The first year of college is hard. There’s no way around it. You’re in a new environment, surrounded by totally new people, and you’re facing all these changes by yourself.
I remember being dropped off on campus for the first time. It was a blistering hot August day and I was so happy to say that I was attending my dream school. I would be studying at a small liberal arts school in the Northeast that I believed truly had so much to offer. Of course, I was nervous, but I was more excited than anything. I felt ready that I was going to take the campus by storm and truly find myself.
The reality of my first year was nothing like I had expected. I had made really good friends and was putting myself out there, but something just felt entirely off. I wasn’t inspired to write or act (two things I absolutely love to do), I was focusing on my social life more than my passions, and I felt judged by everyone around me because of who they thought I was. At the end of the day, I just wasn’t happy. When things got worse for me mentally, it was impossible not to consider transferring, taking a semester off, or the countless other possibilities. Although I still don’t have the answers, I do have a better idea of what to expect from my university. Now that I’ve taken the steps to truly reflect on my experience, I feel ready to share what I wish I knew before starting my first year at college.
It’s Okay To Admit That College Is Hard
One of the hardest things to do during your first year at school is admitting that you’re having a difficult time. For me, it was really stressful to tell my parents and close friends that I was unhappy with my school. I was embarrassed because I thought I was the problem. Of course, there were things I could have done differently, but I truly felt like my school had let me down. I did not feel like I had been given the experience I was promised and this was a very hard thing for me to talk about. So many people told me that they thought I was going to do great things in college so I felt awful that I didn’t feel like I was doing anything great at all. Knowing that it’s okay to admit that you’re having trouble with your college experience is crucial to avoiding months of unwanted stress and unhappiness. So don’t be afraid… your loved ones and friends will understand and will want to help you make positive changes.
Some People Don’t Have The Best Intentions
When we first get to college and start meeting a bunch of new people, it’s a fact that everyone has their nice face on. But in truth, not everyone you meet is going to have the best intentions for you. It’s important to know this when you’re making new friends. Of course, be open to getting to know everyone you meet, but protect yourself. Don’t let people you barely know take advantage of you and don’t change who you are to impress people. If they don’t like the real you, they aren’t worth it.
Don’t Let FOMO Dictate Your Life
The Fear of Missing Out is impossible to avoid at college. When we know we have to study or go to class, we think we might be missing out on something. Overcoming this fear is an imperative part of learning to be independent and knowing that it’s important to uphold your responsibilities. You have to learn to balance your experience and recognize that it’s okay to miss that party or that dinner. You’ll go to the next one.
Thinking About Your Role vs. The Role of Your School
If you find yourself feeling upset with your experience at school it’s important to evaluate what your role is in the situation vs. the role of the school. My advice is to talk it out with someone you trust and then write a list of the different factors affecting your experience. Once you identify aspects affecting your day to day life, think about what you can do to change your situation. If you feel positive about how you can change your experiences – great – if not, that’s okay too. Be honest with yourself and with what you need to be happy.
Asking for help is 100% okay! If you need someone to talk to on campus try reaching out to your mental health resources, talk to your advisor, or even a professor you’re close to. Even if it doesn’t feel like it, there are people to listen to you during times of struggle. Open-up and get your feelings validated. This will help you get through the year!
At the end of the day, the biggest piece of advice I can offer is to stay true to yourself. No matter what your college experience brings to you, it’s important to be honest with yourself. If you know there are things you can change in your personal habits to make yourself feel more accomplished and happy then don’t be afraid to admit it. You have all the power to make those changes. That being said, if you feel like the school you chose just isn’t the right choice for you, that’s okay too. Recognize what you need to do in order to be happy. And remember, everyone is on a different journey.