What confused me the most was always hearing the same advice from people and not knowing anything else. There had to be more to college than the same ten pieces of advice, right? We always hear, "don't take 8 am's" and "watch your drink," but there's a lot more to know.
I haven't figured all of it out, but I've figured out a lot. Whether it's from my own personal experiences or others, it's important to keep these pieces of advice in mind.
As you grow, it's important to learn a lot of lessons on your own, but there are some things that are better to learn from other people. I hope that every college freshman is able to take something away from this, and I wish all of you the best during your time at school!
1. Someone flirting with you when they say they have a significant other isn't hot, it's a red flag.
When you go out somewhere and someone flirts with you, it seems pretty nice. When you learn they have a significant other but are still flirting with you, you might feel special. Do not trust them. They likely do this often and you're not the only one they're making "feel special." Also, freshmen are typically taken advantage of because — even if you don't want to believe it — they're all naive. Don't give into the games people with significant others want you to play, because it'll never end well.
2. You're allowed to date multiple people at once and so are the people you date.
No, I'm not saying cheat on your boyfriend or girlfriend or have open relationships. You are allowed, though, to go on dates with multiple people. The basic rule of dating as an adult is that until you make something exclusive, you're allowed to go out with as many people as you want. If you want to grab lunch with one person and dinner with another, go for it. Chances are, all the people you're seeing are seeing other people too. So go ahead, date multiple people.
3. Don't be the class clown because no one will be impressed.
Everyone knew a class clown in high school. It's typically someone who's always cracking jokes or trying to say stupid stuff to make others laugh. That might have been you. Don't be that person in college. In a college class, no one has the time or patience to deal with someone trying to crack jokes all the time. Students and professors want to get in and out of class as soon as they can without interruption. It's not worth the time or effort to try to be the funny kid. When you get into advanced courses with fewer students and better relationships with professors, you might be able to get away with a few jokes, but freshman year, leave the jokes at home.
4. Use any free counseling or therapy the university offers, whether you think you need it or not.
It doesn't matter if you're dealing with some mental health issues or not, everyone can benefit from therapy. It helps recognize problems in life and can be extremely helpful to have an unbiased party help you work through them. They're not miracle workers, but seeing someone on a regular basis can really help you work through your struggles or generally improve your mental wellbeing. If it's free, why not take advantage of it?
5. You don't need to include your best friend in all the friend groups you make or hangouts you go to.
This a piece of advice I had to learn on my own so trust me on it. The person you're attached at the hip to doesn't need to know everyone you do. Trust me. If something happens to your friendship, you'll want a group to fall back on what doesn't include your ex-friend. It's also just good to not spend every waking second with one or two people and spend time with a variety of people. Don't be afraid to hang out with your own friend groups or even mutual friends and not take your best friend with you. If your friend gets upset about making your own friends or hang outs, take that as a red flag. Otherwise, go do your own thing.
6. There's a chance you or someone you know will suffer from alcohol abuse. Don't brush off the signs.
Alcoholism is a huge problem with college students but it often goes unnoticed because excessive drinking is a part of the college culture. There are plenty of signs of alcohol abuse, and it's important to not brush them off because "it's college, being drunk all the time is normal." Having drinks with friends or after a long day is normal, but getting plastered on a Tuesday just because and going to class tipsy because why not, is definitely not OK. Make sure to keep an eye on yourself and your friends.
7. FOMO sucks, but so does discovering your mental limit.
Freshman year of college you'll feel like if you don't go to every little thing and do what your friends are doing, you'll miss out on so much. Fear of missing out (FOMO) definitely sucks, especially if you have anxiety, but it's a lot worse finding out how far you can push yourself. To avoid FOMO, you might stay up ridiculously late all the time, skip classes, go out when you want to stay in, and force yourself around others when you don't want to. If you don't give yourself a break and sit out sometimes, you'll exhaust yourself and get very overwhelmed. It might be tough to take some time out, but it'll get a lot tougher if you don't take a break every once in a while.
8. Honesty and respect will take you further than anything else.
If you're honest and respect others, you'll discover others will have more respect for you. This goes for professional relationships, social ones, and academic ones as well.
No matter where you stand with people, treat them with respect because even if they don't, someone else will respect you for being civil. When you're honest about intentions, pasts, and mistake, people will respect you more.
