The transition between senior year of high school and freshman year of college brings a whirlwind of change and excitement as you embark upon a great crusade. This is the beginning of the rest of your life where—as you shell out your hard-earned cash from your summer job for textbooks (that you will probably only use for one paragraph on one page, by the way)—the priceless memories you make in your newfound environment constitute your own personal history.
Looking back on my first year of college, I have realized that my expectations of college do not match up with my freshman year self in the slightest. There is so much I wish I could go back and tell the senior year version of myself about my upcoming journey into the college world.
1. You have to study.
The days of skimming over your notes the period before an exam are over. A lot of professors tend to cram a lot of information into only a few examinations each semester, which account for a large portion of your final grade in the class. Take your notes. Highlight. Read the material. I had very easy classes my first semester, so I thought I could get away with my high school mindset of "I'll just glance at my notes before the test." When second semester rolled around, I could not have been more wrong. I encountered my first real struggles in college at that point, and knew it was time to buckle down.
2. You will struggle with something at some point.
And guess what? That's okay. Failure is proof that you are trying. However, do not let it become a habit. Allow your struggles to serve as a motivation for future exams or presentations or whatever it is you're having trouble with.
3. You will miss your parents.
It doesn't matter if you are 15 minutes, 15 miles or 15 hours away. You will eventually encounter a feeling of homesickness. It is understandable that you want to explore this new world around you without needing parental permission or the car, but know that they will still always be there for you. There is no need to act like a jerk to your family and act like they do not exist, especially when they are trying to support you and your goals. Every A, every F, every heartache, every triumph—don't forget to give them a call every once in a while, if not frequently. They have lots to share with you, just like you do with them. College should strengthen the relationship you have with your family.
4. You should definitely get involved on campus. (But not too involved).
College life provides a multitude of avenues and opportunities for students to make friends and engage in enjoyable activities. Having something to do when the going gets tough helps you stay sane and encourages time management skills. However, you are not there to solely socialize. Slacking off on your schoolwork due to being too involved on campus creates a slew of problems in the long run. Stay occupied, but do not let your academic performance take the backseat. You pay a lot of money to attend school, go to class and study hard, so do not let it all go to waste just because you wanted to go hang out with all of your friends the night before a crucial exam or presentation.
5. Savor those home-cooked meals while you can.
I won't sugarcoat it—dining hall food does not sit well. Although some dishes may look okay, you will not feel okay later. As hard as it is, try your best to make decent choices because the "Freshman 15" can come out of the blue if you aren't careful. It is very defeating when you come home over Christmas and nothing fits like it used to. Bringing back home-cooked leftovers from breaks is a strongly suggested practice.
6. You are not "the smart kid" anymore.
People are coming from all over to attend the same school as you, to earn the same degree (or different ones, you get the idea) as you and to ultimately compete for jobs with you. You need to accept that you are no longer the big fish in the little pond, but rather in a school of fish swimming toward the same goal in the long run. Do not let this discourage you. Move forward and build off of your peers—open your mind to new thoughts and ideas.
7. You may not have liked high school, but it is still home...
Whether you loved or hated high school, the stepping stones of your adult persona and character originate from those four years. You will look back on the time that you went to prom (or didn't go), when you slammed down your pencil for your last final, or especially when you threw your graduation cap up in the air to celebrate the commencement of your new life. These moments are milestones for the high school experience, but they are simply symbols. The friends and memories you made in passing are what will connect your high school experience to home with you.
8. ...With that being said, it is okay if you drift from your high school crew.
The first few weeks of college are filled with emotional text messages detailing the comparisons between everyone's respective schools, ranging from classes and party scenes to living arrangements. However, as time progresses, you will find your group at college, and your other friends will all find theirs, and that is okay. You may not hear from them as often, and that also is perfectly normal and to be expected. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and will keep your friendships alive and interesting. Your bonds will grow stale with the same cycle of conversations day after day, consisting of "you just had to be there" references and stories. Allow your friends to blossom so that when summer break comes, everyone can catch up and embrace in the completion of their first year of their new adventures.
9. You may want to change your major or consider transferring a few times.
The whole major selection process seems rather puzzling to some. A lot of high school seniors applying to schools only apply to certain majors or schools because of their family or anxiety related to their future. Do not be this student. Search your heart and soul and certainly do not allow the pressure of deadlines force you into something with which you are unhappy. Once you are on campus, taking classes and adapting to your new life, do not be afraid to seek help if you feel unsure about anything. Keep an open mind, but do not jump the gun too quickly. Give yourself some time to assimilate to everything, but if you feel the need to make a change, act on it as soon as reasonably possible. You definitely do not want to waste time, money or credits if you are that unhappy with your choice.
10. You are going to be okay. It is all going to be okay.
Fear not if you feel like everything is crumbling beneath you. You may have problems with your roommate or friend group. You may also have issues with your classes or assignments. In fact, you definitely will stay up all night studying for a test or writing a paper (or probably doing both) at some point, but you will approach it all head-on, drink your coffee, pull on your adult pants and show them how it's done.