Lilly’s Blog: Advice to Incoming First Year College Students
I was positively terrified the days leading up to freshman orientation. I seriously considered calling in sick for college, and joining the circus never looked so good. College was just such a huge pile of unknowns. I don’t think I am alone in being worried about starting college. It’s a big deal! Everyone knows that, which is why everyone and their uncle’s friend’s veterinarian’s cousin has advice for people who are about to start college. To the countless bits of wisdom regarding starting college on the right foot, I humbly submit a few things I’ve learned in the past two years.
For those of you in a rush, I’ll provide you with the SparkNotes version upfront. Spoiler alert, the take away message is you’re going to be okay.
I’ll say it again, you’re going to be okay. You’ll figure it out. If you’re not convinced, look around you when you get to campus. Take note of your nervous classmates. Now look at all the upperclassmen around you. Not so nervous. They’re okay and you will be too. Alright, now for some specifics:
1. Take “random” classes
Don’t overload your schedule with classes from the department you’re most interested in. It’s freshman year; you’re not used to taking college classes. Save that class you’re dying to take for next semester or year when you will get the most out of it. In the meantime, you may discover you like geology. Or that you don’t like it all. Either way, good to know, right?
2. Find the theme houses
If you’re living on campus, check out the theme houses. The people who live there are passionate about something, which is an important trait I always look for in my friends. Whether it be Spanish, environmentally friendly living or art, the people in theme houses care about one thing enough to organize their residential experience around it.
Theme houses are almost guaranteed to have a great sense of community because they share the same interests and live in a house rather than a dorm. If you’re feeling a bit lost, start attending theme house events. Theme house residents love to pass on their passion to others and their closeness to each other will rub off on you. Plus, some of the best parties I’ve attended were at theme houses (I live in a theme house….can you tell?)
3. Remember, this isn’t high school
It’s important to remember that the people around you (all of whom are very nice, I’m sure) are not your childhood friends; they are new friends and you don’t know them very well. Be protective of yourself and really get to know someone before you trust him or her. I do not mean to be scary but the fact is that college is not always a safe place for young women.
In high school, you know the majority of the people around you or at least have any idea of what they are like. In high school, being trusting of others is less. You didn’t live with your classmates and did not drink massive amounts of alcohol together in unsupervised environments. Again, I say this not to make anyone anxious but to be honest. Being trusted is a privilege; make those around you earn your respect before you let your guard down.
4. Find your spot
In high school, you probably had a favorite place to study and do homework. For me, it was my bedroom. I knew that if I was sitting at my desk it was because I had something to finish. That desk became synonymous with “do your work!” Once classes have started, experiment with different studying locations.
It will be tempting to work in your dorm room; it’s familiar and officially yours. But dorm rooms are often small and most come with a roommate. It may be hard to be productive. The most obvious place to look for a study spot (a place you can associate with getting down to business…. school-related business. Not funny business) is the library. Most schools have multiple libraries, try going to the music library or the science library. You’ll find different people, a different vibe and (perhaps most importantly) different couches!
If libraries aren’t your thing, check out the art or science museum if your school has them. Museums usually have quiet, pretty study spaces. Other places to check out: school-owned or local cafes, dorm common rooms and the campus center. Once you find a favorite spot, you’ll be more productive, add a place to your growing “places I know how to find” list and befriend new “neighbors.”
5. Know thy calendar
If you’re bored and can’t find anything to do in college, you’re not looking hard enough. There are tons of events happening all around you. Take it upon yourself to learn where to find information about campus and community lectures, concerts and the like. Your school’s website is the best place to start. Write down all of the things that sound interesting on your personal calendar (shout out to my iPhone calendar!), even things months away. Finding a note about a dance performance you forgot was happening is a great little surprise for yourself. Grab a friend, go by yourself or skip it. Sometimes you’re too tired or have too much to do to give away an hour or so. That’s okay; you’ll have lots of other events waiting for you to discover in your calendar.
6. Don’t look for your significant other
Having a college girlfriend or boyfriend sounds totes dreamy. We all love love, and a relationship often sounds especially appealing when we’re a bit disoriented. But looking for a significant other in the early stages of colleges is a bad idea for a lot of reasons. Looking for a significant other will likely make you overlook all the wonderful people around you who you would never (ever) want to date but are awesome in other ways. If you do find someone special, hold off on the relationship. They’re not going anywhere. Spend some time enjoying college as a “me” before you become an “us.”
Lastly, sexual promiscuity is associated with freshmen for a reason; it’s easy to confuse lust with a real connection when you’re dedicated to looking for love. I believe young women should be able to choose what they would like to do with their bodies. Do what makes you feel good. But be honest with yourself and make sure your desire for a relationship isn’t obscuring your judgment. When you find the right person it will be a lot like finding that twenty-dollar bill in your pocket. It’s a wonderful surprise and it happens when you’re least suspecting it.
7. Be your own best friend
Take care of yourself the way you would take care of your best friend. If you’re feeling stressed, take yourself out for coffee, tell yourself to go to bed early, put on some music for yourself and dance. It’s very easy to get sick at college. There’s a lot going on and even the most conscientious students can miss out on too much sleep or nutritious food. Keep your body and mind in working order by being a caring, concerned friend for yourself.
Now that you’re your own best friend, you can start doing things on your own. I missed a lot of events and fun parties freshmen year because I felt like I needed to go to with a friend. Your friends will sometimes be busy and who’s to say they’ll think tango lessons are fun? But if you’re interested, go. No one cares you’re there alone, I promise.
8. IGNORE ALL ADVICE
You got into college on your own. You are smart and capable. Forget about what your uncle’s friend’s veterinarian’s cousin’s friend that has a blog says. If you do what feels right for you, you will be fine. Go slow, take deep breaths and enjoy!
Lilly is a junior at a liberal arts college in New England, where she studies psychology and legal theory.