Okay, so you've graduated high school. Now what? When I was fresh out of high school, my biggest concerns were trying to make my last summer living at home the best it could possibly be and trying to figure out exactly how to master university before even starting.
I've always been the kind of person who is slightly over-prepared and I knew that first year would be no different. Now that I've finished my first year of school and am back home for the summer, things are a lot different. The past eight months of my life have taught me more than I could have ever imagined. My first year was definitely a mix of every possible emotion and if you're about to start your university education, I'm here to help you get through it.
1. Talk to anyone and everyone.
Especially in the first month of school. One thing I learned was that everyone is in the same boat as you. No one is going to think you're weird or annoying if you talk to them in lecture, or if you live on the same floor as them or even if you just see them in the cafeteria every time you have a late night pizza craving.
In fact, they'll probably be happy you had more courage than they did and were able to start a conversation out of the blue. One of the best parts of university is how easy it is to see someone everywhere while never having to see anyone more than once. So talk to the cute guy from your English class and tell the girl getting breakfast food at 10 p.m. that you like her outfit. There's no way you'll regret it.
2. Go to as many parties as you can.
You're at school to get a degree and that should always come first. But, never sacrifice your own sanity for school. Although post-secondary education is about bettering your mind and studying something you're passionate about, it's also about living your best life and having fun.
Unlike high school, these years are actually going to be the best four years of your life. You're going to have plenty of time to be stressed about work and deadlines, but you're not going to be able to see frat boys in horrible Hawaiian shirts get way too drunk and play beer pong ever again. Work hard, go to parties and enjoy your life. You've got four years to make stories that you'll be telling for the rest of your life. Memories are made from being young, carefree and making the most of your time with the people you love. Don't think you have to lock yourself away studying to do well.
3. One bad mark doesn't mean anything.
Even four bad marks don't mean you don't have a place in college. In high school, I was always the overachiever. Before starting university the only B I ever got was in my sophomore year math class, so you can imagine how earth-shattering my first C+ was.
But, I survived it and it didn't affect my GPA at all. In fact, I still managed to finish my first year with top marks and kept my scholarship. University is in a lot of ways both harder and easier than high school. It's going to take a while to get used to it and chances are you're not going to have the same amazing marks you did in high school. It's going to be OK.
You still are the same intelligent and hard-working kid that got into university in the first place and you're always going to be smart. Use your failures to learn and grow and I promise you it will all be OK.
4. No one has enough time to care, so be yourself.
This doesn't mean that no one cares about you, it just means that not a single person cares enough to negatively judge you. In university, we're all too preoccupied with school, work and just getting ourselves together we don't have enough time to judge anyone.
So, wear your PJs to your 8 a.m. if you want, dye your hair pink and shave your head if you really feel compelled to. I promise no one is looking at you in a negative light. This rule also applies to who you date. In high school, I was always so worried my friends and peers would think the person I was talking to was either too good for me or not good enough.
What I learned this year is that if you think someone is good enough for you, then that's enough validation. Living your life to please others will only leave you miserable and unfulfilled. There is enough sadness and stress in the world. Be selfish. Live for you.
5. Eat healthily, but also eat what you want.
One of the most worrying things I thought about when starting school was the dreaded "freshman 15." I was petrified about not being able to fit into my favorite jeans and being gawked at by my relatives at Christmas. Eating healthy, especially when you live on campus residence, is hard. But it's not impossible.
If you're lucky enough to go to a school with a cafeteria that has a salad bar and always offers a healthier option, like mine, then you're golden. But if your school has a less-than-equipped dining hall then this might be a more tricky task. It's really easy to always grab the burger and fries, but trust me, you will regret it eventually. There's something about three-hour lectures, late night study sessions and keg parties that make it so easy to be unhealthy.
For the sake of your physical and mental health, it's always a good idea to eat healthy as often as you possibly can. Eat your vegetables, try to avoid fried food when you can and always drink tons of water. This isn't to say you have to go completely clean and only eat raw vegetables and never eat processed food. You're still young and its a kind of right of passage eating greasy food from the campus pizza place.
Just don't overdo it. If you want to go out for bottomless margaritas and wings do it. But just make sure you compensate by going for fruit in the morning instead of a double serving of hashbrowns.
6. Your friends and roommates will become your family.
I was lucky enough to get accepted to my dream school. Unfortunately for my parents (but fortunately for me), this school is five hours away from my home in Toronto. This meant that I hardly knew anyone in my school's city and would have to start over in every sense.
Lucky for me, I was placed in a room with five other amazing girls who I now love with all my heart. Even luckier for us, the girls who lived in the room beside us also became part of our little sisterhood. By October, we were inseparable.
You're going to meet so many new, amazing people it's almost impossible to not meet at least one person you'll love. Even now, I think about how lucky I am to have such wonderful amazing friends and am so grateful for the Carleton Residence Housing Committee for doing such an amazing job with paring me up with (in my opinion) the most amazing girls in the world!
7. You're going to be homesick.
If you go away to school, even if it is just a short drive, you're going to miss your home town or city. Moving from the biggest city in Canada to one whose population gets cut in half in the summer was tough. When I found out there wasn't a subway system and you could actually see some stars at night, I was blown away.
I can't imagine what it would be like coming from a tiny town to a city whose population is just shy of a million. But whether you're an hour drive or a six-hour plane ride away from home, you're going to miss it. No matter how much you hated or loved high school, one day you'll wake up and remember your dad's pancake breakfasts, or the cheesy announcements your coach would make over the announcements and miss it like crazy.
Being homesick is going to hurt like hell, but all you have to remember is that the place you came from made you who you are, it's only natural you're going to miss it. Missing home makes visiting all the more amazing.
8. You will break hearts and have your heart broken.
Go on as many dates with as many people as you can. If you meet someone you like, keep seeing them. If someone bores you, you're not obligated to ever see them again. This isn't to say you need to be pursuing a serious relationship at all times, but it has never hurt anyone to date around casually. The best part about being young is that everyone dates around and is still trying to figure out what they want for themselves as well as from the people they date. Take risks, go out with the people you never thought you would. It's the only way to keep growing.
9. Have fun while you can.
Go to varsity games, talk to everyone, go to frat parties, work hard and study hard. Live your life and enjoy it. University is the most amazing wonderful time of your life. Make the most of it.
10. Everything is going to be OK.
There will be times that you think the world is going to end and you'll never make it out alive, but I promise you will. You will graduate, you will find a job and you will go through life successfully. Things end up working out in the end, so don't sweat it too much.