College is a rocky road. You will experience a lot of things, both good and bad. My freshman year wasn’t amazing, but it wasn’t bad either. I learned so many things about myself, and about the college experience in general.
You read a lot of stuff online, there are a lot of movies, TV shows and books about college, but none of them tell you what’s really going to happen: every person’s experience is different. You might live something similar to what is depicted on TV, but you might also live something completely different.
So today, I decided to share with you 13 lessons I learned in my freshman year. I hope these tips might help the freshmen or even older college students to survive their college years!
1. GO TO ORIENTATION DAY
That was probably my biggest mistake, and I still regret it up to this day. Orientation day is a bit different for us in Quebec than it is in the States (at least, from what I’ve heard). We actually call this day initiations (or, if you’re being less aggressive, intégrations). It’s basically an opportunity for sophomores (as well as juniors and seniors) to
humiliate make fun of the new freshmen. They have you dress up in the most ridiculous costumes, throw food at you (gross, I know), and make you drink until you’re drunk. And all of this, of course, while ensuring you’re seen by as many people on campus as possible. Seems fun, right? *insert sarcasm here* You might be able to understand why our faculty prohibited this kind of practice on campus this year (I don’t understand why they hadn’t done it before…).
But still, it’s an amazing opportunity to get to know people in your major and to bond with them. You will be going through all of this with these people who are in the same place as you. We’re all in this together, right?
I decided not to attend my initiation because I was working all weekend (yes, it was a three-day event), and I didn’t want to cancel on my boss two days in a row. I’m also an introvert, and the idea of being made fun of didn’t appeal me. Now I realize that I should have at least attended on Friday (the day where we had to wear costumes and all that stuff). That would have given me a chance to at least get myself out there and, who knows, make friends. A lot of people in my major met during initiations, and I have to admit that I’ve felt kind of left out during my entire freshman year because I decided not to attend.
2. MAKING FRIENDS IS HARD
Let’s come back to that. As I said, not attending orientation day was a huge obstacle for me, because when I arrived on campus for my first class, most people in my major already knew one another and had met their group of friends. So that left me there, on my own, having to figure out how to fit in.
I’ve never been good at making friends. I’m shy, I love being on my own, and I’m not really comfortable in huge crowds. But in cegep, our little group of 14 language students felt like a second family. We all knew one another, and, even if I didn’t hang out with all of them, I felt like they were all my friends on some level.
University is a whole new level. Not only are there over 100 people who are majoring in communications, but I feel like everyone is much more outgoing and in-your-face than I ever could be. That made it hard for shy-me to connect with anyone. Now, after three semesters, I can affirm that I know some people better (not sure if I could call any of those real friends, but I’m comfortable hanging out with them), but that’s about it.
You have to go out of your way to meet people and branch out with them. Don’t wait for them to come to you. Honestly, waiting just makes things worse. You have to seize every opportunity, especially at the beginning of your freshman year, to try to meet new people. Smile and be nice! If you seem open to conversation, people will navigate naturally towards you.
3. DON’T FALL BEHIND
Y’all, college is way different from high school. You can’t just decide to not to your homework or your mandatory readings one week because you just don’t feel like it. Well, you can, but I definitely do not recommend it!
I’ve said it quite a lot lately, but you head to class for three hours and come back home with ten more hours of work to do. That’s just the way things work in university.
So, in order not to be overwhelmed, you have to stay on top of everything. I’ve actually made the mistake this semester of not always doing my mandatory reading on time, and here I am, less than 24 hours before my final exam for this one class, with over 30 pages to read and hours of studying to do. So trust me when I say that you do not want to fall behind! Stop procrastinating and be productive! You will thank me later. Who knows? You might even have some time off at some point!
4. IT’S OKAY TO TAKE A DAY OFF
My last tip leads me to this one. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed sometimes, especially at the beginning. College can be quite a drastic change from high school, especially if you’re not prepared. If you ever feel like everything is too much, take a day off. It’s not going to make you fail, far from that. Take a day to relax and think about something else. Your mental health is just as important as the rest! There’ll always be more homework and studying to do, but your mental health might not always be there. Don’t trip yourself into guilt if you skip a day (but don’t make it a habit either!).
5. GO TO CLASS
I mentioned just how important going to classes are in my 8 Ways to Kick Off the Semester Right post, so I’m not going to expand too much on this topic, but let me tell you one thing: what’s the point of paying for college if you’re not even going to class? Sometimes it can be hard to wake up for your morning class, that you might not always feel in top shape or want to listen to your professor lecturing you for three hours about grammar (I’ve been there), but showing up for class is the key to success! Who knows what information your professor might give you that day?
Maybe you’ll get a key info about your next text, or maybe the teacher will go over the assignment and help you figure out how to do it. The thing is, going to class not only helps you pass the class, but it also helps you build a relationship with your professor.
