8 Things I Wish I Knew Before My Freshmen Year of College
They say that hindsight is 20/20 vision, and I guess that's a phrase for a reason. Especially when it comes to your freshman year of college, there are definitely a few pieces of advice that we all wish we got before stepping onto campus for the first time for our first year of college.
While some things you just have to learn from experience (and that's the fun part), here are eight things I wish I knew before I started my freshmen year of college.
1. You don't have to join everything: I'm guilty of being that girl. I was the one wandering around the activities fair first semester on the second day of school adding my name to (almost literally) every club and extracurricular activity's email list. I signed-up for every group that looked even remotely interesting or like a good resume builder (or had free food). It didn't take long for me to realize that there was no way I was going to be able to balance college life while making 15 club meetings every week so, one by one, I made choices.
College isn't like high school; you don't need to flood your resume trying to participate in every extracurricular activity. Rather, pick two or three activities that you really enjoy and can invest yourself in. You'll get far more out of them, guaranteed.
2. Your friend group may change a lot: For me, one of the biggest surprises about college was that, unlike high school friends, sometimes new friends in college only last for a few days, weeks, months, or a semester. The fact that circumstances and classes change every semester means that your best friend or entire social circle may change right along with it and that's okay. In fact, that's normal. Of course, you'll end up with a core group of friends eventually, but if they aren't the people you met at orientation or your freshman year roommate, don't worry that's totally normal. More than likely, your group of new friends will become more consistent during your second year in college.
3. Don't go home every weekend: I saw so many of my new friends and high school friends go home every weekend to hang out with their BFFs from home, high school boyfriends/girlfriends, etc. and miss out on some pretty fabulous bonding time while they were gone. The first few weeks of college are crucial for finding your place and really acclimating to campus. So if you can help it, stick around even if you're feeling homesick. Home will still be there at Thanksgiving, I promise.
4. You don't need to buy all of your textbooks: I cannot even begin to tell you how much money I wasted freshmen year by buying all of my textbooks. Even while holding a part-time job, I could barely afford all of the books I needed for freshman year. Unless you have an assignment due before the first day of class, wait until classes begin to find out from professors if you really need to invest in a copy of the reading material to be successful with the course work.
On a similar note: don't be fooled into thinking you need to buy new textbooks. 99% of the time, used textbooks suffice just fine and allow you to complete your schoolwork. After all, you were probably going to highlight the same stuff anyway. Bottom line: don't run up your credit card bill for textbooks. There are lots of creative ways to save money.
5. Even when it seems optional, go anyway: Often times in college, things aren't mandatory. Attending classes, lectures, recitation, office hours, etc. are considered to be completely optional. Don't be fooled though. Professors will remember who shows up to office hours when they're assigning final grades. Attending every class will definitely boost your overall comprehension of a subject (and your GPA). Paying attention, taking notes in lectures or online classes, and great time management will help you more than a night of cramming. Study groups are also a great idea! (It's not rocket science people!)
6. Sleep: It sounds like common sense, I know. But between classes, clubs, friends, and having a social life, usually sleep is the first thing to go for college students. While it's tempting to only get four hours of shut-eye a night, don't get sucked into that pattern. Remember to get enough sleep. It's super important when it comes to getting the most out of your college experience. Being well-rested for class is just as important as actually going to it and getting enough sleep can also help reduce your chances of getting sick (which will inevitably happen anyways but sleep will still help!)
7. Enjoy the convenience of the dining hall: Because after you move into your off-campus apartment, I assure you that you will miss the dining hall. Just take my word for it and embrace it while you can.
8. Go to free events on campus: There will be tons of free concerts, speakers, comedians, plays, EVERYTHING on campus first semester. Make a point of going to as many of them as you can with new friends (without like, flunking out of school or something.)Keeping busy is a great way to prevent homesickness and missing high school friends. How many chances in your life will you get to hear Maya Angelou speak or be front row for a Yellowcard concert...FOR FREE? Trust me, when you leave college, you will long for the days of free food, music and the chance to see super famous people free of charge.
Sigh, I love college.
About the author: Emily Grier is a senior at Penn State University_ earning her Bachelors's and Masters of Accounting. Emily was a 2011 Collegiate Correspondent for USA Today College and former managing editor of Valley Magazine, Penn States life and style publication. She's been published on seventeen.com, The Huffington Post, Her Campus, Thought Catalog, and in The Pennsylvania CPA Journal. She spent Fall 2012 interning in London, England.
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