You'll also feel much better when you're open and honest. Every year, I have to apply for financial aid through my school as well as federally, and the application asks the same questions about financial status and plans through college. Instead of giving the same softened blurbs I did in the past, I was extremely open. It made me feel better and like whoever read my answers would respect me more for my honesty rather than the sugar coated stuff people typically put.
9. If you're afraid of doing or wearing something, know that the majority of people who see you really won't care.
People in college don't have a lot of time to concern themselves with the lives of strangers. If you want to go to class in straight up pajama pants, no one will care. If you're afraid someone might think your outfit isn't good, no one will care because everyone is just trying to get through their day. Unless something is super memorable, people won't remember what you did or wore. They'll look at you, then keep doing their thing. So go ahead and wear whatever you want, no one really cares.
10. There will always be someone who's been through or going through similar situations, so you're never alone.
You might not always be able to find them, but someone's been through something similar to you. Whether it's family, friends, work, or personal matters, someone on your campus has been through similar problems. Sometimes we can feel really alone in our struggles, but you're never truly alone. Don't be afraid to reach out to others and be open about your life. People will respectwhat you've been through or are going through, and you might even be able to find and connect with others who are in the same boat.
11. Look into as many organizations and clubs as you want; there is no need to commit to anything.
There are a lot of clubs and organizations on college campuses. If you're unsure if you want to join something, check out the meetings, go to some events, and see if you want to join. Join for a semester even, and if you realize it's not your thing, no worries. Don't feel like you need to commit to anything or people will judge you for only staying in something for a semester. Sometimes, it just takes a while to find your thing. (Try Odyssey maybe?)
12. Be respectful of other people's pasts and situations.
Some people have rough pasts. Some people get no financial help from others. Some people don't have to work to pay for school. Everyone's story and the best thing to do is respect it. This will make you not look like a total jerk, but also people will respect you for respecting others. We also never know deep some scars run, and it's best to respect people and not try to tear those wounds open again.
13. Freshman year you'll trash other's majors, but by graduation you'll learn to respect every single one of them.
You won't like hearing this, but college freshmen can be really ignorant. I'll admit to being that person when I started college. You'll say all the cliches like "English/art/theatre/music degrees won't be able to do anything but teach" and "education majors are easy work" or "why would anyone be an education major if they know they know they won't get paid much."
You might even have a major that people trash.
Eventually you'll meet people with the majors you trash. Eventually, you'll see the work that goes into someone's degree, the talent some people have, the reasons they study what they do, and—most definitely at some point—see someone break down and stress over the work they have to do for a major-related course.
By the time you graduate, you'll understand everyone's been through the same struggles to get their degrees, and in the end, everyone gets that piece of paper.
14. You will not be better than anyone for graduating in four year or less.
Congrats, you're getting out faster than some people. No, you are not graduating "on time." That phrase is actually not very good to use at all. Most people will take longer than four years to graduate and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. A lot of people you meet in college will take longer than four years. There a lot of reasons for taking over four years and it's not something people should be ashamed of. It truly doesn't matter how long it takes as long as people are getting a degree in something they like. So, if you get out in four years or less, neat stuff, but you're not better than anyone.
15. No one cares how many dual credit hours you took in high school or that you'll be classified as a sophomore by the end of your first semester.
Good job on being ahead of the game. Some people will probably be happy for you getting some credits in early, but it doesn't make you special and it doesn't make you interesting. This point isn't meant to discredit your hard work or make you feel as if it doesn't matter. The truth is, no one really cares about official classification based on credit hours. It doesn't matter if the school will classify you as a sophomore by the end of fall, because everyone else will still see you as a freshman and you'll still be bound to freshman requirements. Be proud of your hard work, but don't assume you're "not just another freshman" because your transcript says so.
16. Failing a class does not make you a failure.
Yes, that seems a little contradictory but it's true. A lot more people fail college classes than you think. Sometimes people don't blend with a professor's teaching style and it results in failing; sometimes people think they can tough out a really hard course; sometimes people are just plain lazy. Whatever it may be, it does not make you a failure. If you fail a class, the best way to handle it is to accept it, talk with an advisor, and either retake the class with a different professor or, if you're able to, take another class that will cover that requirement. Failing a class is not the end of the world, so just buckle down and keep going.
