I can honestly say that I have learned a myriad of lessons in my first year at JMU that I plan on carrying with me throughout my college career and beyond. Amid all the amazing highs and lows emerged 10 key lessons I learned from experience, and that I am incredibly grateful for.
No one is going to be there to constantly hold your hand.
Freshman year is a huge change for some — being on your own for the first time means that you're forced to make a lot of decisions. Some of these may be small things, like remembering to eat dinner, and others may seriously impact your future. With more freedom definitely comes more responsibility, and you can't expect someone to walk you through each and every decision you make.
Your environment WILL affect you.
As someone who switched dorms halfway through the year, I know firsthand just how much of an influence an environment can have. If your environment is comprised of people who support you, who value you, and who allow you to be your true self, you will have a much happier experience then that of people constantly bringing you down. Surround yourself with people who make you a better you, and you will be much, much happier in the long run.
Earning an A in a class no longer comes easy.
College is hard. If you're not constantly reviewing your notes and going to lectures, you will fall behind. Make sure to always make school a priority — after all, you are paying for an education. Long gone are the days of skipping class, never studying, and somehow managing an A. The courses I did receive A's in were the result of time management and hard work... as were my not-so-good grades. Prioritize trying your best and putting forth the effort, and you will succeed. Get a group of friends together to study, and the library will become your new favorite spot.
Loneliness is inevitable.
Being a small fish in a big pond can feel really lonely at times. Classes are tough, friends fight, and sometimes it may feel like the whole world is against you. I promise you, it does get easier. The loneliness most certainly passes, but until it does, remind yourself of the many people who love you and want to see you succeed.
Not everyone is going to love you.
Some people, no matter how kind you are to them, will never like you. SImple as that. Constantly trying to seek approval from people who want to see you fall is exhausting. Spend your time focusing on the many amazing people in your life, not on the few people who choose to bring you down. They're not worth a second thought.
Everyone is on a different path, on a different timeline. Be patient.
Some people enter college knowing exactly what they want to be when they grow up; they've had their major and minor planned out for years prior. That's great for them! Others (like me) may switch their major four times their freshman year. That's also great! Taking the time to be honest with yourself about what you want your future to be comprised of is extremely important. In addition to this, seeing some friends in relationships freshman year may cause you to question what it is you really want — don't. Just because other people find love their first year, does not mean that you have to. The right people always come to you and forcing yourself to feel things that you don't will just confuse you even more. Trust your journey, and try not to compare it to other people's.
Getting outside of your comfort zone is a MUST.
This past winter, I applied to transfer to Virginia Tech. I did not feel like I had found my place are JMU, among other factors. I got in and planned on going up until I joined Safe Rides. I'll be honest, I had no idea what exactly it would entail when I first contemplated joining. I am beyond thankful to have met some of my closest friends at JMU through Safe Rides… all I had to do was take a leap of faith and get outside of my comfort zone. College isn't like high school in this aspect: if you want to meet more people, you have to step outside of your dorm room and try to make connections. This can be through Greek Life, Service Organizations, Theatre, Club Sports, etc. It can be intimidating at first but in my case totally worth it. I now plan on joining so many more clubs AND rushing, ideas that seemed outside of my comfort zone at one point.
You will make mistakes. Probably a lot.
I am not a person who believes in regret. I think that everything happens for reason, and although that reason is not always clear, it has merit. I definitely made some mistakes during my freshman year, but I also grew a lot, inevitably. You live, you absolutely learn. Don't expect to have it all figured out — this is what college is for.
You will change and grow. And then you will change and grow some more.
As I previously mentioned, going to college allows you to learn more about yourself through a variety of experiences. I am definitely not the same girl I was when I moved into my dorm during Frog Week, and I am incredibly grateful for that. My freshman year at JMU allowed me to grow into a self-aware, self-loving, overall better and happier human being than I was before. I was forced to grow emotionally, socially, and spiritually, and I could not be more thankful for what this year has given me.
The next four years are going to be full of ups and downs, but it will be absolutely mesmerizing.
Take your time. Embrace change. Say “yes” to new experiences! Appreciate each and every moment at this AMAZING university.
Everyone has their own story to tell, their own timeline, their own journey. My freshman year was — without a doubt — valuable to me in a myriad of ways. I laughed, I cried, I grew. And I cannot wait to see what the next three years have in store. To rising freshman... take it all in. Before you know it, it'll be May, and you'll be wishing you could relive the memories all over again.