It seems as though you’ve just got dropped off by your parents at summer camp. Classes are just about to start, but that hasn’t occupied your mind as much as figuring out the best room configuration for you and your roommate. You don’t remember having this much stuff when you were living at home, but now you’ve got to find a way to make it all fit. You’ve also got to decide whether your room will be the place to watch movies with everyone or if you’ll be traveling to another person’s dorm room. (It’s a big commitment to make, but all superheroes don’t wear capes. Edna Mode taught us best.) With a new journey about to begin and a lot on your mind, I’m here to give you some helpful tips that I wish I had known going into my freshman year of college.
1.) Go to as much of the freshmen events as you can.
I know this is probably the same information that your RA told you as well, but honestly, you really should go. While the people in your hall have already been cracking jokes about not going or saying that it’ll be lame, I encourage you to take the leap of faith that is tie-dying shirts in the courtyard. During my freshman year of college at UW-Eau Claire, we had this freshmen only event that was Battleship, but with people in canoes in the campus pool. Not only was this something that the nerdy person that I am dreamed about back in the day, but it also gave me an opportunity to try something new with people that I never met before. Again, while these events may get a lot of flack initially, they are a perfect opportunity for you to form a social circle with people in and outside of your residence hall.
2.) Just go to class.
You’re on your own for the first time and it’s going to be so tempting to want to skip class to watch “The Office” in your dorm room. Just go to class. It’ll save you a lot of time thinking about what you missed and trying to get notes from a classmate. Professor’s absence policies will vary, but they usually give you at least one excused day with no questions asked. Save that skip day for when it’s snowing, freezing cold, and you’re trying to binge watch Friends before it’s taken off of Netflix at the end of December. Trust me on this one.
3.) Join an intramural team.
Not all of us can be playing sports at the college level and that’s where intramurals come into play. While some people may treat intramurals like they’re being scouted by professional sports teams, most people just like being on a team with people they like hanging out with. It’s a great excuse to stay active and avoid the “Freshmen 15” that finds even the most health conscious individuals in college. Plus, if your team wins, you’ll get a cup and t-shirt that you can pull down from the cupboard from time to time when you’re older. I know it sounds strange, but you’ll want to tell your grandkids about the time you caught a game winning touchdown pass to propel you and your witty team name to victory.
4.) Take advantage of your meal plan.
Whether you have a limited number of meals you can get per day or you have an unlimited plan; take advantage of the meals available to you. Not only is “the caf” a good excuse to be social with people in your hall, it also is the one time in college where you don’t have to do your dishes or make a meal. When you move off campus one day, you may not miss the overall food quality that your college cafeteria has to offer, but you’ll sure as heck miss the convenience. Also, I shouldn’t have to tell you this, but be sure to treat the cafeteria staff with respect. Many of the workers there are college students just like you or are men and women trying their best to make ends meet. Don’t fill up your cups with peanut butter and then stuff a napkin in them. (Wow, Dalton. That’s oddly specific. Yes, yes it is. That’s because I saw it many times before and I could only imagine the curse words that the dishwasher would utter/ thoughts they would think.)
5.) Go to the library, but don’t live there.
Grades and your studies should be important to you, but don’t get so caught up in your coursework that you forget to enjoy yourself while at school. They say that college is the best four years of your life and I’d say they are pretty spot on with that. Take the time to make memories along the way. The key to succeeding in college is finding your balance with time management. It’s about making the time to study, but also making the time to go to half priced apps at Applebee’s with people from your hall. What works for one individual might not work for another, so it has to be tailored to suit you. Not anyone else. This is the most freedom you’ve had in your life and that can be overwhelming sometimes, but find your balance and try to stick to it the best you can.
6.) Find your people.
Nobody is forcing you to be friends with anybody. You get a clean slate. This could be a time to reinvent yourself if you feel called to or this could be your opportunity to stay true to the way you were brought up. The decision is yours, but I urge you not to be somebody you don’t recognize in the mirror. Whatever you choose to be, find your people that are going to bring out the better side of you. Find your people that are going to breathe life into you and support you. College isn’t always good times and good vibes and you’re going to need some great friends in your corner. Don’t worry if you don’t find them right away during your first week or even first semester; they’ll come.
7.) Make time to call your parents.
No, your parents didn’t tell me to put this in here, but it’s something I wish I would have done. It’s easy to get caught up in the craziness of balancing like your class schedule, social schedule, and your work schedule, but make the time to call your folks every other week just to check in. They’ll love to hear your voice and to hear how things are going. You don’t have to go into every little detail, but let them know you appreciate their support. They’re proud of you.
8.) Keep Christ in your life.
College is a time when people tend to drift away from their faith, but there’s no better time to lean into Him. You have so many people your age around you that you can form small groups with and have meaningful discussions about your faith with. College can be lonely at times and it’s nice to have people you can walk in faith with. This goes back to finding your people. Get plugged into an on campus ministry or even if you hosted a small Bible study in the dorms. (That’s a big leap of faith, but so rewarding.) It’s something I wish I would’ve done earlier and I didn’t begin taking my faith seriously in college until my junior year. The relationships I formed through pursuing God together with my friends are some of the best times I had at college. Those are relationships that will last a lifetime.
While I don’t have everything figured out, my hope is that you are able to take something away from this letter. You’re going to do great and I encourage you to make many memories along the way! Nothing but the best is yet to come.
- Dalton Hessel