was nostalgic for you upperclassman or maybe it will serve as a sort of inspirational post for those who are about to head off to college. Perhaps you are a junior in high school, anxiously awaiting the days where you stuff all of your belongings into a dorm room. Either way, as we approach summer, I'd like to ask:
What has this year of school taught you? Leave a comment below and let's discuss.