Are you ready for your first semester of college?
This is what you have been waiting for: the first day of college! You applied, you were accepted, and now you’re there, living on the campus you’ve dreamed of for so long! So why are you feeling so weird? Why doesn’t it feel the way you thought it would? Are you suddenly suffering from freshman “buyer’s remorse?” The truth is you might not love your college that first semester, and that’s okay. Let’s look back at my experience…
The scene: Columbus Day weekend, October 2000. The setting: a local diner. The cast: 20 of my “closest friends” from high school and I, all freshly back from our first few weeks of college.
I can vividly remember what felt like speed dating as we rotated around that diner, from chair to chair and person to person, shouting out our questions: “How do you like UVA?” or “How is Georgetown?” It seemed like everyone had the same response: “Oh my God, I love it!”
But I, for one, did NOT love my college those first few days of school. Not at all. Nor did I grow to love it those first few weeks or even months. And I felt like a freak. How could I not love the college I had dreamt of attending my whole life? What was wrong with me?
I didn’t have anyone there to tell me the obvious: Love. Takes. Time. Your relationship with your college will probably not be love at first sight. More likely, your relationship with your college will take time to cultivate and grow. It is a HUGE transition; and like most relationships (many of which DO turn into love), there will be interest, nerves, excitement, doubts, fear of the unknown. It will take time.
It’s okay—and very normal!—to feel uncertain about those first few weeks of college. But if you do, here are a few tips you might consider for working through those freshman jitters:
Maybe Casino Night was not the most fun you have ever had in your life. That’s okay. Be honest about how you are feeling (overwhelmed, homesick, anxious), and it might open the door for others who are feeling the same way but are too afraid to say so.
Go to the events. Try out for the teams. Join the clubs.
There are so many readings, speakers, sports games, and movie nights happening on campus; go to them. Try out for anything that interests you, even if you are scared. If you try out for the play/the sport/the club, you have a better chance of meeting people with similar interests, who very well may become your friends for life.
Keep calm. You belong.
Now that you are finally attending your dream school, you might have a case of the “how the heck did I get into this college when everyone here is clearly so much better than I am?” syndrome. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, like a small fish in a big pond, remember: this college wanted you for a reason. It is not an accident that you are there, and you can learn SO MUCH from those amazing people around you, especially the ones who offer such different points of view and bring such singular life experiences to the table. Because you are at the table with them.
Learn from your roommates.
It’s kind of unnatural to be 18 years old and suddenly forced into bunk beds with a perfect stranger, but you very well may find yourself learning more from the experience of living with others than you will from any textbook you read over the next four years. Some roommates will be friends for life; others won’t. And they don’t have to be: you just have to be able to live with them.
When in doubt, seek counseling out.
If all else fails and you’re still feeling pretty awful by the holidays, please seek out the counseling services offered on your campus. There are so many resources available to you, and all it takes is a phone call or a quick pop by the health center to get yourself back on the right path. There is NOTHING shameful about being proactive about your anxiety, depression, homesickness, etc. You got into college because you’re smart. Please be smart about this.
I realize I am writing a blog post that probably will be meaningless to the majority of you reading it, those of you who will find yourselves feeling happy and right at home on your new campus come fall. I’m glad for that.
But to that one guy or girl who might feel like a freak because he or she did not enjoy Casino Night, I’m here for you to say: You don’t have to. And it will get better.