Freshman Year: What I Wish I'd Known
1. Sleep is your friend (I’m SERIOUS)
I went into orientation and the first few weeks of school thinking I was basically invincible and could run on like 4-5 hours of sleep. I was staying up till 3, then waking up at 7 to get a workout in, or to feel productive or something. Let’s just say that this is NOT sustainable. And about 4 weeks in I got horribly sick for 2 weeks straight. I’m talking full on Flu… You might be young but not sleeping will catch up with you. Second semester, I learned how to balance my fun late nights with either sleeping in, naps, or going to bed early when I can. Sleeping enough doesn’t have to mean going to bed at 10 and being a grandma, there are lots of ways to manage your sleep schedule while also having a good time. Trust me, you can’t have fun when you aren’t sleeping.
2. You’re gonna get sick at some point. Preparation is key.
Yayyyyyyyy communal living! As I mentioned above, I got the full on Flu- aches pains, fever, bring-a-box-of-tissues-to-class runny nose, cough, bronchitis, the whole thing. This really took it out of me because it was the first time that I was really sick without my parents at home to take care of me, and it’s not like I could just take sick days from exams or from life, so I had a pretty painful time.
What I can say is this: be prepared.
I went to target with my mom after the first illness from hell and got multivitamins, emergen-c, benadryl, dayquil/nyquil, cough drops, tissues, tea, etc. These have been essential in preventing and treating my little coughs and colds that have sprung up since, and I feel like a real adult capable of taking care of myself for the most part as well.
Side note: I literally starting taking just a regular gummy multivitamin and I just picked the one that said ALIVE on it because I wanted to be ALIVE and it has really helped me keep my micronutrients in check. Would recommend.
3. Use your resources, you pay for them!!
Colleges know that the first year (and every year after that) can be really hard. They set up counseling centers and peer tutors and health clinics and free flu shots and STI screenings and give away condoms literally everywhere.
But regardless, any question or concern that your mind can possibly conceive can be answered by someone on campus, the hard part is making appointments and advocating for yourself. But once you realize all that the campus is offering you, it only makes sense to try to take advantage of it!!
4. Teachers are humans too
There are a lot of fears wrapped up in the idea of asking a professor for help with something. Speaking from experience, it can be really discouraging when they don’t email you back, or seem cold, or just won’t help you. However, I would say that it is always worth trying to contact your professor and see if they can answer questions or help make the material more manageable for you. After all, it is their job. Personally, I remember asking for a small deadline extension on a paper and my email was basically something like this- “Hi professor there were 2 deaths in the family and I am going through a lot right now and I was wondering if I could have like 24 more hours to turn in this paper” and my (very kind) professor was like “You can have a week let me know if you need more than that”. Moral of the story here is that your teachers know what it feels like to have life blowing up in your face, and you never know until you ASK if they are willing to help. Worst case scenario, they say no, and you're in the same place you started.
5. Lean on friends
I think that one of my biggest struggles is being able to ask other people for help in a situation because I want to seem like I have it all together. But something that I am trying to learn is that people don’t connect to ‘perfect’ people. Some of life’s most fun, memorable, and meaningful moments occur when we are imperfect and we actually need someone. It’s okay to burst into tears on someone’s couch, or in chem, or in the middle of the quad on the phone with your mom, (lolol I hope I’m not the only one here). It’s okay to lean on people. Actually it’s a good thing in the long run.
6. Have fun too
Okay yes, the first 5 tips had to do with struggling with health, academics, and relationships, because those are things that came up for me A LOT this year. However, with those struggles came the triumphs of having really crazy, amazing times with humans that I will be forever grateful for meeting.
I fully subscribe to the work hard play hard mentality. I get my sh*t done so that I can have fun on the weekends. It’s not that hard to set up a calendar/to do list, grind away at assignments and studying, focus when you need to, and get your stuff done. Then, after all of the hard work, you can take some time to goof off and be a normal kiddo. It’s a balancing act, but it can totally be done.
7. Just because they are doing it, doesn’t mean you need to
I came to school with a very strong sense of individuality after taking my gap year. I felt like I knew what I wanted and when I wanted it, and what was working or not working for me. However, the title wave of academic stress and peer influence definitely drew me off course a bit. I found myself worrying about things that I didn’t need to worry about, and losing my confidence in myself. I just had to continually remind myself that just because something is true for someone else, does not make it true for me too. That can be applied to almost any area.
8. It’s not that deep
I have said it before and I will say it always. School is important, but so is everything else. I would hate to be lowered 6 feet into the ground with a gravestone that read “4.0 GPA” and nothing else. While grades and assignments are a part of succeeding, I also value the relationships that I have, the experiences, the adventures. I am not gonna remember the time I spent 7 hours studying for an exam, but I will remember going night skiing, trying to stay up till the bakery opened at 6 am, going out on dinner adventures, taking walks late at night, talking to friends about life, running around in the sunshine, laughing until I cried. Those moments are what give life meaning and it is important to allow time and energy for those to happen. And if it means 1 less hour of studying, its okay.
I hope that those reflections gave a bit of perspective into what it was like getting through my first year of college. It has been a wild, but successful ride.