6. PARTIES AREN’T EVERYTHING
I’ve heard so much rambling about how amazing and memorable the parties on my campus are. Every week, on Thursday evenings, there at least two parties to choose from. I’ve tried going. Three times, actually. But every time, I ended up not having much fun. I felt awkward, the parties were too crowded, and I’m not really a drinker, so that cuts out the fun.
College parties are not for everyone, and that’s okay. Yes, they’re an opportunity to branch out with other people in your major or your faculty, but if you’re not comfortable, don’t push it. There are other ways for you to meet new people and to make friends.
7. CHOOSE YOUR CLASSES BASED ON WHAT THEY CAN OFFER YOU
Choosing your classes can be a hard process. Some semesters, your options will all seem interesting. But other times, not much will seem appealing. Before you make your final choice, ask yourself “What can this class can offer me? How can I benefit from it?”. If you’re not too sure, check out the class description.
I made the mistake of choosing a class because it fit my schedule better, and I cannot tell you just how much I regretted it! I didn’t want to have any 4PM classes this summer, so that only left me with an option: Public Relations. It’s not that the concept of the class itself isn’t interesting or relevant to my major, but I ended up having one of the worst professors I have ever had. I hated the class, and I dreaded heading to it every week for three months! So, lesson learned: choose your class for what they can offer rather than for the fact that they fit your schedule.
8. TIME MANAGEMENT IS HARD TO GRASP, BUT IT’S SO IMPORTANT!
I think that’s the thing most college student struggle with. And I can totally understand why. As you know, I work part-time at my local library. And while I have super understanding bosses who know that school is my priority, I tend to overcommit. I will take on much more than I can chew, leaving me very little time to relax. Scheduling “me” time is one of the most important things to remember.
Don’t take on too much. You will want to join plenty of clubs, maybe work part-time to pay off your student loans, but remember that school has to remain your top priority, and that your mental health is just as important as the rest.
9. MOTIVATION IS KEY
I was talking about this with my uncle just the other day: even if you’re smart, motivation is what is going to get you good grades. Yes, understanding the content covered in class is important, but nothing will get you further than working hard and wanting to do well. You have to find what motivates you to go to class and to do your homework. Set up goals and work towards achieving them! Trust me, it is much easier to get up in the morning when you have something to motivate you!
10. DON’T DO THINGS LAST MINUTE
I am very guilty of that one. I’m such a procrastinator! And let me tell you that I’ve regretted it on more than one occasion. Especially when you have a schedule as crazy as mine can be sometimes, you just cannot leave things until the very last moment. That’s just going to cause you more unnecessary stress. That’ll cause you to hand in assignments you’re not necessarily proud of, or come in for exams feeling not as prepared as you should be (been there, done that). Once you’ve figured out time management, this one should come easily!
11. PROFESSORS EXPECT MUCH MORE OF YOU
That can be pretty shocking at first, especially if you had things easy in high school. I was an IB student and went to an all-girls private school, so I’m used to working hard and having to meet higher expectations. The transition wasn’t as hard for me. But I know that’s not the case for everyone. I know some people who used to do really well in high school, only to be barely able to pass their college classes.
You can’t just sit on your talent and expect to have good grades. If you want to perform, you need to work hard. Maybe harder than you’ve ever worked before. College is harder than high school. Your professors expect to see you take things seriously, and will expect you to be dedicated and hand in quality work.
12. THERE’S ALWAYS GOING TO BE A GROUP PROJECT
If you follow me on Twitter, you know just how much I hate group projects. But if there’s one thing I learned about university, it’s that teachers love group projects. The excuse is: you’re more than likely to work with colleagues on some projects at your future job, so this is like practice. This is true especially in communications (aka my major), so I had to get used to this idea of working in groups.
If I can give you one tip: choose the people you work with wisely. I cannot count how many times I ended up with a team that did absolutely nothing, or liked to get things done the night before the assignment was due, so I ended up doing most of the work. Yes, you might want to be with your BFF, but if you know that the person’s work style might create tension within the team, choose someone else. Being friends with someone doesn’t mean you will necessarily work well with them.
13. LEARN TO SAY NO
You’re going to want to get involved when you get on campus. There are tons of clubs and organizations you can join, and there might be a lot that will seem interesting. But, if there’s one thing I learned my freshman year and that you should remember: don’t overcommit.
I didn’t join any clubs during my freshman year, but I took a lot of shifts at work, and I sometimes ended up regretting it (especially this summer, if I’m being honest). I have a problem where I can’t seem to ever say no. My boss would call me and offer me something, and I just have to say yes. I learned the hard way that this is something that I have to change. While I love my job and I want to help out as much as I can, school has to remain the priority.
I hope these lessons I learned in my freshman year are helpful! What have your learned since you got to college?