Reflections on Freshman Year: 5 Tips to New High School Graduates

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Spring is a blur of exciting events, one after another, for high school seniors: college decisions, prom, internships, and graduation.

The possibilities for your future seem almost endless, and it is easy to get caught up in the whirlwind. But before you pack your car with all the things your parents insist are necessary for you to have (although you still don’t know how to iron and are quite certain you won’t touch that vacuum) and leave your hometown in the past, here are five tips for maximizing your college experience and making a smooth transition out of this stressful and exciting time.

Don’t Trust Social Media

During the first few weeks or months, it is inevitable that you will become homesick or disillusioned by popular media’s portrayal of college life where you meet a group of 10 close friends and transform into the best version of yourself overnight. In reality, branching out is hard and almost no one loves college right away; however, everyone wants to make it seem that they do. There will be a massive influx of Snapchat stories, Instagram posts, and Facebook albums filled with new friends and beautifully decorated dorm rooms. Don’t fall for it and fret over your own progress at school; take the time you need to adjust and go at your own pace. Whatever negative emotions you’re facing, it’s very likely the majority of your friends are too despite what you might infer from social media.

Beware of the Online Roommate Search

Decorate your dorm to make it feel cozier and more like your home

Along the same lines, the accepted students’ Facebook groups can also be misleading. If you’re creating a post in search of a roommate, try to be as honest about your living preferences and personality as possible. For example, if your bedroom isn’t the cleanest, don’t put down that you’re extremely organized (even if you are trying very hard to start making your bed every day). Along the same lines, the best roommate pairs that I’ve met at school had either known each other before, or had a mutual friend that put them in contact with one another. If either of these options is possible, it’s the
best route to take because it gives you a lot of information you wouldn’t get from a single paragraph. You will be spending a lot of time with this person and living in close quarters, it’s important to take your time with this decision. Once you’re at school, go down your hall and meet those living around you. These students are often your first friends, so invite them to go to the dining hall for dinner or library to study. Even if you don’t end up staying close with them the rest of the semester, they’re built-in friends for the beginning of the year as you all figure out college together,

Go to Class

This might seem self-explanatory coming from high school where your attendance is strictly monitored, but college is all about freedom and choices. It’s likely you will be in at least one class that’s in a large lecture hall and the professor posts slides online. In theory, it seems that attendance would be optional; you should still go to every class you can. Professors often give a lot more information than what’s on the slide, and other people’s notes aren’t the same thing as being there yourself. You are only taking have about four classes per semester—go to all of them.

Create a Schedule and Living Routine

Along the same lines of being responsible academically, the large amount of freedom college offers stretches into your personal life as well. Without strict class times, eating schedules, and organized sports, a common pitfall for college freshman is ineffective use of time. Finding a balance between productive studying, meeting new people, and taking care of your personal health will bring order to a time that is otherwise fairly chaotic.

Call your Mom

Me and my mom on campus during parent’s weekend

Staying in touch with your family and friends will help ease the transition and any homesick feelings you might have. Try to carve out time at least once a week to chat with your loved ones, it’s a nice break from a lot of new interactions to have a taste of familiarity. Try not to become so focused on reliving your high school years that you can’t appreciate the new friends and experiences in college; find balance between the old and new.

Say ‘Yes’ to New Things

The most important thing to remember is that college is what you make of it. Try out activities and organizations you never had the time for in high school. There are lots of opportunities to branch out and make the most of your campus, Greek life, athletics, music, service organizations, student government, to name just a few. Don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone, but also keep in mind your limits and add activities gradually so you don’t overload your schedule.

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