Entering college and starting a new chapter of your life can be exciting, scary, and confusing all at the same time. Becoming an independent person - after 18 years spent living under your parents' roof and rules - has its ups and downs. This may be the biggest change your life has experienced thus far, and even if it's not - it's a unique experience. You're about to be completely free and completely in charge of yourself.
And chances are, you're getting a lot of information thrown at you right now, thus adding to the "confusion" portion of your emotions. I went through this process a year ago, and these are the words of wisdom I wish had been included in my pre-freshman experience.
1. The friends you start with are probably not the ones you will end with
When the year starts, you'll probably become friends with whoever you meet first - and there's nothing wrong with that. It's just how it goes. When you're all of a sudden inserted into a student body full of complete strangers, it's impossible to know where to start. You just have to navigate your way through person-by-person. With time, you'll really get to know the people who surround you, and you'll find your social niche. It's a process, so don't be discouraged if you find yourself undergoing a lot of social changes.
And if it ever gets really tough and you do get discouraged, remember: graduating is your priority. Focus on your academics and involvement, and your social life will fall into place.
"I'm not serving in office because I desperately needed 99 new friends in the U.S. Senate". - Ted Cruz
2. Dining halls make it hard to stay healthy
Eating at dining halls every day is like eating out for every meal. You're going to be overwhelmed with options (most of them carb and/or sugar loaded), and it's important to stay focused on eating healthy. Try your best to stick to eating the college version of whatever you typically ate at home, and don't get lost in the pasta sauce.
However, the Freshman 15 is real, and most people do get it. And there's honestly nothing wrong with that. It's part of the experience, I guess?
"Welcome to Flavortown." - Guy Fieri
3. Go for the extracurriculars with the most credibility
If you're looking to get involved on campus, try to stick to the organizations that a lot of other students are a part of and seems to hold a certain level of validity around campus. A lot of the smaller clubs tend to be run by busy students whose priority is not that club, and this reduces the chances of the club being able to make it through to the end of the year. Your best bets are the organizations such as sports, performing arts, student government, Greek life, etc. There's nothing wrong with the small clubs - and if that's where your interest lies, go for it - but if you're looking for a large organization that's guaranteed to meet every week, stick to the big ones.
"Organized sports are so fascist, it makes me sick!" - Eric Molson, 21 Jump Street
4. Create a (rough) weekly schedule for yourself
Starting a life on campus is hard because you're losing the most important aspect of your previous life at home (whether you realized it or not): routine. College is completely different than high school; your classes only meet once or twice a week, and they can be anytime during the day. These scheduling differences can leave gaps in your schedule, whether it be just a few hours or an entire day.
A good idea is to, before you get to school, draft up a rough plan of what each day of the week will entail for you. You don't have to get too specific, and things will certainly change once the semester starts. But it's good to have a general idea of how your days will be split up - i.e. when will you go to class? Eat? Study? Workout? Planning the big chunks of your day will help you to be more productive once you're on campus.
"Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up." -A.A. Milne
5. Parties are fun, but it's pretty much the same thing every weekend
Parties can be a lot of fun! They're a great way to let loose and spend time with your friends, and they mostly don't have all the negative connotations that your parents associate them with.
The thing with college parties, though, is that they're pretty much all the same. And if you're going out two or three times a week, it'll get very repetitive very fast. So it's all your choice: party as little or as much as you want. But just so you know, they're all the same, and it's nice to switch up your weekend plans every once in a while.
“It's deja vu all over again” - Yogi Berra
6. Your report card is not what's most important
College is about more than trying to get straight A's - it's about being your best, well-rounded self and doing what makes you happy. Of course, it's critical to study and give good effort, but don't let the academics take up all your time and energy. Coming out of college with straight A's and gray hair isn't worth it if that's all you have to show for your four years. Get involved, have fun, and make lifelong memories, because in the long run, experiences are what you will take away from college.
"Fun is one of the most important - and underrated - ingredients in any successful venture." -Richard Branson
7. Stick to your convictions (whatever they may be)
You need to go into school with convictions - when you understand your personal opinions and values, it sets a basis for who you will be, who you will surround yourself with, and how you'll spend your time. It's a lot harder to follow your values if you're making them up as you go. So start college with a good deal of confidence in where you stand, and don't let anyone lead you astray. Because you're better than that.
"Those who stand for nothing fall for everything."
8. You're probably not going to understand all of this advice until you're the one giving it next year
As an incoming freshman, you're probably getting hit with advice left and right. This list of advice may not mean as much to you as it does to me, but it will in due time. You'll most likely learn as you go, and that's life in general.
So just go to college, give it the best "confused freshman" you can give it, and figure it out. You'll come out just fine.
"I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them." -Andy Bernard, The Office
A college sophomore who is living proof that this is all good and everything is okay