Beyond Erikson's theory of psychosocial development & APA formatting, I've learned a lot in my first few months here in Gainesville, FL. While the thought of starting college may be daunting, here are a few things to preface your next chapter in life!

1. High school was a poor prerequisite

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As I was part of my school's Speech and Debate team, I was constantly comparing myself to the best of the best. From class ranking to national debate ranking, my desire to match up to my peers constantly left me "falling short". I spent countless nights studying for the plethora of AP classes I was enrolled in, the daunting SAT, and on top of it all, my dual enrollment courses. I spent every second of my 4 years of high school believing that "my numbers" defined who I was as a person. Though I may not have gotten into every college I applied for, I realized that it's not that they did not accept me- but rather they did not know me. By the time I was studying for my college midterms, the horror of studying did not seem as painful as it did in high school. I was finally enrolled in courses which interested me & held value to my future. My professors assigned papers asking us to write about our life goals, rather than the mind numbing "analyze this 5 page story on bugs" assignments I did in high school. I no longer felt forced to fit a mold, I could finally create my own path. This reassured me that high school primarily serves to test your perseverance, your dedication, and your work ethic- NOT how well you can memorize and regurgitate information that has no value to you.

2. You will have a greater appreciation for your family

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While you may have thought moving away from college would distance you from your parents- you are sooo wrong. In high school, I would never dare to ask my mom for advice- she's too good at telling me what's right, but not always want I want to hear. Now that I'm living nearly 300 miles away, I call my mom 5-6 times a day. I even call my mom for things I could very easily look up on Google, but for some reason have the desire to seek her opinion instead. From asking how to use a washing machine to going on a 5 minute rant about the new Yankee Candle I just bought, the calls to my mother are endless- and it's not a bad thing! Though she may say "you just called me 5 minutes ago" or "I'm really busy right now,", she'll later reflect on the phone call as a dose of appreciation. The distance between my mom and I has allowed me to appreciate our small discussions about life even more. I used to look forward to leaving everything behind & starting fresh, but today I hold the utmost appreciation for my parents for who shaping who I am & continuing to motivate me to do better every day.

3. Your academic advisor does not have all the answers

From the moment we enroll in college we are told "Visit your academic advisor!". Some schools even make it a requirement before you can enroll in 2nd semester classes! Truth be told, academic advisors do not have all the answers to our questions. On my first day of classes, I was asked to introduce my name & my focus of study to my fellow classmates. The first part came easy to me-obviously- but it took me a whole minute of silence in front of the class to realize I didn't know what my future held. I mean for goodness sake, I thought I had another 4 years before I'd have to confidently answer that question. Following class, I quickly rushed to my academic advisor to figure out what the heck I was doing here. After 5 minutes of discussing my interests, she had written out an entire schedule of courses I should take for the next two years. Though her schedule made perfect sense, I had to take a step back and remember that she was following a general guideline- not something altered to what I desired. My thoughts became chaotic & I assumed that I was already behind schedule, but the truth is that you should take classes that genuinely follow your interests. Don't pick an elective just because it's an "easy A", but rather that you'll have valuable information to take away from it. So yes, your academic advisor can guide you, but don't let them establish your future.

4. Independence is key!

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From the moment my parents drove off from move-in weekend, leaving boxes of clothing & new room decor behind, everything I did was up to me. Though not having a curfew was quite the perk, I also had to cook every meal for myself, go grocery shopping weekly, & make sure I was up in time to attend class. Even before moving to college, I was pretty independent- I folded my own laundry, washed my own dishes, and surprisingly enough, took out the trash. But once I was living on my own, I had no choice but to do these things. I also learned to accept that my friends wouldn't always be available because they would be studying for a Chem exam or attending a club meeting. I'm grateful for college giving me insight into adulthood because I am more comfortable and confident than ever to take on opportunities that I never thought I could handle.

5. Befriend your roommate

I think often times when we start college, we forget that everyone is in the same boat. Nerves are peaking, excitement is raging, and isolation is kicking in. We have just moved away from everything that was comfortable to us- our family, our pets, our room & our friends. Having a roommate can go one of two ways- they can become your most convenient outlet to vent or your worst nightmare to live with. Skeptical of how compatible we would be, I chose to room with a girl who has attended school with me from elementary to high school. Though we were familiar with each other for nearly 12 years, it was not until college rolled around that she proposed the idea of living together. I figured since we knew the same people & were from the same town, the stress of adjusting to college would be alleviated knowing I had someone there for me. Though all I anticipated was someone to accept my quirks and occasionally help me with math homework, I can gratefully say that I've found a best friend in her. I know all roommate situations don't work out as smoothly as mine, but just remember they're searching for comfort as you are.

