There are always those moments in life you will look back on and remember fluently like it was just yesterday. Those moments can be recalled with the exact clarity of your emotions: nervous, excited, anxious, stressed, happy, sad, and so on. These are the perfect words to describe your first semester as a freshman in college (and in no particular order of course).
Granted, my freshman year was only three years ago, but I can still vividly remember all those mixed feelings I had once I stepped foot on Wilkes as an official student. You are not here visiting, and this is not orientation. This is now your home. Your freshman year can be a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences, and without my doctoral degree in anything, I will give you a few pointers on how to survive the first year of college.
First and most importantly, make friends. All your best friends in high school are no longer by your side every day, so no matter what hall you are living in, no matter what personal traits you look for in people, start opening up and meeting people.
For about the first week of school, my roommate and I would go out to the lounge on the second floor of Evans and play rummy. Yes, we could have done this in our room, secluded, but the point is to socialize. Somehow from playing cards in the lounge at nights, we started talking to a few guys playing Mortal Kombat on the hall TV, and those guys are the ones I call my best friends in college today. If you don’t make friends, everything can be a little harder to cope with.
Second, don’t forget your family is only a call away. Everyone at some point in time, whether they like to admit it or not, will be hit with a wave of homesickness. How can you go from living with your family for 18 years, then one day just be okay living on your own with complete strangers? It is a tough transition, but it’s part of growing up.
If you live within a reasonable distance from home, pack up one weekend and go visit. There is nothing wrong with visiting family as often as you want. In fact, they miss you too, and I am sure you will enjoy a nice homemade meal.
Third, stay organized. College can throw a lot at you at once, so organization is key. Depending on what your major is, some people will have it harder than others. However, no one can escape the gen-eds. People often blow these off with the mindset that “these classes don’t matter,” but all classes combined make up your GPA.
Slacking off in one class can start a pattern, and that is one thing you want to avoid. With five classes for the semester, things will overlap and the stress can become overbearing at points. ‘How can I have three tests this week and give a speech in front of the class?’ Simply do your best, set study times or homework times during the day, and take it one class at a time. It will be hard, but it is nothing you cannot physically handle.
Fourth, remember to set aside time to have fun. Yes, school can be extremely stressful, but there’s a reason you have weekends off. Once you meet friends, go out and do something interesting.
Go to the movies, explore the shops in the area, take advantage of the sponsored day-trips, and party (but stay safe and no underage drinking, of course).
You can pick your schedule so it fits best with your lifestyle. This isn’t high school, where class is from 7 a.m. to 2:30 pm. You will have free time, and often have some days off.
It’s important to use that free time to be productive or to do something fun and exciting, even though you will probably just want to sleep.
This brings up another important note- your sleeping pattern, set one! The nights become increasingly shorter in college and it feels like you never get enough sleep. The morning comes quick, so set an alarm. If you are a heavy sleeper, set two alarms, have your roommate dump cold water on you, anything.
Being late for a class, or deciding you are going to skip the day because you are too tired, will get you behind quick.
In the mornings, give yourself enough time to get yourself and your belongings ready for the day. If you and your roommate both wake up and decide you both are going to shower before class, well that might be a problem. Work with each other’s schedules and plan accordingly.
Finally, cherish every moment. Yeah, that sounds cheesy, but there is a reason that phrase exists. Now in my senior year, I cannot believe my first three years are already done and over with. Some days will drag, but those weeks you cannot wait to be over with will be quicker than you expect.
College is the greatest time in some people’s lives. It is your time to become an adult, to see who you really are and what you can be. Not all of it will be pretty: there might be nights you want erase that day out of your memory forever, but it’s important to move forward. These two semesters of your freshman year, these 30 credits of classes, these late-night meals because you are hungry and have hours of work to do still, are the ones you will remember forever.
Just prepare yourself for your work load, have fun, and stay safe. Before you know it, the bitter cold will arrive and you will be done with your first semester. When the flowers bloom and warm breezy days emerge, then the year is over. May comes quickly.
You know what else comes quickly? Fall break, usually the first week in October. That will be your first official break from class and once that arrives, you can look back and think to yourself ‘the semester is half-way over.’