Lessons you are bound to learn during your freshman year
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Student Life

9 Tough Lessons You Are Bound To Face During Your Freshman Year

Because not everyone has it all figured out when they first arrive on campus, and that is OK.

9 Tough Lessons You Are Bound To Face During Your Freshman Year

Freshman year of college can be both the best of times as well as extremely overwhelming. As I reflect on this past school year, I thought I would share some of what I learned in my experiences beyond the classroom.

1. The Unknown Can Be Scary


Although I may have had the color scheme of my dorm room picked out 10 minutes after I finally decided what college I was going to attend, I quickly learned that there would be certain things about freshman year that were out of my control. As excited as I was to graduate and start my next adventure, it was very difficult to say goodbye to the familiarity of teachers and organizations I had been involved with that helped me form my high school identity for the past four years. It was bittersweet having to part ways with people I had sat next to in class for years, while at the same time being excited to see what they would accomplish beyond the confines of high school. The most tragic event by far, however, was easily *gasp* receiving the wrong duvet from Bed, Bath, & Beyond. I learned through experience that no matter how prepared one may be for the next phase, it is important not to worry about the things you cannot change.

2. Make the Most of Orientation Week

When it comes to O Week, every college is different. Some schools hold it for a few days in June or July, while others have a week-long event for the freshmen just prior to the start of classes. At my school, orientation takes place in late August, and it is a big deal. Multiple freshman were randomly assigned a group with orientation leaders who have the responsibility of explaining the ins and outs of what it takes to be in college and live on campus. There were multiple events scheduled for every part of each day ranging from salsa dancing to sunrise yoga. Regardless of if you didn't know anyone in the beginning of the week, there was something for everyone which made it that much easier to meet people with similar interests. There was also one day where our orientation leaders showed us around Pittsburgh so we were more familiar with the city which was so helpful coming from someone who has lived in New Jersey her whole life! The best event of all, however, was the grafitti dance, where everyone wore a blank white T-shirt and used a fabric marker to write their name on other people's shirts. I went to the dance with a blank T-shirt and nervousness, and come home with a name-flilled shirt and a group of new friends.

3. You Will Miss Your Pets


As much as I missed my family a ton when I was away, my dog, Charlie, was by far the happiest to see me when I came home for Thanksgiving break, and the feeling was mutual. He would not stop jumping on me and wagging his tail, and I didn't even mind that he ripped my leggings in the process. Life becomes so empty without having a pet to love and give attention to, and that void in my heart was filled every time I came home for a break.

4. Don't be Deceived by Social Media


Picture this: it is 9 p.m. and you are sitting in your dorm room all alone on a Saturday night feeling homesick and eating a pint of mediocre chocolate ice cream you just overpaid for at the Campus Market. You unlock your phone and scroll through Instagram only to find 9 different posts of large friend groups going to parties you didn't know about while simultaneously getting five Snapchat videos of people screaming 2010 Nicki Minaj and clearly having the best night of their lives. It is really overwhelming to be constantly bombarded by what is being said or posted on social media, and it's also easy to feel as if you are missing out by staying in for a night or two. While I had many good times this past year, there were also quite a few nights not captured on social media where it seemed as if everyone had found their niche while I was still trying to figure everything out. It is important to put into perspective that people, including myself, post on social media what they want others to see, which often entails a set of filters and quite a few other enhancements.

5. Making Friends with People in Your Major is a Game Changer

Honestly, study groups were never my thing in high school. I felt, and still do to some extent, that working in large groups allowed me to easily become distracted rather than get work done. However, this changed for me when I went to college and found myself juggling the work required for multiple science courses at the same time. I'm in a program to become a Physician Assistant, and there is a cohort of about 40 of us. This small class size makes us pretty close-knit especially because we must complete the same prerequisites before our professional phase. Whether it was pushing one another to not procrastinate on an upcoming lab report, or the sense of community in the room when everyone knows they just failed the Biology exam, making friends in my major allowed me to feel as if we were in this together. I also found it easy to connect with people who share a common passion for the PA profession and helping others. Not to mention the stress relief that comes from ordering pizza and cheesy bread to the library together at 2 a.m. during finals week.

6. Figure Out How You Study Best...And Keep Doing That


Sometimes it takes one (or five) bad grades to recognize that how you are studying simply is not working. While I study differently depending on the subject and professor, there were a few methods that really helped me with my classes:

- Read up and/or take notes on the material before going to class so that lecture will feel like a review

- Take notes during class and try to get a sense on the big picture

- Pay special attention to visuals from the notes and textbook

- Make sure to take time after each lecture to review the main points of what was talked about

- Use a whiteboard to draw out complex diagrams

- Go to the library or a quiet, well-lit spot where you will not be distracted to study

- Turn off your cell phone and avoid getting distracted by music

- Take a good look at study guides and other important supplementary materials

- Try to complete as many practice problems as possible

- Start studying for exams in advance

- Utilize office hours and the on-campus writing center for upcoming papers

- Make sure to pay attention to what you may have gotten wrong from the first exam so you won't make the same mistake on the final

These are just a few things that will help you get in the right mindset for an upcoming exam, but DO NOT forget to take breaks and practice self-care in the process :)

7. Office Hours Will Only Help

I have never heard of someone getting a lower grade than expected due to the fact that they attended office hours. It's truly a great way to stay on top of your work and ask specific questions in a more comfortable setting than a crowded lecture hall filled with 200 students at 8 a.m. Furthermore, you never know when you will need to ask your professors for a recommendation letter or what opportunities they may have to get involved with research, so it is great to start making connections as early as freshman year.

8. Take Advantage of All Campus Resources and Events

There are so many resources on campus, some of which I did not become aware of until the second semester. Whether you are in need of a good tutor or are struggling with mental health, there is someone on campus that cares and is willing to help. The School of Health Sciences would often hold review sessions if there was a large exam coming up, and this overview often helped me gain a greater sense of the more important topics. My residence hall also was really active through holding inexpensive events on weekends ranging from going on a Haunted Hayride to spending a night at the arcade. There was also an even an office specific to freshman development which would often sell discounted tickets to Pirates baseball games, Phipps Conservatory, and even escape rooms! I would definitely recommend reading your email regularly and trying to stay informed on all the events taking place on campus!

9. Home is Only a Phone Call Away


Although it can be exciting meeting new people and keeping busy with campus life, there are few things hour long phone calls with your mom and best friend can't fix when everything seems to be going wrong.

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