So this is it. You’re going to college. There have been a lot of things I’ve tried to teach you before you depart and I only hope it’ll aid in your journey of maturation.
You must be excited, maybe even nervous or anxious but I’m letting you know now that college is going to suck. At the same time, you’re going to love it.
At 18, you probably think now that you’re a “full-fledged adult” and that you can do anything. You feel accomplished after all the positions and experiences you’ve gained through high school. At this point, you’re pretty much unstoppable being at the top of the food chain.
Well college is going to sit you down and tell you otherwise, especially in your first year.
Everything you did in high school doesn’t matter anymore. No one cares if you were ASB president or if you won Best Teeth or Most Likely to Have Already Succeeded. You’ll learn quickly that no one gives a shit about you. Even if you passed every class with flying colors, it’s nothing in comparison to your class load in college.
High school held your hand. College will slap your hand away. If your school isn’t that small, your professors won’t care to check in on you. You won’t know everyone at your school. You’ll have withdrawals for home and the life you worked so hard to establish; you’ll feel nostalgic for your friends and the memories you had. There will be quite a culture shock but it’s normal, I promise.
Here are some tips to survive your first year (which is probably the hardest year):
1.) Don’t say yes to everything.
You may feel obligated or peer pressured to agree to every outing or every social event but know that you don’t have to say yes. If you’re not up to it, say no. If you’re uncomfortable, say no. Be honest. You will never go wrong with that. Plus, your peers will respect you ten times more.
2.) Have some back-bone.
There will be several experiences that will thrust you out of your comfort zone and times where you will have to draw the line. Whether it be a sucky roommate or a guy in class who is harassing you or a friend, stand up for yourself. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. It’s better to put your foot down than to let something go awry because you were too scared of how the other party will react. Everything is always in your control. Remember that.
3.) Not everything is permanent.
Just because you’re set on your major and future career, doesn’t mean it will be the same in the next year or two. The friends you make in your first year will be strangers again the next year. Don’t invest too much into things in your first year because in your first year, you and everyone around you doesn’t know what they’re doing or what they truly want. Give it time before confirming what you really want in life. College is all about experimenting so explore every option!
4.) Always ask questions.
I remember having a talk with a supervisor during a big-brand internship. I think they weren’t happy with my work ethic because I wasn’t following instructions properly. What my supervisor told me, was that if I don’t understand something, to ask questions, or better yet, reiterate what you were told to show that you understand. In reiterating, it also opens the floor to the other party to correct you if you’re wrong without you feeling bad about what you’re doing. You want to be confident in the work you have to do rather than going in guessing or assuming the objective of the assignment. If there’s a question that can be answered by doing research, do that first always. There’s no such thing as stupid questions but there is such a thing as questions that can be answered other ways beforehand.
5.) Always communicate
Following up, make sure to communicate in every situation possible. Think ahead and reword yourself to ensure that you’re not the one causing confusion. I’ve learned that it’s best to put yourself in the other person’s shoes when thinking about what you’ve said. Even more so, be honest and tell people things in advance. You’ll have a much easier time navigating your professional and social life at school if you’re just upfront about things.
6.) Get involved but also don’t get involved.
There’s no rush to getting involved in organizations or leadership positions right away. Use your first year or even first semester to get a feel for everything. You’re still adjusting to your schedule and dividing your time accordingly between studies and socializing so don’t add more to it. Feel free to get involved afterwards. It’s a great opportunity for building your resume and network. At the same time, don’t limit yourself to positions available at school. Companies in your post-grad life won’t care if you were in a leadership position for four years straight. They care about the different experiences you opened yourself to on and off campus.
7.) Recognize when you’re unhappy.
When you do get involved, whether it’s a job at school, a relationship, or a dance team, if you’re dreading going there or if you find yourself complaining more than you should be, you’re unhappy. Be true to yourself and get yourself out of those situations. You’re going to be unhappy at your 9-5 afterwards anyway, so you may as well be happy now.
There are so many things I’ve left unsaid and tried to condense this as much as possible but the rest is up to you. You’re gonna kill it, and I’m super proud of you for making the decision to go to college. You are so lucky to be able to have the opportunity to receive this kind of education. Just don’t take it for granted. You’ll be okay.