It’s been just about seven years since my freshman year of college started. I graduated over two years ago (yes, it took me five years but remember – I had a baby right in the middle of getting my degree!) However, it seems like it was just yesterday that my parents dropped me off at Horne Hall 52.
I cried for awhile, and then endured the inevitable awkwardness of meeting your roommates for the first time. Then I tried to figure out what to do with myself. I was on my own at the school I had dreamed of going to my whole life. I didn’t know any of my roommates; school was starting just two days later, and I was surrounded by lovely cinderblock walls. Yes, it was quite the exciting first day.
After a little bit of an adjustment period, I came to love being a freshman and adjusting to college life. Although there were some bumps throughout that year, it was one of my favorites of my time in college.
Thousands of 18-year-olds will be starting school in the next few weeks (or may have already started.) As I’ve watched my little brother prepare to leave for his freshman year at BYU, it’s brought back a lot of memories, and I have reflected on my freshman year. There’re some things I would have changed, and other things that went perfectly. So, I thought I’d share a letter to my college freshman self. I don’t claim to be infinitely wise now, but perhaps this will give some new freshman out there a little bit of encouragement…or inspiration…or a laugh!
Go to Class
I don’t care if it’s early, or you have lost your passion for sociology – go to class. You are paying money to attend college, so you need to take it seriously and attend those classes you are paying for. It probably wasn’t the best idea to sign up for 18 credits your first semester of college, nor was it smart to have a couple of classes at 8 AM. However, you willingly did that, so just go. Even if you feel like you can’t pay attention, at least you can say you tried.
I know you sometimes are a little self-conscious but don’t let that hold you back. You may feel like you are way less talented, smart, and fun than a lot of people you meet – but that doesn’t matter. You have something to add to the table too. It might be hard to get outside your comfort zone, but you will never regret doing that.
Follow Your Gut
Remember how much you loved your Introduction to Communications class so much and you couldn’t imagine majoring in something other than print journalism? Remember that feeling when you take another Comms class the next semester, and you have a professor who ruins it for you. It is not worth switching to five different majors over the next few years. Remember that one bad class doesn’t mean you should discount the entire major. Had you gone with your gut and stuck with that first major, you probably would have avoided unnecessary stress and classes!
On the flip side, make sure you take classes that aren’t just required for your degree or to graduate. There are so many neat classes that are available, and you never know what you may learn or who you might meet. The physical education classes are a nice change of pace from academic-based courses especially! Even if you don’t think you have an athletic bone in your body, consider taking one (hint – rumor has it that the flexibility class includes a nap during each class.)
This is such a great time to meet new people – be willing to put yourself out there and be the first to say hello. Try not to limit yourself either – there’re great people where you are living, and you should get to know them. However, you are on a huge campus! Get to know the people in your classes. You’ll meet some lifelong friends that way.
Surround yourself with uplifting people. It will make all the difference in your life if you spend time with people who are positive. If you don’t, you’ll become a little more negative yourself. Remember that you attract more bees with honey, and even if you don’t think someone deserves kindness (because there were will be a few mean people that you meet), always choose kindness.
Stay in touch with your friends from high school that are at the same college. They will always be your good friends – even long after you leave college. While it’s important to try and make new friends, be grateful that you’ve been blessed with wonderful friends already!
Loneliness is Inevitable
However, it’s not insurmountable. You will have times throughout your freshman year where all you want to do is hop on the next plane to Denver. Whether it’s because you are feeling so discouraged in class, you don’t feel like you fit in with your roommates, or you just feel like you have no one to talk to – I promise, it will pass. Everyone experiences those lonely times. As President Hinckley’s father told him on his mission – forget yourself and get to work. If you’re ever feeling bad about yourself or your situation, try and serve someone else. Chances are, there’s someone else who might need a little cheering up. And remember that you were blessed to have some awesome roommates your freshman year. Be grateful for them – they are good people that you can learn a lot from and are more than willing to be there for you when you are struggling – even if they leave you messages like this on your mirror 😉
Just because you can do whatever you want doesn’t mean you should
Staying up until 3 AM watching 24 isn’t probably the best idea you ever had. Especially since it made you not want to go to your 8 AM classes. While you never have been the type to rebel or do the wrong thing, your freshman year is a time to learn self-discipline and responsibility. It’s important to learn how to manage your time and make the best decisions for your future. Even though freshman year is a lot of fun, it can shape the rest of your college experience – you’ll have a hard time raising your GPA in future years if it starts out low!
