It’s a huge change, and let’s be honest, your friends and family have been telling you nonstop how awesome college is going to be for the past year. I left home with incredibly high expectations (and a very queasy stomach). College was supposed to be the best time of my life … right? Honestly, I had an amazing four years, but there are definitely a few things I wish I had known prior to my freshman year.
Now a year out of college, I’ve compiled a list of advice that, if I were a time traveler, I would have given myself as a college freshman.
1. It’s Ok to admit you’re not happy.
While it’s important to choose a college based on your specific needs, don’t feel like you’re stuck with whatever choice you make. If you go to a college for your freshman year and it’s really not what you wanted it to be, talk to your parents and a guidance counselor and check out your options to transfer. Or, if you think the reason you’re unhappy has to do with your classes, look into switching programs or majors. Again, evaluate the situation at the end of each term, or certainly at the end of freshman year, and make sure you’re happy where you are.
2. The first few days (and maybe weeks), you will be homesick, BUT you’ll get through it.
Everyone up until this point has been telling you how amazing your college experience is going to be - but this does not always true for the very beginning of college. It’s likely that you’re going to be very homesick in the first few days. You’ll miss you family, your friends, that small hometown you couldn’t wait to get away from. It’s totally normal and totally healthy. Just make sure to call home and schedule some Skype sessions with your high school friends. You’ll get through it!
3. Attend at least a few orientation events.
Whether you think freshman orientation events are dumb or you just hate icebreakers, try and participate in at least a few. They may be cheesy, but as a freshman, you likely don’t know anyone at your school and this is the way to meet people. I’m not trying to say that the people in your orientation group are going to be your life-long friends, but it will give you a chance to come out of your shell and be the most outgoing and friendly version of yourself.
4. Get involved early.
Don’t waste any time getting involved! Your college will likely have an activities fair in the first couple of weeks that will showcase all of the different clubs, sports teams and intramurals they have to offer. I waited until I was a junior to really get involved in clubs and I regretted it. Getting involved is not only a great way to meet new people (which you’ll definitely want to do as a freshman), it’s a great way to feel part of your college community.
5. Speak with an advisor early.
Many colleges will pair you with an advisor at the beginning of freshman year, but very few students actually go and see their advisor. This is a bad idea! Speaking with an advisor is extremely reassuring. An advisor can let you know you’re on the right track, recommend certain classes to take, help you create your class schedule, and answer any questions you have about university life! I ended up choosing classes in my first year that I didn’t even like simply because I had no idea what my options were.
6. No matter how many lists you make, nothing can really prepare you.
I’m not saying this to scare you, I just mean that nothing in your life until this point is like the experience of going to college. In college, you’ll meet different types of people from across the country (and maybe even the world), you’ll meet professors who treat you as their equals, and you’ll gain a new sense of freedom and independence that you can only really get when you start university (especially if you’re moving away from home).