Another week ends. It is intimidating to think how fast time passes. While watching Toy Story 3 I realized that I am no longer an incoming freshman who is afraid to leave home and anxious to see what the new experience will bring. In one month (exactly) I will start training as a graduate assistant, which means that I will be moving onto campus for the FIFTH year! I remember moving in for the first time so vividly that it is hard to believe that it has been five years since it occurred. I have changed so greatly since those days—some for the better, some for the worst. I have made plenty of foolish mistakes throughout my four years of college experience, but I also have made some smart decisions. Starting my freshman year I had been engaged to my high school boyfriend, still spoke to my high school friends, worked at Eat N Park, dreamed of working in the FBI, free of responsibilities, and unaware of what college would offer. Over the course of the four years I slowly stopped talking to most of my high school friends (excluding a couple), broke up with my high school boyfriend four months ago after 4 1/2 years together, still work at Eat N Park but now have two others jobs, also. I still want to work for the FBI, but am now planning on going to law school after I finish my Masters this year. I am dating someone new…someone younger…and regretting not breaking up with the old one earlier now that I know I deserved more. I am an aunt. And, I have become more independent and stronger since my freshman year. I have had an atypical college experience, in my opinion, as I did not go to frat parties or explore the areas around my campus as much as other students; however, I feel as though I got everything out of the experience that I wanted to get. I improved myself.
Most people enter college with a set plan of how things will go and then are disappointed when that exact plan does not pan out. My advice to all of you entering college is simple:
1. Be flexible
2. Have fun
3. Meet new people everyday
4. Study. A lot.
5. Trust your instincts
6. Manage your money
These things are all easier said than done.
BE FLEXIBLE. But you need to remember that things do not always work out the way you want yet sometimes it may be a blessing in disguise. You will soon discover that easy classes are usually never as easy as someone else tells you, hard teachers will become your favorites, and you will loathe the laid-back teacher that never made you study in Biochemistry 1 because the Biochemistry 2 teacher is different and will assume you know everything from the first part.
HAVE FUN. College is primarily for studying and learning enough to acquire a degree; however, it is also about the experience. You will want to hang out with your friends because these people may become lifelong friends. The important thing to remember about having fun is that there is always a limit. At first you will want to go out all the time and have a “Grey’s Anatomy” party every Thursday, but you will soon discover that these pesky things called exams and papers tend to get in the way. So, prioritize. You will find a balance that works for you. And, if you have trouble finding that balance there is always someone on campus who can help you (Resident Assistant, Learning Center, academic advisor, etc).
MEET NEW PEOPLE. You will meet a lot of people, but this does not stop after orientation. Try to meet someone new every day. These people may prove to be valuable connections later on when you are looking for an internship or job. One thing to remember is that it is important to surround yourself with high quality people. Do not only befriend those that go to parties with you, because sooner or later you will realize that drinking every night or every weekend will only put you on the 5 or 6 year path to a four-year degree.
STUDY. As mentioned before, college is primarily for achieving a degree. Learn the material now so that you will not be scrambling to learn it all the day before finals…then you can laugh at your friends who are pulling all-nighters as you have movie nights.
TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. Simply put: if something seems wrong, it probably is.
MANAGE YOUR MONEY. Ordering pizza every night may seem like a smart idea but come time for spring break and all your friends are planning a vacation, you won’t be able to because you blew all your money. So, save. Start small. If you are ordering 4 times a week, cut back to two times and you just saved $20. Going to Starbucks everyday? Let’s say your drink cost $4 and you only go Monday through Friday. That is $20/week, $80/month, and $960/year. Wouldn’t you like to put that to better use?
Okay, so I know that this is by no means a complete list of advice but it’s a start. Talk to friends, brothers/sisters, family, etc about their experiences and see what advice they have because your first year of college is an experience you will never get to have again. You have one shot. You can (and will) make mistakes, but if you learn from those mistakes then they were not done in vain.
Oh, and do not try to be someone you are not or change how you act around different people because it will catch up to you and you will lose friends.
Last piece, if you are dating someone who is holding you back during college dump them. You may end up back together and you may not. Yet you will change a lot year to year and you need to make sure that your significant other is still on the same page as you. Sometimes you will realize that you are not even reading the same book anymore.
Keep in mind a simple saying if you are ever wondering what to do: If you think you deserve better, you do.
Enjoy the ride.