Saturday, June 14, 2014

What I Wish I had Known My Freshman Year of College

As I am entering my last semester of college, I have begun to look back on my college experience. There are a lot of things that I wasn't told in the handful of books I read about college life, freshman experiences, and what to expect when I moved away from home. I wish that I could go back in time and change a few things, but I am also very happy with how my college life turned out, I have surrounded myself with people I love and I am pursuing a career that fits me wonderfully. I know that it might be cheesy, but not only was I once a freshman in college, I was a Resident Advisor to mostly First Year students in my two years as an RA. So if you stuck around until now, here you go: some of the best advice I wish I had known as a freshman in college.

1) Self-fulfilling prophecies are the real deal. 
What I mean when I say that is if you enter college with a solid mindset, that is how your experience is going to be. I was a social butterfly to say the least when I was in grade school, but I had serious anxiety about moving away from my friends and I thought it would be extremely difficult for me to make friends. It was. I had my mind set that if I was going to make friends it would just happen, with no effort. I wish so badly I could go find my freshman self and drag her to welcoming activities or to the floor meetings I always seemed to skip. It took me years to realize that if I wanted to have friends to hang out with that weren't my boyfriend, I needed to get out of my room and make them!

2) Opening weekend activities in the Residence Halls (dorms) are stupid, but you should still go to them.
This goes back to what I was saying in my previous post, you will make friends if you go to these programs and participate. They might not be the friends that you have for the rest of your life or even the rest of college, but friends are friends, and you do not want to be eating in the dinning commons by yourself all year.

3) You do not need to be best friends with your roommate.
This particular piece of advice is one that I have given numerous times over the last two years. I did not go into any roommate-ship with the expectation of either being best friends or enemies with my roommate. The roommate world is not black and white. Sometimes you will become best friends with your roommate, but what it all boils down to is that you need to be considerate, open-minded, and able to communicate to anyone you are sharing space with.

4) Do your roommate agreement. 
Don't write something ridiculous. I heard while I was an RA these two students wrote something along the lines of "Make money. Get girls." And when real problems came up they did not have any documentation of expectations. Communicating your expectations to your roommate is very important. If you do not want them to have their significant other over every night of the week, you need to communicate that. If your expectation is that they need to maintain a somewhat clean side of the room, communicate that. I blew off my roommate agreements when I was a resident and I am thankful every day that there were not problems with me and my roommate.

5) Be nice to your RA. 
This one is personal, I have read other people's advice as saying "befriend your RA and they won't write you up as much." I cannot say if this is true or not *wink wink*, but I have had residents who just would say things like "I hate RA's so much!" or "I can't wait until I don't have to live with an RA." Trust me, there are times that your RA will not want to live with you either. But I have received a few notes from residents that tell me that they enjoy chatting with me or that I was their favorite part of moving to college, and those residents made the most unbearable nights worth it in the end. Your RA is fountain of knowledge about your school, they have taken a lot of the classes you need to take and they know about a lot of resources on campus. Go to them and ask them questions when you have them, they want to talk to you and get to know you!

6) Pursue a degree you are passionate about.
I spent two years going towards a degree in business. I did well in all of my classes, but I was just never passionate about business (accounting? business calculus?). I took a child development class for one of my general education requirements, and I haven't looked back since. I have loved going to classes, I have loved my teachers, and everything that I learn about is interesting to me. I have my heart set on being an elementary school teacher, and I will always tell my students that they should be whatever they want to be!

7) Ask for help. 
I know that I already touched on this a little bit on number five, but I am serious when I say this. Know your limits, If you don't understand material for a class you should take advantage of your professor's office hours. See what resources your school has for tutoring, my school has multiple programs that offer free tutoring for different subjects and majors. You are paying for these resources with your tuition, use them.

8) Finally, take a minute (or a few) between the classes and studying and work to enjoy yourself. People will say that college is the best years of your life. I don't know if that is the truth, but I still think everyone in college should try and make the most out of the experience and have a little fun--after you take care of your responsibilities!

You just need to make the most of your first year of college! I hope you have a wonderful experience and that college is everything you want it to be and more!