The first time we hear the cliche and overused phrase “college is nothing like high school” is when we hold our first college acceptance letter in our hand. We ponder the phrase for a couple seconds and then return back to the exciting reality of the piece of paper we hold.
Then graduation comes around, and along with the flowers and advice, we hear the phrase once again, this time giving it a little more thought before placing it in the back of our minds. Summer quickly flies by and then we stand in our newly decorated dorms waving goodbye to our parents and the phrase finally makes sense to us. It resonates in our minds as we stand there confused and anxious — college is truly nothing like high school.
As a first term college freshman, I think about that trite phrase every single morning and it is very easy to let it affect my decisions. I’ve realized that everything from study habits to eating habits change once we enter the gates of our universities and more often than not, it is difficult to adjust to these changes because they are so unexpected. The simple tasks such as doing one’s own laundry become daunting yet momentous.
The complicated tasks such as studying for exams become just plain frightening. And the sad part is the advice we get from friends or family members often does not alleviate that fear altogether. But as a college freshman, one that has gone through the initial ups and the very frequent downs, I have compiled a list of tips, tricks and quirks that will make the transition smoother for any nervous and tense freshman.
My first piece of advice, do something that your high school self would have never done. College is a time where you are exposed to a multitude of different people and opportunities. Take the time out to make friends with people outside of your classes. Sign up for something different like a dancing class or debate club. Exploring new options will transform you into a more well-rounded individual and who knows, maybe a spontaneous decision can turn into a new hobby. And on the same note, remember the saying “you do you.” College, and more specifically the beginning of college, is the perfect time to discover what makes you truly happy, whether that be going to the gym every morning or watching an episode of your favorite show as a reward after a long day of classes. Do what makes you smile because trust me when I say this, being happy is half the battle when it comes to tackling a college lifestyle.
One mistake students make when they first enter college is trying to come in already perfect and prepared. My opinion? Learn how to embrace failure instead. Failure is inevitable. Especially in a new environment, surrounded by new people, adjustment is difficult and failure is a possibility. But failure, as cheesy as it sounds, is the best way to learn and grow. Getting a C on a biology exam will not affect your grades or GPA as much as it seems. In fact, failure is an indication of opportunity and therefore a chance to improve. At the same time, don’t just accept but love your weaknesses. Be proud of yourself. We always think we know the right answers, have the right attitude and do the right things. Yet coming to college and being able to experience it fully means being able to understand your flaws and work on bettering the things you struggle with.
On a more organizational and day-to-day level, I would recommend investing in a cookbook — to any college freshman, it is just as important as investing in the new TI-84 graphing calculator. Most of the time, college dining halls and campus dining options are not satisfying enough for a college student’s appetite. One of my major problems so far into the term is eating too much pizza and getting sick of pasta. Investing in your own health by learning how to cook means being able to satisfy your own cravings and control your diet while avoiding the dreaded freshman 15. Once your eating schedule has become a routine, it is imperative to understand that lists, alarms and calendars are your very best friends: organization is the number one secret to success. With different schedules every single day and various classes with various demands, it is very easy to get swallowed up in work, deadlines and events. Make use of lists, calendars and planners because being organized helps reduce the stress and overwhelming nature of college work.
Something many people do not realize is that college is like a pendulum which means you need to embrace the “work hard, play hard” lifestyle. It is really easy for college kids to swing to the extreme whether that be extreme studying or extreme slacking. Success is a result of a balance between working diligently and rewarding that dedication. Studying, working or stressing 100 percent of the time is actually counterproductive. Learn how to work efficientlyand treat yourself accordingly. Treating yourself also comes in the form of learning more about yourself and your responsibilities. Once you get settled in college, learn how to understand people — they will be all around you. Not everyone in college will like you and you will not like everyone you met,a but there is beauty in that fact. There is no need to be someone else in order to impress anyone or get them to be your best friend. Friendships happen genuinely and relationships get stronger when you are comfortable, happy and sincere.
Finally, my most valuable piece of advice is to understand that each moment is important. There are going to be many instances (more than you hope) when the college lifestyle seems to be much too overwhelming and distressing. But even the bad moments are important because they shape the overall experience of living independently and maturely. Appreciate every moment because they all fuse together to create a valuable and enriching learning experience.