Ah, college. You just graduated high school, and you’re about to embark on your journey as a baby eagle at Florida Gulf Coast University. You’re excited and nervous. Maybe you are planning on going through sorority recruitment, rushing a fraternity, or plan on going unaffiliated. Maybe you want to join as many clubs as you can, or maybe none at all. Whatever your plans are, have no fear. Here are eight pieces of knowledge I wish someone had told me before my freshman year.
1. Take advantage of everything the FGCU campus has to offer.
Between the Center for Academic Achievement, to the beautiful waterfront, FGCU has so much to offer its students, that often go overlooked because everyone is too concerned about the party scene or just too lazy to explore. Campus recreation offers a gym and every intramural sport you can think of; if you’re homesick, CAPS is here to help you. There is nothing this campus can’t do for you. Your tuition money is funding all of these activities and tools to help you succeed, like the writing center and instructional support-tutoring lab. Don’t flunk a class because you were too lazy to go ask for help.
2. Don’t take on more than you can handle.
Personally, my first semester was a whirlwind of chaos, stress and coffee. However, it proved to be a great learning experience. I joined a sorority in addition to taking four classes. I attempted to join every club that somewhat sparked my interest. I ended up dropping two of my four classes (PSA don’t take Financial Accounting and Calculus together if you are not a math-oriented person). The end result you may ask? Well, I dropped one of the clubs that I joined and worst of all I butchered my GPA. The biggest thing I have learned from this: time management. I’m going into my second year here with five classes on my schedule, a job, and pursuing an executive position within my sorority. I have absolutely no worries about it whatsoever.
3. Don’t be scared to change your major.
I’ll admit it; I have officially had three different majors here at FGCU. I went from a Business Management major, to a Resort and Hospitality major, and finally, to a Communications/PR major. I knew what I wanted to do, but had no idea how to get there. I took advantage of my advisor (see #1), and finally figured out where I needed to be. Don’t be afraid to sit down with an advisor every once in awhile, their job is to help you make the right choices regarding your classes and major!
4. Go out, but be smart (and classy) about it!
You’re finally out of the house with no parents telling you what you can and can’t do. Trust me, I know; I’m still that way when I’m in Fort Myers! Going out on the social scene is a big part of the “college experience” for most people. I know you all will be frequent customers at Rusty’s, Keys Bar, and Bar Louie. It is a really good time, especially when the DJs are good and all of your friends are with you. But it is absolutely imperative that you are constantly making sure you are safe. Date-rape drugs or even just blacking out and going home with the wrong person is no joke and something to be taken seriously. I have watched many girls (and even some guys) have one too many drinks and make very poor decisions. I was one of those girls, and paid the hefty price for it. It’s embarrassing, and I wish had someone to tell me to stop. Always have a "going out plan" and a sober driver (or use an Über). You’ll thank me later.
5. The friends you make here will be the friends you keep for life.
Your high school friends are awesome. I still keep in touch with one or two. But your college friends will show you what true friendship really is. The people around you are all attending FGCU to receive an education and succeed, just like you are. Your college friends are going to have the same ambition, same drive, and same motivation within them as you do. That alone is a solid foundation for healthy and lifelong relationships. Don’t be afraid to cut off ties back home; you’re not there anymore. What happened in high school stays in high school. I wish I could put into words how much I love and appreciate my sorority sisters, not to mention my friends I’ve made in South Village, but it’s impossible. These are the people that will ride the SoVi shuttle with you to class, eat Pita Pit with you at ungodly hours of the night, and be your shoulder to cry on. I can personally say that my friend group will be my bridesmaids at my wedding someday, and I guarantee you’ll understand exactly what I mean by the end of your freshman year.
6. Don’t worry about finding your future husband/wife.
My family always told me I would meet my future husband in college. Yet, here I am, single with a chipotle burrito in my lap and the only “I love you” text coming from my mom. If you’re lucky to meet a great guy or girl, and end up dating, congratulations. I’m happy for you! However, if not, don’t fret. College is all about growing up and learning more about yourself and your peers. Take advantage of not having someone to answer to all the time; you’re a free spirit, run with it as fast as you can. I know I was way too concerned about getting a boyfriend because I had this picture in my head of meeting this perfect gentleman who loves fishing and Vineyard Vines as much as I do. Plot twist, I never found that perfect gentleman, and I’m fine with that. I had the freedom to do whatever I want, whenever I wanted, with whomever I wanted. I finally realized that you don’t need a significant other to make you whole, especially in college.
7. Don’t give in to drama.
People can be extremely mean. Pettiness doesn’t get checked at the door when you go to college; some people like to hold onto the immaturity that blossomed in high school. Don’t sink to their level. If you are ever in the situation where you just want to scream at some girl who called you fat, or some guy that called you crazy, just take a deep breath. Clear your head. Smile kindly, say what you need to say, and calmly walk away. You’ll be the bigger person while simultaneously showing that you are a force not to be reckoned with.
8. Enjoy and appreciate every minute of your time at FGCU.
When I packed up my room and said goodbye to Biscayne Hall at the end of my freshman year, I cried like a baby. No shame. So many memories are made your freshman year, and I didn’t appreciate the short time I had to experience everything. You’re going to miss being able to walk five feet across the hall and knock on your best friend's door and just hang out. You’re going to miss those dangerous SoVi dining cookies. You’re going to miss sneaking around your dorm, avoiding your RA when you come home from the bar. Take in every moment and smile, because when you’re packing up, reminiscing, you’ll want to relive it all over again.