What I Wish I’d Known Before College: Tips for Incoming Freshman

I wish I had known these tips for incoming college freshmen beforehand.

Flickr user CSU Monteray Bay

It’s completely normal to believe, as I did in the summer of 2013, that leaving for college is the end of your childhood, the beginning of the “real world.” You may be upset at leaving your friends, your family, your hometown, everything that’s been comfortable and known to you. I certainly was. You may think you’re not ready to be an adult. I certainly wasn’t. The good news: you’re not really leaving, and you’re not really a fully-functioning adult yet.

The first thing to realize is that transition to college from high school isn’t as horrible as people think. Seriously, it’s not. All you’re doing, for the most part, is living somewhere else for a part of the year to get a quality education. You’re not going into outer space. You’re not going on Survivor, cutting off all contact with loved ones. You can call, text, e-mail, FaceTime your parents, friends, and even your cat at any time. This isn’t to say the transition isn’t difficult. I don’t want to lie and say that it was a piece of cake, because for me, there were certainly times when it got hard. However, the horrors I was imagining never really came to pass, for a few reasons. Here are some of the tips for incoming college freshmen I used to ease the transition to college:

Ask upperclassmen for directions

Regardless of what movies and online horror stories tell you, upperclassmen do not hate you. They do not want to make your life miserable. They remember what it was like to be in your shoes, a nervous freshman looking around for a building, a classroom, or a bathroom. A majority of them are more than willing to help you find your way around.

Remember that, unless they’re in a massive rush or not a very friendly person, most upperclassmen will be willing to at least point you in the right direction. Don’t resort to sprinting into the lecture hall at the last minute because you had to look it up on Google Maps. Just ask any of your fellow students, who provide a quick and easy resource for assistance.

If you’re in a dorm, leave your door open

From a personal standpoint, I can’t stress this enough. Storytime: Twenty minutes after my parents dropped me off, I was unpacking all my gear and decided, kind of unconsciously, to leave the door propped open. Soon after, my next-door neighbor wandered in, followed by his roommate, a tall kid who looked kind of normal. They wanted to know where the cable outlet was.

Little did I know that this tall kid who I met twenty minutes into my college experience would end up being one of my best friends. We chose to room together in a suite sophomore year, and then, seeing as it had gone well, continued the arrangement for junior year. Next year, my senior year, we’re living together again in a townhouse, with five of our other best friends. At the end of last semester, we calculated that we’ve lived together for nearly 365 calendar days.

I tell everyone going off to school to leave their door open for the first few days when they’re in the room. It’s an easy way to make friends and interact with others that are in the same boat you are, trying to meet friends. That being said,  close and lock it before you go to sleep, as it’s also an easy way to get your stuff taken. I don’t want that on my conscience.

Try everything once

Okay, maybe not everything. But, the first couple days of college are one of the few times in your life when you have the freedom, means and time to explore a new area. Use these days to wander around, make friends, and familiarize yourself with the place. As tempting as it may be to shut yourself in your room with Netflix, it is vital to understand that your first week (or so) of college is time you will never get back.

Most schools hold club fairs or similar activities in this general area of time. It can be very helpful in both meeting people and finding extracurriculars that interest you. Additionally, there are usually “first-year” events. That includes barbecues, picnics, athletic competitions, and concerts. They are great ways to make new friends and have a great time. Even if you don’t consider yourself a very social person, odds are you’ll still meet people with similar interests.

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