by Lauren Carbone
Now that I am preparing to graduate, there are several things that come to mind when I think about my freshman year, including all the things I wish I would have known.
Don’t think a bad day, a bad week, or even a bad year means things will never turn around.
I remember being a freshman, feeling lonely and completely at a loss, thinking college would never get better and that I would never make any friends and never make any enjoyable memories like you see in the movies. I was certainly wrong. Even though living on your own and being independent for the first time is scary, you eventually get the hang of things and assimilate yourself into adult life day by day. I couldn’t even tell you how many great times I ended up having, how many amazing people I met, and how I definitely had a college experience that was anything but boring and uneventful. If only my freshman self knew what I was actually about to get myself into. So don’t give up hope.
You will thank yourself later for putting yourself out there.
Rushing for a sorority was something I told myself I would never do and could never do. Once I finally mustered up the courage to leave my comfort zone and attempted to join an organization that was bigger than myself, suddenly my huge and scary college campus became a smaller and more tight-knit community in which I made a bunch of serendipitous connections. Even though my time in my sorority was cut short, putting myself out there inevitably led to many friendships that shaped my college experience.
The free gym on campus should be your new best friend and most-used stress reliever.
Even if you’re not an avid gym goer, start going! There are not many other times in your life where you’ll have the luxury of obtaining a free gym membership. The gym was my sanctuary when I was feeling stressed, bored, or lonely. Not only did the gym turn into a rewarding pastime of mine, but I started to feel weird if I didn’t work out daily and it became a healthy habit. I also looked a lot better than I did in high school and lost the freshman 15 instead of gaining it.
Don’t worry so much about what everybody else is doing.
It was easy for me to compare my journey to others at times. While I was changing majors, taking a semester off for medical leave, taking longer to graduate than my friends from high school, etc…I would wonder why I wasn’t succeeding with flying colors and having a run-of-the-mill college experience. Social media plays a huge role in making everybody’s lives look picture perfect when in reality, everybody is struggling in their own way. Everybody grows at different rates. We all face detours and bumps in the road from time to time, so give yourself a break if you didn’t stick with the same major from day one and graduate in four years flat with a 4.0 GPA.
Enjoy being single and free while you can.
While I’m happy now that I’m in a relationship, it happened when I was finally content with being on my own. College is the most socially acceptable time to explore your options and enjoy not being tied down. You’ll soon find out that striving to find “the one” in college when most people’s only priority is hanging out with their friends and finding the best drink specials is a battle that you will not win. I wish I spent more time being happy that I didn’t have anybody to answer to instead of trying to date emotionally unavailable and immature college boys.
Don’t sacrifice your well-being and priorities in exchange for partying.
I admittedly got into a bit of a party phase that changed me into a person I wasn’t. It’s easy to get caught up in bad habits when you’ve been under the impression that college is the perfect time to let loose and make bad decisions. I wish I spent more time being true to myself instead of wasting my nights away at the same bar acting like an idiot and wasting my days away being hungover and shame-spiraling instead of being productive. Don’t get me wrong, partying is fun, but don’t let it get in the way of what’s really important.
Kicking your own butt to pass a class is a lot better than taking it twice.
When I flunked College Algebra my freshman year, I didn’t understand how much time and effort I was actually going to have to put in if I wanted to pass. I might sound like Captain Obvious, but college courses are a little different than high school. I realized I couldn’t barely skate by with minimal effort and still get an A. The second time around, I remember sitting at my kitchen table for 12 hours a day doing homework. The hard work eventually paid off. Granted, I was going a little crazy trying to ensure that I wouldn’t have to take College Algebra for the third time, but don’t underestimate the power of hard work and sacrifice. It will be worth it when you don’t have to waste your money and time on the same course multiple times.
Get involved in co-curricular activities that will enhance your resume.
I became so much more motivated to succeed when I started joining groups and getting involved within my major outside of the classroom. I became a staff writer for Imprint and joined my college’s Odyssey community which helped me focus more on advancing in my career as well as fluffing up my resume with relevant experience. Don’t wait too long to try to obtain internships and join clubs when there are plenty of resources on campus that you can take advantage of as soon as possible.
You’re in college for a reason.
With all of the distractions, temptations, drama, you name it…don’t forget why you’re in college. You’re here to get a degree and an education so you can better yourself and be a successful adult. Sounds lame, but take it from me, you’ll still have a “crazy” college experience full of those memories that you won’t even want to tell your grandkids even if you make smart choices and balance your fun with your priorities. It took me a lot of trial and error to finally figure it out, but if I could do it, anybody can.
My last piece of advice is to remember your time in college is limited. You only have a few years to enjoy all that your college experience has to offer, so don’t waste your valuable time worrying about the wrong things. Take it from me, you’re not going to have it figured all out from day one. I don’t even have it all figured out and I’m almost on day 1,825. However, if you’re self-aware, motivated, and disciplined, you will walk across that stage one day with a feeling of accomplishment and growth that is comparable to none.