Advice for soon-to-be college freshmen from a college senior who dreaded college but can’t wait to go back.
So, you finally graduated from high school and honestly don’t know how much of your life will ever look the same. On top of preparing to leave and saying far too many goodbyes, you may be unsure of what to expect in your first year of college, you’re likely nervous about all the changes, and you will undeniably try to imagine what the next phase of your life will look like.
You may have spent your summer dreaming up scenarios in which freshman year is the best year of your life; you immediately find friends and love every bit of college life. Or maybe you fear the complete opposite–a freshman year where your roommate is horrible, your classes are impossible, and you feel like you don’t fit in on your new campus. I did.
But all too quickly, your summer, possibly the last one in your hometown, will end, and you will be thrown into the unpredictable start of your college years.
I hope to give you some insight into what to expect.
Your first year, particularly the first semester of college, may be challenging. You may feel lonely and cry in your room, miss your siblings, small class sizes, and people who already know everything about you. You may feel like everyone else on campus has found their group. Or, while others say they’re having the best year of their lives, you may be googling places you could transfer to next semester. I did.
The difficulty of your classes may overwhelm you, and the fact that your grades matter may feel like a lot of pressure. More than anything, you may miss your sport and extracurriculars or how they kept you around your friends daily. You may have awkward experiences visiting churches alone or consistently forget the names of people you’ve already met. You may frequently realize that nothing will ever be as it was only months ago. Your family dynamic and hometown friendships will never be quite the same. You may realize you will never have this time again. I did.
Throughout your freshman year, your next summer and next chance to be home for any length of time may feel forever away.
But despite those possibilities, you could see your first meteor shower in the middle of an overgrown field! You could park your friend’s Subarau off a slightly sketchy road to see the sky better, even though it’s midnight and you have class in the morning. You could run a half marathon, or at least your first color run, take a yoga class or start weightlifting. A girl in your ‘how-to-survive-this-college-class’ could invite you to eat freshly picked oranges in her Meme’s backyard. She did me! You could spend too much time on the third floor even though you live on the second. Your roommate could throw you a surprise birthday party at her house. Or you could throw her one. In fact, you might want to start keeping party hats on hand. I did.
You could try your first oyster–and get food poisoning with strangers–and endure a rocky three-hour car ride back to campus with your formal date, who learned to drive stick that weekend. You could find friends who remind you of your siblings. And then those friends and siblings could get engaged and married and may even ask you to be a part of the most special day of their lives.
And suddenly, summer might be approaching too quickly. There won’t be enough time for all you want to do. There won’t be enough time with these people.
You will want to stay longer and cram in more freshmen year memories. You will cherish professors and classes that challenged and stretched you. You will begin to recognize ways you haven’t taken care of yourself, maybe because your mom has always done an excellent job for you. You will always be missing someone. But you will still love it. I did.
You’ll discover new artists and songs that remind you of distinct college friends or memories. You will get to know people’s fears and dreams and family dynamics. You will realize that other people felt lonely and scared at the beginning of the year; in fact, most of them did. You will get better at small talk but even better at meaningful conversations. You’ll never quite be able to communicate how much your hometown friends mean to you, and you’ll struggle to describe your college friends to your hometown people. You will miss home but not necessarily want to be there. I did.
But even as the countdown for everything changing ends, some things will remain the same.
Remember that you have to be a friend to make a friend. You should seek to know others, even when feeling desperate to be known. You should prepare to find the good, even if you wish you were elsewhere. You should keep visiting churches. You should cry and struggle and pray. And within it all, you should anticipate that there will be new, unique people who will mean more to you than you can imagine. You should know that you still mean a lot to the people you leave.
Everyone moves on after high school, but you should remember that for you, this next place and time are personal. This experience will be uniquely yours, potentially more than anything. Watching your parents drive away will be difficult, leaving you alone on your college campus. But you should remember that, in May, you just might keep waving goodbye until you can’t see your new friends in your rearview mirror, leaving them in the same, tear-filled way.
Right now, this summer may feel too short; your first semester may appear to be approaching too quickly. But soon, your summers will feel too long, too far away, and too much like your ‘old self.’
Trust me: soon, you may miss the life you’re scared of right now. You could find yourself in my situation, dying to go back; back to the college life that you’re about to begin.
And in a year, summer will feel longer than ever.