The 10 Most Important Things I Learned from My First Quarter at College
Almost nothing went as planned.
I’ve always been a planner, and I entered college with a serious plan. During my senior year in high school, I did my research. I knew what campus life would be like, what sorority I would be in, and what my day-to-day would be like. I had endlessly scoured the internet for articles that would tell me the Top 10 Mistakes Not to Make in College and How to Redefine Yourself in College. I devoted a great part of my summer to creating my ideal college experience; how I thought things would go.
Boy, was I wrong.
When I say things didn’t exactly go as planned, I certainly don’t mean that things didn’t go well. In fact, they almost went better than expected.
Because that’s the thing with life, isn’t it? You always have a plan for how things will go or how your life will pan out. And it rarely happens that way. Your life twists and turns in ways that are different, new, and exciting. Just because you didn’t plan it doesn’t mean that isn’t the path you’re supposed to be on.
So today I wanted to write this article to provide some suggestions and reminders to girls entering college. With all my knowledge earned from 10 weeks at college, I present the ten most important things I learned during my first quarter.
1. Your Roommate Probably Won’t Be Your Best Friend
I had high expectations for this one. I thought we would have late-night movie nights and gossip until dawn like one long, never-ending sleepover. Don’t get me wrong: I have a great roommate and I’m so, so lucky (I have heard some horror stories.) But we are very different. She isn’t my best friend, but she is a great source of support and a nice person to live with.
My advice? Keep your mind open when it comes to rooming with someone. Maybe you won’t be best friends, but it could really work when it comes to sharing such a small space.
2. Putting a Little Effort in the Morning Makes You Feel Like You’ve Got Your Life Together
Though there is nothing wrong with totally bumming it, I’ve found that wearing a cute top with my favorite jeans or wearing a new item totally inspires me. I feel like I have my life totally in check when I’m prepared for the day, and I feel as if I am more likely to be taken seriously by professors.
However, putting a little extra effort in the morning not only includes clothing items, but your morning activities as well. Leaving a little extra room in the morning to stop by your favorite coffee shop or grab breakfast is a great start to your day-and will make you feel ready to tackle whatever is ahead.
Disclaimer: This will absolutely not work for 8 AMs. Remember when you used to straighten your hair and roll up in your cutest outfit at 7:30 to your high school? This won’t happen. Wake up ten minutes before class and then applaud yourself for being on time.
3. Not Everyone Parties
This is perhaps the biggest misconception I had about college. When I thought of college, I thought of literally every college movie I had ever seen. Funny enough, college movies are really not too heavy on the studying and more focused on the endless parties.
Sure, college is a lot of fun, but there are some Saturday nights where I have to buckle down and study. Contrary to popular belief, school is not one endless rager. You won’t find every single one of your classmates out on a Friday or Saturday night.
On that note, it is totally fine if you aren’t a crazy partier. College is a place to find yourself, and if partying isn’t part of that identity, that is completely OK.
4. There Will Be Times Where You’ll Look Around and Wonder Where the Adults Are
I know we are all over eighteen, but sometimes I look around and think how crazy it is adults let us go live on our own. Of course I have a Resident Advisor and a Floor Manager, but I rarely see any adults besides my professors.
I had this idea once I was in college I would feel like a grown-up adult. But I totally don’t. I do my own laundry and get myself to class in the morning, but I still rely on my parents for a lot, and sometimes all I want to do is go home.
I absolutely adore Parent’s Weekend because it feels like a sense of normalcy has returned. I know I’ll get used to this in time, but it is surprising how young I still feel.
5. Living in a Dorm is (Kinda) Weird
You probably guessed this one. I had my suspicions about the dorm life before school even started (ugh, shared bathrooms).
Having little to no privacy and the thinnest walls you’ve ever imagined has been a little bit of a learning curve. I’ve had some rocky starts in the dorm (dealing with a roommate and RA) and at times I’ve wanted to give up. Sharing space is so, so difficult, especially when you’re living in the same room as your roommate. And I’m always sick. My roommate has the flu? I have the flu.
I’m still trying to figure this one out. However, a glimmer of hope: I have gotten used to things I never thought I would. Sharing a bathroom isn’t as weird as it sounds; this I can promise.
And my advice? Try to make your dorm room like your home. Bring your favorite candles, blankets, whatever. Just make it your space.
6. You Can Do Anything You Set Your Mind To
Please believe me on this. You are at your college for a reason; they believed in you! When you applied to your school, there is a significant reason why they said YES. Think about this when you feel down. In college, there are moments where you sometimes doubt your self worth. Which is silly, and you totally shouldn’t, but sometimes you still do.
You just have to remember that you are here for a reason and purpose. With hard work, you can absolutely do anything you set your mind to. Whether it is academic or social, you can always show up and do your best…no excuses!
7. You Will Do Things You Never Thought You Would Do
College is weird. I find myself thinking ‘I never thought I would do this’ at least once a day. Whether I’m making a sock puppet for class at 3 AM (I hadn’t made a sock puppet since at least the third grade) or dancing with my friends at a formal, that thought always runs through my head.
School has taken lots of wacky, crazy twists and turns, and I am grateful for that. Enjoy the weird journey you’re on, because it only lasts for a short while.
8. You Will Start to Redefine Yourself as a Person
I’m still figuring out who I am. Sometimes, I will surprise myself. The idea I had of myself in high school is mostly gone. I will slow myself down, whatever the situation, and think ‘Do I like this? Do I enjoy this?’ Whether I’m directing that thought towards a party or a class, I find thinking this helps me understand who I am. And, as I said, I sometimes surprise myself.
It’s okay if you want to try and change yourself for the better in college. It is a humble pursuit. However, don’t lose who you are. Becoming a totally different person for the next four years just isn’t going to happen. Keep exploring who you are, but don’t lose the person who has been there all along.
9. Don’t Complain, Just Get it Done
I can’t tell you how much college students complain (myself included). Our favorite topic? How much homework we have to do. Through my ten weeks, I’ve learned the power of organization and the simple mantra: don’t complain, just get it done.
For all you procrastinators out there, I don’t know how you do it (check out a CF article on surviving college as a procrastinator here). I’ve learned to plan my weeks out in both my planner and my Mac calendar, and finish assignments a week in advance in order to study for tests during the week. My system works very, very well for me, and it speaks to the power of being organized and using the ample time you have on the weekends.
My advice? Get it done. Invest in a planner, store notes on your computer, whatever it takes. Set goals to motivate yourself, and, if needed, believe in the power of an inspirational quote. (I have quotes written on Post-Its taped all over my desk area.)
10. Take Advantage of Your School’s Resources
Please, please go to office hours. They’re perhaps the most helpful resource you’ll find at your school. Incoming freshman, this has probably been told to you at least a million times. So I’ll tell you again because it is so important! I’m so glad I listened when people told me this. It is absolutely essential.
Your school probably has a billion resources: a writing center, tutors, a math center, advisors. These resources are there for a reason! Make use of these opportunities at your school.
Current college students: What are the most important things you learned about college your first year? High school seniors: What do you want to know? Comment down below!
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