I remember the summer before freshman year being one of the most nerve-racking times of my life. To ease some people's anxiety, I'm going to give seven pieces of advice that I wish I knew as an incoming freshman—things my older sibling I never had would have told me.
1. Utilize resources like peer mentors and tutors.
In freshman year, there are so many resources that I wish I had utilized more like peer mentors and tutors for both academic and personal reasons. Peer tutors are really helpful because when they tutor you in a certain class, they have to have taken the class before as well, so they know different study tips to succeed in the class. During orientation, our orientation counselors serve as such good resources for any questions freshmen have about academics or about college life in general, because they went through the same things you did one, two, or three years ago. I wish I had reached out to my orientation counselor (basically the first upperclassman I knew on campus), and she could have given me such good advice during my freshman year. Also, certain students also get peer mentors within their academic college, who could be another similar resource and a way to gain connections with other upperclassmen.
2. Go to teachers' office hours.
This is one of my biggest pieces of advice, because I only discovered it during the second semester and I could have done so much better in certain classes. Instead of struggling on my own or insisting I could "figure it out myself," I wish I had realized that it's okay to ask for help. Asking for help from a teacher doesn't make you any less intelligent; it actually makes you more mature of a person. One thing one of my teachers said that really stuck with me is that we should always reach out to her if we had any questions or concerns, because advocating for our own success makes us more mature people. Furthermore, taking the time to know your teachers more will make it more likely that they will help you out in the future with connections, internships, recommendation letters, etc.
3. Get an on-campus job (if you think it's right for you).
I understand that not everyone has the time or desire to find an on-campus job, but it could be something to give serious consideration. I personally didn't find a job during freshman year because I thought I wouldn't have time for it, but I wish I did. I prioritized my extracurricular activities over finding a job, so I realize that if I could make time for those activities, I could make time for a job. It would have been a way for me to begin to go out of my comfort zone and break out of the "Villanova bubble." Yes, these jobs would still be on campus and therefore inside of the bubble, but I would have been getting exposure to a work environment. It could help with students struggling financially as well, and it's a great way to ease into working but in a more sheltered setting.
4. If you're feeling too stressed, take steps to relax a bit.
Though I took basic steps to relax like hang out with my friends or go to the mall, I wish I had done more because I know it would have been beneficial for my mental health. The amount of classwork given in classes can be an adjustment from that of high school, so de-stressing would have made my freshman year experience a lot more positive. I wish I had taken advantage of events that our Office of Health Promotion put on like weekly pet therapy, for example. During finals week, they also provided free chair massages, which I didn't even know about until I did research for this article. Transitioning into college isn't easy, but taking steps to relax can make it a little bit easier.
5. It's okay to grow apart from high school friends.
I remember having every intention of keeping in touch with almost all of my high school friends, but it's just not realistic. You will meet so many new people in college that they will become part of this new chapter, and they often are the ones that stay with you for the rest of your life as well. Granted, it's definitely important to stay in touch with your closest friends and meet up with them during breaks because high school was a big part of your life and you shouldn't neglect that.
6. Grades don't mean everything.
Ever since high school, you have felt like your worth and success have been decided by your GPA, but that couldn't be further from the truth, especially in college. Getting a really low grade on a test may not make you feel the best, but remember that it is possible to save your grade by working hard on the next few tests and that homework and participation also have a good amount of weight in a grade. Also, in my personal experience, your interpersonal/interview skills are much more important for your future success. Ultimately, college students usually need around a 3.0-3.5 GPA to get an interview with employers, and then your interview skills will actually secure you the job.
7. Everyone is going through the same thing.
If you don't remember anything from this article, remember this. No matter how nervous or lost you might be feeling during freshman year, everyone is basically experiencing the same emotions—some people just may be better at hiding it than others. Don't be alarmed if one of your friends doesn't outwardly seem like he or she is having a difficult transition into college, because everybody processes emotions differently. Utilize all of the resources I mentioned previously, and always remember that no matter what, there are always people in your corner.