Because it’s difficult to prepare for one of the hardest years of adulthood.
Ah, freshman year. If you had a good experience, you probably are not a real human being.
Almost everyone I know had a tough time their first year of college. Between moving away from home, leaving what’s always been “comfortable”, and being sent off to fend for yourself – the year is not exactly a walk in the park.
I didn’t have much of a guide before I left for school, because I am the oldest sibling in my family. I only would have wished that someone sat me down and walked me through the challenges I was about to face. Maybe to prepare me a little more for this tough year.
So to help prepare you for this big year, I want to remind you of some things I wish I would’ve told myself as an incoming freshman.
1. You’re going to find friends. So stop freaking out.
It’s funny – my mentor and I were joking about how at the second week of school I told her: “Lauren, that’s it. I am never going to have friends in college. That’s just the matter of the fact.” And I was so certain that if it didn’t happen in the first month, it was never going to happen at all. But friends take time, especially the good and deep friendships. Sure, you might have found your “best friend” within the first week of college. But truly, a “best friend” takes getting through many seasons and hardships to form. At the beginning of the year, everyone is racing to cling to people. But it’s okay if you haven’t found your “people”. Even those that look like they have found their BFFL’s on the ‘gram are probably lying and feeling the exact same way you do. Have hope.
2. Don’t try to be someone you’re not to fit in
This is hard to do – especially if you feel lonely, and want others to like you. But trust me – you will regret it in the end. If you start acting like someone you are not NOW, then you’re going to make friends that don’t really love you for you. And then you gotta throw on a mask every time you are with them, which is exhausting. It’s so much better to face rejection by being the wonderful woman that God created you to be, and then meet people who you truly to-your-core click with. I know it’s hard, and easier said then done – but when you are eating pints of ice cream with friends who are just as weird as you, you’ll be grateful that you didn’t budge.
3. It’s okay if you are homesick
This is a big one. I have met very few people who go to school for months on end and don’t miss home even a little bit. It’s normal to miss something that was your every day reality for close to 20 years. It’s all that you know! So don’t kick yourself because you feel homesick, it is completely normal. And it gets better and easier with time.
4. It’s okay if adulting is overwhelming
Listen, the first month of college was not the easiest. I found that the milk in my cereal (that I was eating for around 2 weeks) was one-month-expired, and because I had to get up for early classes I couldn’t quite spot the off-white color. I know, gross. There was also that one time where I almost slept through a 8am midterm. Yep – the adult life is hard. Being responsible is tough. But again, it gets easier with time. Hang in there.
5. You’ll probably change your major 8 times
If you know what you want to do at the age of 18 years old, lemme tell you, I am inspired. Flat out inspired. Because I had no freaking clue what I wanted to do, or what purpose God had for me. And I think that freshman year doesn’t call for you to have your sh*t completely together. It is a time where you can figure it out.
If you’re curious about a certain major, then take a class in it and see if you vibe. This is a time of exploration, and nothing needs to be set in stone. 75% of people don’t even go into what they majored in, so you’re gonna be fine.
6. It’s okay if you have 0 clue what you want to do with your life.
And the major-stress probably comes from you not having a clear plan for your life. Here’s the thing, you.have.time. You don’t need to have it all figured out today, or even this month, or even this year.
It’s hard not to compare yourself to the million other people that seem like they have everything figured out. Trust me, they are probably just as afraid and unsure as you. And you will be shown, in the right time, what you were set out to do. It just might take a little soul searching in how you were hand-crafted and carefully made. But you were made for a purpose.
7. It’s okay to feel alone.
There were many days freshman year when I had very little human interaction. Those were sad days for me, to be honest. It’s not easy to be alone. To eat dinner alone, to go to class alone, and to walk the streets alone. Where you barely recognize any faces. I felt very out of place.
But now, I walk the streets and get to say hi to so many people. I try to plan dinner with different people almost every day. And so what I am saying is, that aloneness is a season. And if I hadn’t gone through those days of sadness, I wouldn’t appreciate the joy of the relationships that I have today.
8. Don’t try to join every organization
Because we feel alone, it can be easy to jump into random things. Like the long-distance running club, even if you’ve never run over 3 miles in your whole life (I still am subscribed to their email list, mind you not). Or maybe the art club, or the debate team, and a million service-based clubs. You see, I am not a gifted runner, nor have I ever enjoyed art, and arguments drive me crazy. You can also only be involved in so many humanitarian efforts. Basically, these were just a couple of the many, many orgs I joined. Because I was desperate. And I ended up feeling really overwhelmed, and I overcommitted to things that I really wasn’t very passionate about.
9. …But get involved.
Too much of a good thing can be bad. Similarly, not doing anything at all can be bad too. You don’t want to be on either end of the extremes. Instead, you gotta look at the organizations and think, where am I feeling pulled? Where can God use me the most? Where would I enjoy myself the most?
For me, after I overcommitted and cried every day out of frustration, I had to make this decision. I chose the student-run magazine, because I loved to write and I had a love for public speaking. I also chose a student ministry & a sorority. You see, this isn’t a million things, but it is enough. Pick 2 to 3 things to dive into, and make those efforts count.
10. Don’t lay in bed too much, get up and DO something
Because freshman year is hard, and you just might be drained from all the schoolwork, it can be easy to throw in the towel. You might think, screw the extracurriculars. You might give up on making friends, thinking that you can be happy with making Netflix your best friend from 3pm to 10pm. It’s easy to want to give up, because it’s hard to put yourself out there.
But sitting in bed is only going to make you feel worse. Loneliness will sink in. I know it’s hard, but this is the time to be OUT. To walk outside, to go to meetings, to talk to random people in the bathroom (okay, don’t sit in the bathroom and wait for people to come in so you can chat – that would not give you the best rep). But you get the point. Find events on campus and force yourself to go. It will be worth it in the long run.
11. Eat healthy – but it’s okay to have a pint of ice cream from time to time
Yes, you shouldn’t eat a burger and fries every day. Instead, try some salads for lunch. And maybe eat some stir fry or noodles for dinner from your dining hall. Believe it or not, there are healthy options at those places. But also, for the heck of it, you should for your sanity have some ice cream every once in awhile. And ya know what, I think I popped open an ice cream sandwich from my local market around every 2 days. So that’s how my life was going. But do I regret it? Not at all.
12. Fit in me-time (aside from studying)
It is very, very easy to dedicate our entire lives to studying. To go to class all day, and then pull all-nighters for exams. Let me tell you, this lifestyle will not fulfill you. It will only make you more exhausted and really unsatisfied. Yes, school is important. And you should take it very seriously. But it shouldn’t take up every single hour of your day. It’s worth it to give yourself time to exercise and to read, or to take an hour out to watch your favorite TV show. You need time to recharge before you hit the books.
Honestly, just get through it. Keep moving forward, and don’t give up. School is really hard the first year. I will not sugarcoat it for you. But I know that you can get through it.
Though I have met no one who has had a walk in the park throughout their freshman experience – I have to say that it isn’t all terrible. You have the opportunity to start over, to make best friends, and to dive into what you are really passionate about. The key is to make the most of it, and to keep moving one foot in front of the other.
I did not have the best freshman year. But I had the very BEST sophomore year. Good things take time.
I had one of the best years of my life this past year. But I had to get through the storm to see the rainbow. And I hope that is encouraging for you.
I don’t know what God has for you, but I know that there is a plan. Even if your first year is hard, the hard seasons end. And you can hold tight to the fact that there are good seasons to come. I believe in you!