I wasn’t planning on doing a post like this.
I should’ve, in retrospect, but I didn’t think college was going to teach me as much as it did.
I was wrong.
And I’m talking about outside of the classroom.
In complete honesty, my first semester was a huge learning curve for my mental health, my relationships, and my self-care.
There are a lot of things they don’t tell you before you start school after high school. College is a big change, and we know this going in, but I don’t think anyone gets how big of a change it can be until they go through it.
I recently texted a friend from high school, who is a year younger than me, just to check in. We are a lot alike, we give 100% in everything we do, and we have big dreams. As good of qualities as these are considered, they can be taxing most of the time.
We talked about her college process and what thoughts she was having during the college search, and at one point she asked me,
“How did you handle such a big adjustment? I’m worried about that.”
And my mind started running like crazy.
To other people, it does probably look like I handled it just fine. But to me, it definitely did not feel that way.
I guess I did – I got involved, kept my grades up, and made a lot of new friends!
But that doesn’t mean it was easy.
So I wrote her a super long paragraph, full of my initial thoughts about things I learned and what advice I could give.
When I finished I thought, hey, more people should know this, too.
So here it is!
I polished it up and elaborated a bit, but here are the most important things I feel I learned in my first semester of college.
Don’t expect to make your closest friends right away
You likely won’t, and that’s okay. It took me until the end of the semester to find someone outside my closer friend group that I felt super comfortable with and had a lot in common with.
You will make a lot of friends, but it may take a while for you to really connect with them and understand each other. And that’s okay! You might feel a little lonely at times, but don’t worry. Nothing is wrong, just give it time!
If you work on and stay true to yourself, you will find the right people.
Leave your comfort zone
This was one of the things I was most proud of myself for doing this semester.
Join clubs even if you go alone.
Introduce yourself to the people next to you in class.
Worst case scenario – you don’t talk to them again. Best case, you gain new friends to share a class with.
I made at least one friend in each of my classes by simply introducing myself, and it made the classes and studying so much more enjoyable.
Be brave. I believe in you.
Don’t fall for the gild
College is a lot of work, a lot of stress, and a lot of time management.
Still, everyone tries to make it look like their life is so good and it will make it seem like everyone is having more fun than you or has less work – this is not true.
It’s so far from true, so do not fall for it. If you do your best, that’s all that matters. I promise. College is your time to do you, so do exactly that. It doesn’t matter what everyone else thinks.
On that note, do what is best for YOU because that’s all that matters. Your real friends won’t care about anything you do or don’t do, they’ll like you for you.
Be kind, and do your best. Communicate how you are feeling, but know you don’t owe anyone an explanation. Stick to your values, and treat others well.
You don’t need a relationship right away
It will seem like everyone is in one, but try not to feel the pressure.
If you do get into a relationship, great! Just make sure it’s because you two are compatible, not because you feel like you need to date someone or are feeling alone.
Relationships are nice, but not required. I keep saying it, but be yourself and the right people will find you.
Prioritize your work
Your GPA is important, and your major GPA is more important. But you won’t get all A’s and that is so so so fine. Do your best. Sometimes done is better than nothing.
Don’t beat yourself up, but don’t put off your work either. It’s important to be honest with yourself. Are you truly doing the best you can? If yes, that’s all you can ask for. Keep going.
Care for yourself
Yes your work is important, but so is your sanity. Think about what really matters and act on it. Work, but rest.
Eat healthy! Drink water! Shower!
These simple things will help you feel so much better.
Remember that everything will pass
Know you don’t have to overwhelm yourself. (I definitely did too much this semester.) Learn to rest and take breaks.
This is especially relevant to schoolwork. There were many days I studied for 6-8 hours straight because that’s how I work best. I really had to teach myself to take breaks. Take a short walk or get a glass of water, and don’t forget to eat! Taking care of yourself will make your studying more effective.
I can’t stress this enough. All-nighters are not your friend. They are a last resort. Try to get as much work done as you can during the day, so that you can get enough sleep. It affects everything.
Do not ever be afraid to ask for help
Whether it’s with your mental health or school work, ASK someone to help you.
There is no shame in this, and I don’t know why it is, but it can be hard to do. Getting help is worth it and your issues are not a burden.
I am still working on this. A great resource is your RA or any older resident. They will know of resources that can help you the best, or point you to someone who will know.
Asking for help is important. And on the flipside, if someone asks you for help, listen to them.
The first semester of college can really change your life. Let’s let it be for the better!
College is an exciting time to grow and learn. Stay focused. Be you.