What I Wish I Knew My First Year of College
Against all odds, I survived college. I graduated this past May with a BA in psychology, a minor in creative writing, a box of trinkets, and a lot of memories. Freshmen year was the start of an incredible journey that led me to friends I never knew I needed in my life, some useful useless information I’d need in my life, and learning some things about myself that changed my life. Mushy and cliche as it sounds, as I watch my younger friends get ready to go back to school, part of me wishes I was too. A bigger part of me is happy that I don’t have to because I’m done with the mass of assignments and 8am classes. But there is a part, albeit small, that wishes I had one more year.
So here are some things I wish I knew my freshman year and some authentic picture and kinda grainy pictures of me as a baby—I mean, a freshman.
- Get to know the people in your dorm, not just your hall.
Don’t just be friends with your roomate(s), or your neighbor(s), or your hallmates. Go meet the other people in your dorm! On other floors or in other sections. My freshmen year, I was so shy. I came from a small school with a close-knit group of friend with whom I had almost every class, spent almost every lunch and free period, and did almost every extracurricular with. Friend groups like that don’t just happen. Just being in the same dorm won’t get you that group of friends. So ask them to have lunch, ask them to go out, ask what classes they’re taking and if they want to walk with you. Most people are looking for friends too so offer yourself up to be one.
- Join a club or two or three. (Especially if you thought you’d never join it)
At the risk of sounding like your typical sorority girl, joining mine was o.ne of my favorite college decisions. It gave me some of the most amazing friends and some of the most amazing memories of my college experience. And the thing it: I was never going to join one. In my mind, I was going to join student ambassadors, maybe the newspaper and club lacrosse: all things I did in high school. But then, one of my friends who lived across the hall from me in my dorm convinced me to go through recruitment with her. I did and what a difference it made in my college life. I ended up living in the house, going on vacation with sisters, living in an apartment with all sisters, holding an officer position in my sorority, and meeting amazing girls who also went Greek that I might not have met before. And once you join some club or group, get involved with them! Be an active memory or run for an officier position. Getting involved is the best way to meet people who have similar interests as you. And you’ll make a lot of fun memories along the way.
(Like this one, where my sisters and some frat brother and I built an arc out of cardboard and duct tape for charity. While the boys finished building, we huddled together under blankets against the cold.)
- Get involved with charity and philanthropy
In the four years I went to college, I attended way more philanthropy events than I ever thought possible. I went to ones my sorority hosted, some other sororities hosted, some other fraternities hosted, and some other organizations around campus hosted. Not only did I have fun doing it, but it felt good to support a good cause. All four years, I participated in my campus’s Relay For Life. I volunteered at elementary and middle school after school programs and at the children’s’ museum downtown. It can be hard fitting this into your schedule, but, in my opinion, it’s well worth it.
- Make friends with people in your classes and major(s).
Not only does this come in handy when you miss class and need the day’s assignment, but it’s also nice to have friendly faces. Typically, as you start getting further into your major, your class size becomes smaller and you start having the same people in the room with you. It’s nice to have your “Psych friends” or your “creative writing/English friends” that you know you can discuss classes, assignments, tests, and even life with. There’s a special kind of bond that forms when you both haven’t started your twenty-page research proposal until the week before.
- Don’t forget about your friends from home.
Like I said before, I had an amazing group of friends from home but we all went to different schools in different states. (I’m from Pennsylvania, and three stayed there but at different schools, one went to upstate New York, one to Rhode Island, one to Massachusets, and I was in Virginia.) I won’t lie, it’s hard keeping up, but we did it. Group texts, Snapchats, Facebook posts, Instagram #tbts, you name it. Long distance friendships are hard but so worth it. Coordinating hangouts by when everyone gets home/goes back for breaks, who has to drive the most, and who has to fly takes a lot of practice to perfect but it’s better than losing touch with people who were there for you all those influential years.
- Call home!
Your family misses you, I can almost guarantee it. Give your parents, your siblings, your grandparents a call and tell them you miss them too. And if your school has a parents’ or family weekend, invite them down. Enjoy eating non-campus food and get them to buy you everything you’ll need until break so you don’t have to buy it at the overpriced campus store. But most importantly, enjoy the time you have together and show them around your new home. They want to know all about it.
- Do something out of your comfort zone.
Like me playing in a football tournament. I did it once, and probably never again. Once is enough, but, hey, I did it. Make a bucket list if you have to. I had one just for college because there’s so much to be done, so much to experience. Do it with friends and you’re sure to have a good memory.
- Go out!
At least once and if you don’t like it, at least you tried it. College is the only time in your life when you can be out at two AM with no questions and no judgment. Savor that. Plus, the themes at college parties can be the best part like this snow party with packing peanuts.
Just remember, if you do go out, be safe, go with friends, stay in a group, and look out for each other!
- Befriend older people and upperclassmen
My Big was one of the best parts of my freshman year (and the rest of my college experience but especially my freshman year). I was an out-of-state student who knew no one and nothing about college. Having someone who was just a year older to guide me saved me from looking too terribly like a freshman. Someone who’s there to explain how registration works, where the best places to eat are, what professors to take, not to take an 8AM class on a Monday, where to go on the weekends is invaluable. I wish someone told me not to take French at 8AM on Monday-Wednesday-Friday.
- Take pictures
Trust me, you’ll want the memories.