This year marks 10 years since I moved out and down to the cornfields of Indiana to start college. It doesn’t feel like it could possibly be that long ago, and yet here I am, long-since graduated and 10 years older. Over last week or so, I’ve been reflecting a lot on what it was like to start college. Facebook was new then, and I connected with a bunch of incoming freshmen before we even started school. I felt fortunate at the time, because I went in already having some friends.
I went to a very small, private school that hosted about 3000 students on campus. The college town was… not much of a town. The college hangout was a gas station where I had
too many not enough sprinkle donuts and Diet Cokes. And the biggest shenanigans we got into were trolling our brother floor. Bon Iver came to my school and performed before he was even famous, and I missed out. But I developed a love for indie music and still got to see some pretty incredible bands during my time down in the cornfields.
I actually started college as an English major, with plans to write poetry or teach for a living. Then somewhere along the way, I took a psychology class that changed my life, and I switched majors. I still got a minor in English writing. Nowadays, it feels good to be using both my English writing and Psychology skills on a daily basis.
There’s something funny about psychology and English writing: they both teach you a lot about yourself. I suppose that’s partly what college is for: discovering who you are. But I still think about how little I knew even after my 3.5 years down in Indiana.
Advice to myself as a College Freshman
1. Slow down.
Congratulations! You made it to college. Now take a deep breath and take it all in. Don’t feel like you need to rush right through these next few years. It’s great that you want to graduate early, but college will be over so much quicker than you can fathom right now. So slow down. You don’t need to rush into a relationship. You don’t need to have friends on the first day of school. Take the time to be choosy and thoughtful when making big decisions.
2. Don’t be afraid to assert yourself.
In college, you’re going to learn a lot of hard lessons about who your true friends are. You’re going to be faced with a lot of adversity from all angles right off the bat. This passive-aggressive attitude is not going to serve you. People respect you when you’re up front. Even though it’s hard, it’s time to learn how to muster the courage to speak up for yourself.
(Related Reading: How to Fearlessly Handle Confrontation)
3. You are not like everybody else, and that’s okay.
Comparing yourself to others is going to lead you down a slippery slope for the next three years of your life. You will wrestle so much with feeling accepted by others that you won’t accept yourself. Let go of feeling like you need to look and act like everybody else. Your body and your mind will thank you for it.
(Related Reading: Breaking the Cycle of Social Comparison)
4. Take time to develop good habits.
Take the opportunity to learn, because one day you’ll be aching to be a student again. College isn’t going to come easy for you like high school did. It’s going to take a lot of effort, and you’re going to do horribly your first year. That’s okay. It gives you a story to help others later in life. Take this time to learn how to prioritize, manage your money, organize, and study hard. You will carry those skills with you for the rest of your life.
(Related Reading: Develop a Time Management System to Rock your Work Week)
5. Hold your friends close.
This is the last time in your life that you’ll ever have this many friends in this close of proximity ever again. Enjoy every moment of living with your BFFs. Take advantage of as many events as possible. Soak in those evenings of watching The Office with 20 other girls. Remember how it feels to laugh until you feel sick. And when you move off campus, make sure you make time for your friends in the dorms. Friendships are a two-way street.
(Related Reading: The Complete Guide to Making Friends as an Adult)
6. But take time for yourself.
Stop trying to force yourself to be an extrovert, you little introvert you. When you need a moment alone, take it. People won’t always understand that you need the quiet moments, but that’s okay. It’s time you learned how to take care of yourself.
(Related Reading: 30 Self-Care Ideas for Mind, Body, and Soul)
7. Stop worrying about the money.
Yes, the student loans are scary. But you will be able to afford them, even if you can’t fathom that right now. Stop making yourself sick out every time you take out a new loan. Someday, you’ll take out even more loans for your Master’s degree, and you’ll still be able to pay them each month. You’re going to find a great job in the next few years and the loans will be worth it.
(Related Reading: 4 Action Steps to Worry Less and Feel Happier Now)
8. And stop worrying about what everyone else thinks.
Students will disguise their judgments as caring about you. And it’s going to hurt. Don’t doubt your intuition for a second. You have a good head on your shoulders even though people will try to make you doubt your choices.
(Related Reading: Mindfulness for Self-Confidence)
9. And when you do make mistakes, you’ll survive.
Sometimes, you will choose the wrong friends, date the wrong people, and say the wrong things. It’s okay, because you’ll come out stronger because of them all. Embrace the fact that you don’t know everything.
10. Learn how to practice forgiveness.
Holding onto those grudges is not serving you any good. Learn how to open your heart and forgive the people who have hurt you. Someday, you’re going to have a great relationship with some of them again, and you’ll wonder how you went so long being angry.
11. And how to keep an open mind.
You’re going to meet a lot of people who are different than you. And you’re going to have a lot of experiences that will challenge your ideas. Even though you may not realize it now, you’re going to learn a lot from it all, and it’s going to shape how you view the world. Your stubbornness is not going to get you far. Learn how to appreciate differences in opinions. You’ll learn some things that will completely change your life.
12. Gain as much experience as possible.
In less than a year, the economy is going to collapse and it’s going to make it really hard for you to get a job. So gain as much experience as possible. Get an internship, take an independent study course, study abroad, and take this time to be curious about the field. You have a wealth of resources in college that you won’t have once you graduate. Take advantage of the experts you have the privilege of surrounding yourself with every day.
13. But don’t forget to have fun!
College is going to be one of the greatest times of your life. Soak in every moment of it.
What advice would you give yourself going into college? If you’re a in college now or starting college this year, what’s some of the best advice you got?