College Confidential | The Do’s & Don’ts of Freshman Year

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I have a campus job that allows me to meet new people, talk about my college experience, and occasionally get homework done or scroll through the interweb. I can’t complain! It’s the perfect part-time gig during college. Lately, I’ve seen lots of new faces around. Usually, this is a rarity. I go to a pretty small university, and most of the faces I see around campus, I’ve seen at least once before. But the new faces actually don’t come as a surprise seeing that it’s the beginning of a new school year and freshmen are swarming in every direction – trying to find class, trying to find friends, trying to fit in. I find myself chuckle with familiarity.

This on-campus job provides me with a lot of opportunity for people watching. My coworkers and I get exposed to a lot of situations and stories, as college life plays out right before our eyes. The confused, excited, and overwhelmed expressions I see planted on the faces of new college students passing by has gotten me thinking about my freshman year – some things I did wrong, some things I did right, and everything in-between. I get a lot of questions about college life from my readers and viewers, so I thought I’d share a list of freshman year “do’s and don’ts” that may help ease the transition a bit.

Do push yourself outside of your comfort zone. If that means joining your school’s improv team, sitting with strangers during lunch, or reaching out to get to know your professors, just do it. This is something I wish I had done a lot more of during my first year of college, and I’m insisting you do it now. The absolute worst thing that could happen by doing this is that you feel slightly awkward or uncomfortable, but more likely than not, this is how you’re going to meet your social circle, this is how you’re going to bond with your favorite professor, this is how you’re going to have an absolute ball during your 4 short years of college.

Don’t isolate yourself by clinging to the first friend group you meet. Most people completely change their social circles throughout the first year or two of school. Don’t attach to the first group of people you meet without leaving wiggle room for new friends and new experiences. If you authentically connect with people, then be grateful for meeting them and nourish the friendships! But make sure you put yourself out there to meet others. Widen your social circle and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to people in your classes, on your hall, or in your study groups.

Do go to your professor’s office hours. College is fucking expensive – RIDICULOUSLY expensive. You are paying a lot of money for this slip of paper you’re going to receive at the end of these 4 years, so make sure it’s worth it. Of course you’ll learn a lot in actual classrooms or lecture halls, but I found that some of my most fruitful discussions and lessons have come from going to my professor’s office hours and just chatting with him/her. A lot of the time I go in with specific questions for assignments or tests, yes, but I also try to build a bridge between my professor and I, and get to know them and their story. I know the culture of larger universities may frown upon this, but screw the people who do not see the value and importance of taking advantage of your college experience as much as possible. It’s going to fly by – so make every penny count.

Don’t jump into a relationship your first month of school. I know, I know… There are so many new people! There are cute boys and girls every way you turn, and you want to explore the dating scene and find your college sweetheart. Well, don’t. Focus on your friendships first and foremost when it comes to your social life. Those are far, far, far more important than the cute baseball player that sits next to you in your English 101 class. You don’t want to be the person who gets wrapped up in the first romance you come across because it’s exciting and new. Give yourself time to settle into college and connect with friends, then open yourself up to dating. If you do, however, meet somebody you just can’t pass up (because it definitely happens!), make sure you don’t make them the center of your world. I think that’s one of the biggest mistakes college students of all ages make when they’re young and in love.

Do go to college events. Your university will have some kind of student-led group that plans activities and events on and off campus. You may think you’re too cool for school, and you’d rather hit up that party down the block instead of going to a movie night in one of the dorms, but I’m telling you… These events are often way more fun than you realize, and whatever party you’re going to, it’ll probably be filled with annoying frat boys and shitty drinks. I’m not saying to refrain from the party scene entirely – I’m just saying that it’s important to balance it with college events that will allow you to meet and connect with sober individuals.

Don’t act like somebody you’re not to gain approval from a certain social circle. Every college freshman is confused out of their mind, and is searching for some kind of social interaction to make the transition easier. Everybody’s putting up a front and protecting their egos, and that’s natural and okay. But make sure you’re not doing it so much that you’re losing your identity and bonding with the wrong group of friends for you. I think the best way to avoid this is to connect with people who have the same interests as you. Join clubs, go to sporting events, and reach out to people who you have stuff in common with. Ignore the bitchy girls on your floor that think they’re the hottest things since sliced bread, and make room for the people who will be super impressed by the collection of Harry Potter posters you have plastered on your dorm room wall (this was definitely me my freshman year).

All right.. I’m stepping down from my soapbox. Above all, don’t worry too much about anything. Give yourself time to settle in, call home often to check in, and keep reminding yourself to make the most of your college years. I’m halfway through and I feel like I was in my 1st year orientation last week. I’m here to tell you that the rumors are true, though… College has the potential to be some of the best years of your life. Get ready for one hell of a ride!

If you have any more questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to leave them below or tweet me so we can chat! Best wishes and best of luck to all new college students! xx.

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