What is College to You? Making the Most of YOUR Journey

You might have started dreaming about college during your high school years, or maybe even earlier. And now, you’re finally here!

Perhaps you’ve already planned out which classes you want to take, which clubs to join, or even thought about joining a fraternity or sorority. With your plans set, the next four years (or so) seem clear. However, as you step into the college environment and begin experiencing it firsthand, you might find that reality can change even the most detailed plans.


Before you begin this next exciting chapter of your life, remember that your college journey belongs to you, and you alone. As you move forward, here are some additional pieces of advice for incoming freshman to help you navigate the journey ahead:

1. College Is Embracing Freedom and Responsibility

College brings with it a newfound sense of freedom, saying goodbye to the familiar rhythms of high school. However, this freedom also comes with something that isn’t nearly as fun: responsibility.

As you transition from your home into the campus dorms, you come to the realization that you are responsible for your own schedule. Now you must learn to juggle adult responsibilities while also enjoying the freedom to make your own choices. Remember:

  • You have the freedom to choose your own schedule but don’t forget to attend all your classes.
  • You can eat whatever you want in the dining hall but don’t forget to balance your diet.
  • You’re free to hang out with friends whenever you want but don’t forget to prioritize your academics.
  • Enjoy late-night study sessions or binge-watching your favorite show, but don’t forget to get enough sleep.

2. College Is Balancing Studies and Social Life

Before college, there has most likely always been a trusted adult to guide you through every stage of life. They were the ones who forced you to study the weekend before an important test, helped you stay organized with a busy schedule, and made sure you got to soccer practice on time. However, as you step into college life, the training wheels come off, and suddenly you are the one in charge of finding the balance between academics and social life.

The transition to college means taking on the responsibility of managing your own time effectively. It’s natural to feel the pressure of maintaining good grades while also wanting to enjoy the social aspects of college. Without reminders from parents or teachers, you’re now responsible for creating a schedule that allows for both academic success and opportunities to have fun. While making new friends and exploring new experiences is exciting, it’s essential to remember that your primary goal in college is to further your education and prepare for your future career.

3. College Is Staying Organized So You Stay Ahead

Though practical, this piece of advice is one of extreme importance: stay organized and focus on your goals. Organization is key in any aspect of your life. Once you establish a system, you’ll find you suddenly have time for everything—from going to class to cleaning your dorm/apartment and hanging out with friends. Start by reading your syllabus as soon as you get it and writing important due dates down on a calendar, a board you see often, an agenda, or even your phone or laptop. Stick to a schedule, and you’ll never miss a deadline.

Being organized isn’t just about managing daily tasks; it’s about staying focused on what you want to achieve. Whether it’s getting good grades, staying in shape, or working to have more money. When you know how much you’ve done and how much you still need to do in order to get where you want to, you’ll be able to achieve them faster. Don’t let anyone sway you from your priorities (you’ll find them every once in a while all along your life), keep a good attitude, and remember who you want to be and what you want to achieve.

4. College Is Being True to Yourself

When you start college, it is completely natural to feel many different emotions at once. You might find yourself worrying about your new coursework, whether your old friends will forget you, or if you’ll ever make new friends. You might glance around and see other students seemingly happy, and carefree, effortlessly finding their social circles. But here’s the truth: many college students feel exactly like you do. Everyone struggles with comparisons and the fear of missing out (FOMO), especially on those first Friday nights when it seems like everyone else is out having the time of their lives.

Do not worry about what others may think of you. Be kind and respectful, but never be afraid to be authentically you. If someone doesn’t like you, don’t dwell on it. There will be plenty of others who do. And never waste your time worrying over what you “should” be doing. Instead, focus on the things that bring you joy and fulfillment. Whether it’s joining a club, pursuing a hobby, or simply spending time with friends, prioritize the things that will bring you happiness.

5. College Is YOUR Experience

Do not compare your experience with another’s. There is no one-size-fits-all “college experience” to have. There are no set-in-stone rules to follow. You don’t have to go to this or that event, you don’t have to make a zillion friends, and you don’t have to participate in a sport or club in order for your college experience to be meaningful. But, you can do those things if you want; it is all up to you. You will not be “missing out” on anything if you choose to take a different path.

  • Are you attending every school-sponsored event? Fantastic!
  • Are you binge-watching Netflix after a full day of classes? Awesome!
  • Are you waking up early to hit the gym? Amazing!
  • Are you staying up late hanging out with friends? Excellent!

Congratulations, you are doing college the right way: your way.

Remember, college is your experience. No one else’s. It is the best time to figure out what truly makes you happy, while also committing to your education. As you begin this new chapter, approach it with excitement and embrace all that is to come. Looking for a school to spend your next four years? Use our FREE College Match tool to find your perfect fit.

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