6. Your closest friends are probably the only people you will keep in contact with

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For the 4 years you spend in high school, you see pretty much the same people every day. Whether it's a kid who sits on the other end of your math class, your ex-elementary school best friend, or even your current best friend. But once you go to college, all that changes- not to say that it's a bad thing because you'll make new friends too! I have high school friends that attend the same college as I do, yet I only see them every few weeks & that's an adjustment I was not prepared for when coming to college. My friend group from high school is spread out across the country, it seems nearly impossible to keep up with what everyone is doing. As the girl who strives to befriend everyone, I used to frown upon myself for not staying in touch with people I considered myself to be close with, but I realized it is all a part of life. In the most uplifting way, people go their separate ways. We make new friends, get real jobs, find our significant others, and learn to adjust to every day lifestyles. The friendships I used to admire up close, I now admire from afar. Luckily, social media allows me to get a glimpse of new events going on their lives- or at least what they choose to share. To my high school friends I no longer see or speak to everyday, I am proud of everything you are accomplishing and despite our distance, I will always be grateful for the impact you've made on my life.

7. You can always go to another party, but you can't always retake a test

College for many people is defined as the overwhelming "partying phase." From tailgates to Ladies' Night, there is an 85% chance some social event is going on when you have the desire to go out, but these perks shouldn't blind you from the primary purpose of being in school- to earn your degree. In high school, it was easy to get away with not studying for a test. I mean really- teachers add bonus points just for putting the correct heading or not using your bathroom passes, but when you get to college, it's not so easy. By the time the 4th week of school came around, I had to begin studying for my first real college exams (spoooooky), but it happened to land on the same week that my friend was coming up to visit Gainesville. While I was eager to show her every part of the best college town, I knew I had to set the fun aside and pick up the books. This posed the question: Was I a bad friend or a good student? When I later got my exam back & saw that I scored much higher than I anticipated, I was proud to see my hard work pay off. So next time you ask yourself if it's worth it to stay in and study, remind yourself: nobody ever regretted getting a good grade- right?

8. Branching out is the best thing you can do for yourself

This is your chance to reinvent yourself! Whether you had poor study habits or you were a shy student, college offers so many new opportunities. I made the risky decision to attend a smaller college near the University of Florida with the intent of getting the "UF student experience". It only took me two weeks of living here to realize that if I wanted to be a part of anything- I was going to have to take the extra mile to go there. I found myself struggling to make friends, as starting conversations in small classrooms felt awkward. I found myself saddened by the fact I did not have my group of friends at my new home & becoming part of a sorority was not an option for me. I felt that I became a tiny speck within a crowd of intelligent, passionate students. But I refused to allow myself to be set back. I began sparking conversation with people in my classes, even inviting a few of them to go out with my roommate and I. I stayed after class to have conversations with my professors about job opportunities, writing improvement, and overall life advice. I quickly realized that engaging myself within the community allowed me to feel more comfortable in my own skin. My advice to you? Go ahead and join the club of your interest, speak to the people next to you in class, go out & meet friends of friends, but most importantly: unapologetically always embrace who you are.

9. Forget about picking out a cute outfit for school- those days are over

In high school, I woke up an extra 45 minutes early to pick my outfit for the day. It was not that I felt the need to impress anyone but rather I enjoyed having a sense of fashion for myself. My typical outfit consisted of a pair of jeans & a cute top, but since college- I have only touched my pair of jeans for colder days. By the second week of school, I realized that amongst "girl code" it was totally acceptable to wear an oversize long sleeve & active shorts everyday. Meanwhile, I worried about having enough clothes for going to school and going out. My parents' wallets sure was thankful for this change. My new wardrobe debate in the morning is "Should I go in my pajamas or throw on a cute hoodie to make myself a little more put together?" and I am sooo okay with that.

10. You've made the right choice if you start calling this place HOME

The turkey had been stuffed, my family members had asked me 50 questions about my future, and the feeling of "being homesick" started to kick in. For Thanksgiving break, I decided to head back to my home in South Florida a few days earlier than planned, though I was welcomed with a vast amount of love & appreciation- I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss Gainesville. As I have been living here for nearly 3 months, I have already mastered my well-rounded routine. From waking up & sharing a cup of coffee with my roommate to ensuring I hit the gym, I was missing the comfort of my apartment. This is not to say that I was not happy to be home! I got the chance to gather with my grandparents who I have not seen since moving away, my boyfriend & my best friend- which I was undeniably thankful for. While discussing the community of spirited students to my family members, I said "Back at home, everyone is a Gators fan. From the second you read the highway sign 'Gainesville in 18 miles' you begin to see the flood of Gators license plates, stickers-". I could not continue my rant as I was quickly interrupted by mother for casually calling Gainesville my home. Though shook by my claims, my mother reconciled, stating "I am so so happy for you that you love your new town- you've made the right choice." As I hit the road to head back, I dread the 5-hour car ride, but the thought of orange & blue keep me eagerly awaiting the "Gainesville in 18 miles" sign.