17. Napping is not a hobby so pick up an actual one.
In college, we will all know someone who spends every second of free time napping. Do not be that person. When people ask what your hobbies and interests are, no one wants to hear "napping." It's not impressive, isn't productive, and makes you look lazy. There are so many organizations and hobbies to try, you are bound to find something you like. There's something out there for everyone, and if you haven't found it, college is a great time to try new stuff out.
It's also important to recognize that excessive fatigue and napping can be a sign of a deeper health issue, be it mental or physical. If you feel like you always need to sleep or you're sleeping much more than you should be, take advantage of that free counseling mention earlier in the article.
18. There's nothing wrong with changing your major—multiple times even.
College is a great time to figure yourself out and figure out what you want to do in life, so there's nothing wrong with changing your major. You can change it to something in a similar field or something on the opposite end of the spectrum. Some people even go from one major, to another, back to their first major. It's okay to try something new, and if it's not for you, there's nothing wrong with going back to something familiar. Don't be afraid of changing things around.
19. Get sexually educated, even if you're not having sex.
Whether you're already sexually active or waiting until marriage, you need to be sexually educated. I don't just mean know the symptoms of STD's and that abstinence is the only 100 percent effective birth control. Everyone should learn about several STD's, how to use condoms, what happens when you mix drugs and alcohol with sexual activity, and about cleanliness. Even if you're not having sex in college, you probably will at some point, and sooner is better than later for sexual education.
If an organization or department is holding a sex ed or "sex in the dark" event, please go to that. They're incredibly informative and often have a Q&A afterwards for guests — which is often anonymous. Don't be afraid to go, everyone is going to be there for the same purpose.
20. It's OK if you don't graduate in four years.
There is no such thing as graduating on time. You do not need to feel pressured to graduate four years after you start. Honestly, it will suck watching a bunch of other people your age going through graduation, but what matters is being able graduate with a degree you like and not forcing yourself to rush when it only causes stress. You’ll still get that paper, and that’s what matters.
21. Get a portable battery pack.
You know what sucks? Going out somewhere and your phone almost dying. You know what also sucks? Being at someone else’s house and having to pass their one charger back and forth. Eliminate that by getting a portable charger. Whether it’s part of a phone case or one with a cord, it’ll save your life. It makes it easy to charge your phone literally anywhere and you don’t have to worry about being near an outlet.
I have the Jackery Bar and it’ll last me a couple days before it needs to be charged up again. It also has a nifty little flashlight built in!
22. Some people dedicate all of their free time to studying and some never even crack a book, but don’t make people feel bad about either choice.
At some point, you'll encounter someone who will say something upon the lines of, “You might not have homework to do, but you could still be studying." You'll also meet someone who says, “Studying is a waste of time. There are better things to do."
Don't be either of these people.
Some people need to study and some people just want to, and they shouldn't feel bad about dedicating their free time to that. If they're putting their education first, it's nothing to feel guilty about.
On the other hand, not everyone wants or needs to spend as much time studying as some other people. Some people don't need to even turn a page to know all the material. Some people are just lazy.
Whatever people do, it's their choice. There are personal factors about whether someone studies or not and it's generally rude to call people out or make them feel bad about their choices. Let them do what they want because their grades are the only thing that will support anyone's case.
23. If you’re going to sleep through class, show up ridiculously late, or be generally disrespectful, don’t even bother going.
Nobody is paying hundreds of dollars for one class just to have it interrupted half way through so you can march in with Starbucks and a bagel. No professor and student wants to waste valuable (and expensive) time waiting for you to shut up. Also what’s the point of spending all that money on a class you’re not even going to pay attention in?
It’s incredibly rude to your classmates and professors when you sleep, are disruptive, or come to class late every single day. It’s beyond disrespectful to disrupt everyone’s time and it makes everyone feel bad because they’re putting an effort into being there while you look like an entitled ass.
Don’t waste your money on a class just to be a jerk.
24. Suck it up and DD every once in a while.
The general rule of going out is this: Minors are expected to DD more often since they are underage. No one wants to get busted with a bunch of trashed teenagers, and people over 21 feel they've done their time and have earned the right to not DD since they're now of age.
Yes, being a DD sucks. Yes, as a free little freshman you want to get drunk. No, you can't avoid being DD forever.
I know it sucks because I was DD a lot, but you just have to do it sometimes. You can rotate with other people or set up a plan of you drive there and someone else drives back.
The world won't end if you have to DD. Shockingly, you can have fun without alcohol.
