A few days ago, I moved into my dorm for the school year and had some major déjà vu. It seems like it wasn’t that long ago that I was a leaving everything I knew to move to Iowa City, where I would come to plant roots and grow as an individual. I have changed so much over the last year and am certainly not the same girl that moved into these exact same dorms a year ago. I learned a lot, but I wish there were some things I knew before I began my freshman year. So here is my list of things I want incoming freshmen to know, but didn’t learn myself until the year was over.
1. Stop thinking of people that are different than you as anything but potential friends.
It is so important to cease judgment if you want to meet cool people. Or if you want to do anything with people, really. We are all so different in our own ways and we can learn a lot from those differences. Going into college, I thought that I was going to meet a bunch of new people that were just like me. Although that is partially true, most of my good friends I’ve met at school have actually been completely different than me.
2. Nobody cares what you’re wearing.
Wear what you like; wear it four days in a row. In college, nobody cares. You’ll see people in full suits and people in pajama pants on campus. Wear whatever you want because nobody actually cares. Nobody pays more attention to you than you do.
3. Do not spend time with anyone you don’t want to.
Maybe you’re like me and spent time with (most of) your high school friends because it was convenient and they were decently fun. But, like I did, it’s important to realize that you do not have to spend time with anyone you don’t want to. If someone is mean to you, you don’t have fun with them, or your values don’t line up, dump them. Trust me, you will be way better off in the end.
4. Do not do anything you don’t want to.
The cool thing about college is that nothing is required of you. Not class, not extracurriculars, not spending time with friends, and not parties. I mean yeah, if you never go to class eventually you’ll drop out, but you really don’t have to do anything you don’t want to. Nobody is going to ground you. Although this power can be abused, it’s a good thing to keep in mind for the situations that you really don’t want to be in.
5. Be open to all opportunities.
Take risks. Join a club that none of your friends are. Take an opportunity for Q&A with a professor before a test. Although risks can always end in failure, the reward is usually worth it.
6. Take advantage of office hours.
I once went into office hours with a professor that told me I was the only one in our class of 40 students that had come to office hours in the last two weeks. I was appalled. For me, office hours were a great way to get to know my professors, ask questions that I couldn’t in class, and get help before exams. It can be intimidating, but realize that your professors are teaching for a reason and want to help you. Still not convinced? Check out this handy guide I wrote.
7. Leave your door open.
I’m not sure why I didn’t do this. Maybe because I have really bad social anxiety. But this year, I’m making it a point to keep my door open (not because it’s my job, but because I want to). Your dorm is a great place to meet new people, but you won’t meet them unless you’re open to that possibility.
8. Eat to fuel your body.
Bad-for-you food is everywhere in college. It’s easy to say you’re not going to gain the freshman 15, but actually doing it is a whole different story. One thing that I learned is to think of food as fuel. You wouldn’t put anything but the best gasoline in your car, so why would you put anything but the best food in your body?
Note: Please eat. Food is good. Treat yourself every once in a while.
9. Your major can change at any point– and should, if you reach a point where you no longer enjoy what you’re studying.
I went into college thinking I would be a business major, graduate, and then get a job in some management position. Ha. For a while, I thought I could stick it out, study something I wasn’t passionate about, and be fine. But then I realized that I cannot be the truest version of myself if I do not make a lifestyle out of something I love.
10. Make studying a habit.
Do it every day, not just if you have a test or something due the next day. Look over your notes and spend time actually reading the required material for the class. You will be so grateful you spent so much time studying come finals week.
With all that being said, freshman year is a time to figure out how to do things on your own, find yourself, and begin to call a new place home. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will want to drop out. But I promise that if you give it a shot, wonderful things will happen.