How to Adjust to College Life: 4 Tips for Incoming Freshmen

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Going away to college for the first time is both exciting and scary, so it helps to have an idea of what to expect before you head off to school. I'm heading into my fourth year of university this fall, but I still remember how it felt to go away to a new city and new school, with new people, and new experiences. This is a once-in-a-lifetime event, so being prepared will definitely help you take it all in.

Here are four tips to help you adjust to college life as a new freshman, and seamlessly make the transition from former high school student to successful collegiette.

1. Expect the Unexpected

No matter what your older sister, your mom, or your best friend tells you about their freshman year, yours will undoubtedly be different. Some elements may be the same (like the abundance of alcohol in college dorms, or the lackluster cafeteria food) but your experience is going to be unique because it's yours.

Also, don't let your own expectations get in the way of letting your year unfold the way it naturally should. You may not get into the sorority you've had your heart set on since middle school, but that could easily open the door for you to join one that is right for you. Maybe you won't get an A on your very first paper, but it might be a good reality check to help you buckle down and succeed for the rest of the year.

Never let your knowledge of other people's experiences create unrealistic expectations for your own. Be prepared for anything and enjoy all the surprises your freshman year will offer you.

2. There's Room for Everyone

Unlike high school, where cliques form quickly and people often feel segregated, colleges are big enough for everyone to find their niche.

During my freshman year, I was more or less shunned by the people on my dorm floor because I didn't like to party (my course-load was very demanding) and because I chose to stay with my long-distance boyfriend rather than breaking up with him at Thanksgiving like everyone else. However, after awhile I found friends who understood me, and who liked to hang out casually, and were always supportive of my academic drive. It just took time.

So even if the first people you meet on campus aren't the right friends for you, don't stop looking. Between classes, clubs, and dorms, you're going to meet tons of people, and you're guaranteed to find a few that you'll love to spend time with.

3. You Will Make Mistakes

It's inevitable; I'm sorry - mistakes are part of college life. Which mistakes and how many you'll make may vary, but whether it's skipping an important class, getting too drunk and vomiting, or hooking up with a guy you really don't like, every freshman makes at least one mistake or two.

When you inevitably mess up, don't beat yourself up about it. Take it as part of a learning experience and use it to grow and make better decisions in the future. College isn't just for learning about advanced chemistry or 19th century literature, it's for learning about life, and how to become a mature, responsible young adult. Accepting that you'll make a few mistakes along the way will help you move forward that much faster and become a better person even sooner.

4. You Might Even Change

The person you are when your parents drop you off at college will probably be worlds apart from the one you'll be when you leave. Change is an inevitable part of the college experience.

Sometimes the change is something you intentionally work on, whether you're trying to eat healthier and be more active, or working to become more environmentally conscious, or maybe even just taking fashion risks in an effort to be more stylish. Other times, we change whether we intend to or not. It could be through something sad, like a breakup, or something positive, like a chance to study abroad.

The changes we make and experience in college allow us to develop into the people we're meant to be, but remember two things: who you are on the inside never really changes (at least the good stuff), and there's always time to keep changing, even (*gasp*) after college. So embrace change as the wonderful blessing that it is, whether it feels like it at the time, or not. Everything will always work out for the best.

What Do You Think?

What was your freshman year like? What was the biggest lesson you learned? What advice do you have for incoming freshmen? Leave a comment and share with us!