That boy you dated freshman year? Don’t do it.
It will be the #1 regret of your college years. You should have probably taken it as a sign that the week you started dating this guy, you were asked on five other dates! When all your friends tell you not to date someone you are dating, and the person makes you question your self-worth on a regular basis, they aren’t worth the time or the tears. They might be good for someone – but that someone is not you. And even though you might feel like if someone who didn’t treat you very well wouldn’t want you, no one would…it’s not true. Just be grateful this relationship ended before you met your future husband. If anything good came from this relationship, it’s that it showed you how blessed you were to get out of it and be with someone who you were more equally yoked with.
You actually need to study in order to pass classes. You aren’t in high school anymore!
I know you rarely studied for anything in high school, and that you usually just did your homework while you were at school. Unfortunately, it seems as if you probably weren’t as challenged in high school as you should have been! College will be a big reality check for you as you realize that you actually have to study, go to TA office hours, and read your textbooks. It’s important to take notes and talk with your professor or a TA if you are confused. Because you will get confused and frustrated, and you might as well take advantage of all the resources there to help you!
Clean. Just do it.
Cleaning and being tidy has never been one of our strong suits. It’s something you need to make sure you do, especially when you live with roommates. While it may seem like you have more important things to do than do the dishes or pick up things in your room, it will not only make your apartment a more comfortable place, but you won’t drive your roommates crazy. Plus, it’s so much easier to move to a new apartment if you’ve kept things tidy!
Oh, and you really don’t need those binders from your high school Spanish class that you brought with you to college. Or half of the other random things you brought! Trust me, less is more when you are living in a world where you move every eight months or so.
Don’t judge a book by its cover
This can be applied to so many different situations in college – friends, boys, apartments, classes. The most fun date you’ll go on during your freshman year is with someone that you thought was totally dorky. You don’t have to live in a super nice apartment to have fun – in fact, you might find that people seem more down-to-earth in the less expensive, more broken down places. Isn’t part of growing up living in a couple ghetto-y places?!
And that girl that you thought was so annoying when you first talked to her? You might just get to know her on a hike and realize there was more to her than meets the eye…and she’ll become a good friend. If you don’t want people to judge you based on first impressions, do others the same courtesy.
Learn how to Budget and Meal Plan
You get $50 a week for food – that’s more than enough to get by. Make sure you budget it to last the entire week by actually plan your meals! While it might be tempting to just get food on campus from Taco Bell or Subway every day…that will eat away at your budget (and your waist line) quickly! You know how to cook – take the time to do it!
And don’t just use your credit card on whatever you want. You’ll learn quickly that credit cards should be for emergencies or purchases you have the cash for, but not without using it a little bit too much at first.
There’s so much to do around campus – opportunities to serve, meet others, play games, and learn…take advantage of all the free and inexpensive resources at your disposal. You don’t have to go to everything – and it’s important to keep your life balance and not overschedule yourself – but it’s worth it to get outside your comfort zone and try something new.
Family is everything.
This won’t be too hard for you, but make sure you sure you keep in contact with your family. The older you get, the more you’ll realize that family is so important. You may meet people who feel like family, and that’s great, but don’t forget about where you came from. Take advantage of the fact that your brother lives five minutes away, and that you can go see your sister and her family pretty easily. You won’t always live close to all your siblings, so enjoy the time you do have to see them.
(and just a note to anyone reading this – talk to your parents. Maybe not every week, but at least check-in and let them know you love them. They miss you. That’s not advice I would have given myself….because I texted or emailed my parents all the time. haha.)
It Goes Fast – Enjoy it
To be honest, your entire time in college will go fast. Before you know it, you’ll have your degree, a husband, a three-year-old, and another baby on the way. Your freshman year will be like no other year in college, so try to enjoy it. Enjoy doing silly things, taking fun classes, and figuring out how to live on your own. It’s one of the only times in your life where you can focus on just yourself! People expect freshman to be kind of weird and immature…so don’t feel like you have to grow up all the way your freshman year.
Remember that even if there are bad days, there will be many more good days. And remember what that song says – you’re gonna miss this! Be patient with yourself – the best is yet to come.
Katie is a Colorado-native, BYU graduated, and most importantly, wife to one and mother to three beautiful boys. She is passionate about sharing her experiences with others – especially about pregnancy, breastfeeding, cooking, and crafts. She is currently training to be a Certified Lactation Educator. She loves spending time with her family and helping others find joy in family life.