Dear College Freshman,
You may be reading this expecting me to share my sophisticated sophomore wisdom with you. You may be hoping for some comforting advice sprinkled with inspirational quotes. Unfortunately, I don't think I'm qualified to give anyone advice on how to adjust to college; I'm still figuring it out for myself! I wish Ned had written a Declassified College Survival Guide, but frankly there is just too much to cover. I may not have the answers, but what I do have are my experiences.
I am not here to sugarcoat anything. Going away to college is scary. It can be disorienting, overwhelming, and lonely at times. But it is also exciting, challenging, and enlightening. It will change you in every way, and help you uncover things that you didn't know about yourself. The truth is, there's no way you can really be prepared. When it comes to your first semester of college, it is best to expect the unexpected. But here are some things you can expect:
Expect to be removed from your comfort zone. Embrace the awkwardness and anxiety of trying to make as many friends as possible within a short period of time. Revel in your newfound independence and cherish the brief moments you have to yourself. But also prepare for the all nighters and pre-exam meltdowns and hysterical phone calls to your parents at 2 a.m. Expect your weight to fluctuate a lot and for you to be way too hard on yourself. Sleep through one of your morning classes and don't let yourself feel too guilty about it. Ask too many questions in class and stay up way too late reading that $150 text book. Get a shirt from your school bookstore. And another. And then a sweatshirt, since it's getting colder. And you might as well get the matching pants while you're at it.
Prepare to get a little too comfortable with your roommates. It might be weird sharing a room with a stranger at first, but after a few weeks you'll be sharing your deepest secrets over a tray of dining hall food. Expect to miss home. A lot. More than you thought you would. You love your campus, but you'll miss the simplicity of hopping in your car, picking up your friends, and driving aimlessly around town. You'll have a really bad day and wish that you could be telling your mom all about it while she makes you grilled cheese. Something funny will happen to you on the way to class and you'll wish that you could tell your best friend from home about it. You'll feel out of place when you walk alone past a large group of upper class-men. They all seem so mature and comfortable in themselves. What they don't tell you is that they were once as insecure and confused as you are now.
Don't expect to have it all figured out. Don't expect to have your life together all the time. But you can expect everyone to be feeling the same as you. Because we were all there once, struggling to find our way all on our own; trying to prove to our parents that we were doing well, trying to prove to our friends that we were having so much fun, and trying to prove to ourselves that we were truly happy.
Perhaps the easiest way to adapt is to abandon all expectations, good or bad. If there's any one piece of advice I can give you, it's this: prepare to be proven wrong about everything. If you've never been through anything like this before, how can you predict what experiences it will bring? So let go of every generic piece of advice, all the words drilled into your head by your high school guidance counselor or college tour guide. This is your journey, and you must write your own rules of survival.