25. Don’t volunteer people to DD.
As a freshman, you will get asked to DD a lot. As mentioned in the last point, yes, it sucks to do it, but it is not OK to volunteer other people to do it.
You might have friends that don't drink often or usually offer to be the designated driver. Just because people volunteer themselves does not mean you can volunteer them when someone asks you to DD. If you really don't want to, literally all you have to do is ask someone else if they would mind doing it.
Like the last point also said, sometimes you just have to suck it up and do it, or work something out. Don't be rude and volunteer others because that'll ruin their night and make you look like a jerk. Just ask.
26. Get tested.
It’s easy. It’s free. It’s good for you and literally everyone else.
STD outbreaks on campuses happen when people don’t get tested and keep having unprotected sex, not knowing they’re spreading ghonorreah to everyone they take home.
It shouldn’t have to be explained in detail, so just get yourself tested. Be smart.
27. There will be high school type drama, so do your best to not get involved.
It happens to everyone in college. Some people choose not to handle situations in a mature way so they start unnecessary, petty drama.
If you don’t get in the middle of it, you’ll be fine. Sometimes it might be tempting to clap back or subtweet for days on end, but the more you stay away from drama, the better of a person you’ll become. You’ll be happier, have better friends, and, one day, you won’t be the college graduate with the attitude of a middle schooler.
28. Don’t buy the textbook until you ask the professor about it.
Here is exactly what you should ask the first day of class: is the textbook required?; will there be mandatory reading from it?; is a previous edition OK to get or will it be missing too much content?; will test answers and assignments come from the book, or should I have it just for better understanding the content?
Sometimes you don't even need textbooks for classes so don't go spending hundreds of dollars on books you won't even need.
It's also important to establish the importance of having a book. You can ask if it's required and the professor might tell you no, but test and quiz answers will come straight from the text. Make sure you understand if the book is going to be a full on guide for the course or if the professor just likes it because it words their lectures in a different way. Sometimes professors follow the text word for word, and sometimes they just want you to have a second source in case you need to better understand a subject.
Know why you need a book, then get it — or not.
29. The previous edition is almost always the same but a million times cheaper.
Textbooks are ridiculously expensive, but sometimes previous editions will save your wallet.
Once you figure out if a previous edition would be OK, go ahead and get it! Usually the only things that switch between editions are the order of chapters, some extra blurbs, and the side-notes in the margins of the book. Other than that, content is almost always the same.
If you don't believe how much of a difference one edition can be, take this example: I could've gotten the newest edition of a book for one of my classes, but the professor was OK with us having the previous edition as well. Had I bought the most recent copy, I would have spent over $70, but instead I got the previous one and only spent $7 — $3 of that was me paying for three-day shipping because why not?
So always try to get a previous edition if you can. Your wallet will thank you.
30. RateMyProfessors will save your schedule and your grades.
It will help you so much to know what you're getting into. Read several reviews, double check what class numbers people are reviewing, and pay attention to the tags professors get and how many they're given. Majority of the time, the reviews are honest, and when you finish a semester, it's good to also leave honest and helpful reviews. It'll help you and others avoid signing up for professors you won't work well with.
The way I've typically used RMP is by basing my schedule around it. I'll have a few courses picked out that I know I want to sign up for and I'll go through and look at the ratings the ratings for every professor that teaches every course I want to take. I'll figure out who has the best reviews, sign up for the course first and then base the rest of my schedule around that. It helps take away some stress knowing I have a highly rated professor that I'll work well with.
If you take the time to research all of your choices, your semester will go a lot easier than just random picking.
31. It'll take time, but you'll find yourself.
Freshman year will be really overwhelming.
You'll feel pressured to find love, you'll feel the need to please everyone, you'll feel stressed about nothing, and you'll feel like you don't know where you belong.
College is nothing like high school, and that's the beauty of it. You don't have to fit into certain groups or stereotypes. There's no one to impress, and if you feel the need to impress people by not being yourself, you need new people.
It might take time, but you'll find the real you. It's the one who's not worried about appearance, behavior, or style, because it's the you that feels natural. You'll find groups that you mesh so well with that you don't even feel the need to try and fit in.
You have all this time to figure out who the most natural form of you is that you'll one day present to the world. Don't worry about finding it freshman year, Freshman year is only baby steps to discovering yourself.
Take your time, be honest with yourself and others, and good luck,
You'll do amazing things.