Hello! I was wondering if you could answer some of my questions about the college experience to help me with my series. I feel asking about someone’s actual experience is a better, more personalized source, so thank you for taking the time to help me! (This most likely will be divided into two parts due to length.) Feel free to ignore any question you feel is too personal. I’ll understand! What are some difficulties a college freshman may face, and how would one overcome these difficulties?… (1)

… (2) If you know, what’s like to balance school, work, and social life? What was the best part about college? What was the worst? What’re some difficulties you’ve had over the school years? What parts were you nervous about? What’s college orientation like? What were most of your classes like and how were professor interactions at your school? If you know, how do you deal with romantic feelings during this period of your life? Are there other important things I should know? Thank you so much!!

Hi! I hope I’m not too late on this one!

Difficulties as a freshman:

It may be hard to be away from home. You have to make sure you eat, sleep, and go to class–without any help from your parents. You have to do your homework and studying in an environment that is tempting–there are friends and parties and ice-cream socials. You have to make choices for yourself about what your priorities are.

These difficulties all come from responsibility and self-control. Up until this point, you’ve had guardians to tell you what you need to do and when to do it and how to do it. You have to set your alarms and actually get up and go.

Try to do your daily stuff at least by the night before. Set out your clothes, set multiple alarms, and don’t wait until the day it’s due to do your homework.

I really recommend getting a planner. Write down everything. Take thorough notes and absolutely write down anything that sounds like homework. Put little check boxes in your planner so you can see what you need to do and how much you’ve finished.

Your professors expect you to turn in your homework, whether they ask you for it or not. If they don’t ask for it, put it on their desk as you leave the class!

Get to class 15 minutes early. Seriously, you’ll thank me later. That buffer time will help if you get stuck in traffic or run into someone you know.

Don’t forget to eat! Seriously. Bring snacks to class if necessary.

Carry a small umbrella everywhere. Trust me on this.

Read the syllabus! Read it. It’ll tell you helpful things like rules, homework schedules, and contact info. Highlight the most important stuff.

Balancing school and work and being social is a little tricky. You just need to ensure that you get your homework and projects done on time. Sometimes, you have to say no to ice cream. It sucks, but your friends will understand. And if they don’t, find new friends.

There are SO many different types of people on campus. You don’t have to stay friends with people you hate. Make friends on your dorm floor. You’ll be very glad you did.

Make friends in your classes too. Make sure you get their contact info too, in case you miss class and need notes.

Don’t miss class unless you’re contagious or dying. There are a million reasons to go to class. Just do it.

One of the things I loved the most about college was learning things that were actually interesting to me–and challenging. The hard classes are awesome. If you don’t believe me, take a bunch of super-easy classes and feel the boredom set in. Pick classes that will keep you on your toes and your mind active.

One of the worst things is ending up being around terrible people for too long. It screws up your ability to do… well, basically everything.

Keep in touch with your professors. Let them know what’s going on if you need to miss class or if you’re unable to do the work.

And when I say “dying” or “unable,” I mean more than just “I don’t wanna.”

My biggest difficulties were managing romantic relationships and crushes. If you have a crush on a classmate and they get a girlfriend, you WILL end up seeing them make out before your class starts. Break-ups and abusive relationships will mess you up. I’m not saying to avoid dating, but it does complicate matters quite a bit. Take it in stride as much as you can. Remember, in a few years, you may never see these people again.

Things that made me nervous? Sometimes, going to class. I have anxiety and sometimes had days where my chest would get all tight just thinking about sitting in class and talking and pop quizzes and making my professors proud and getting good grades… Try not to psych yourself out–just go to class.

Taking your core classes is also a bit nerve-wracking. And being around professors who don’t let you suck up to them! (I’m a massive suck-up. It does a lot of good. It can be the difference between an A and a B or a C and a B.)

Finals are scary, but I found that just keeping up with the material all semester makes your finals feel easy and natural.

Orientation was a week-long thing (and a different day when registration was done). It gives you an idea of what going to classes will be like, and they’ll dispel common college myths. For example, there is NO 15-minute rule. Some people will tell you that you can go home if the professor doesn’t show up within the first 15 minutes of when class should be. If they show up 16 minutes late and you’re gone, then you’re absent.

Speaking of which, check your e-mail!! Every day! All day! Always check your e-mail before class and before you go to bed–AT MINIMUM.

You also get to know the campus and where all the buildings are. There will be little events to get to know your floormates and dormmates and other freshmen. Take advantage of it.

All classes are different. But they all have high expectations for you. Some classrooms will be casual, but you should aim for being on task. Don’t check your phone during class. Facebook can wait. Do your best to focus and listen and take it seriously. Don’t talk when other people are talking, no matter who they are or what they’re saying.

Your professors know that you don’t HAVE to be there. It’s up to you to treat them and the class itself with respect. If you don’t want to be there, don’t show up and distract everyone who actually wants to learn.

Take. Notes. Do it. Write down homework assignments. Check your syllabus for the schedule. If they have online stuff for the class, check it at least once a day.

Don’t be afraid of asking questions. Someone else is wondering whatever you are.

Ask for help. Go to office hours. E-mail your professors. If you show them that you’re willing to learn and that you’re not just there to get a C or whatever, then they will help you. If they won’t help you, ask your classmates, your siblings, your family, a tutor. Doesn’t matter who. Just get help. Don’t wait until finals to realize you don’t know anything. There are tutoring services on campus. USE THEM.

Your professors expect you to take things seriously. If you just ask “what’s my grade?” they might not be too thrilled. Ask them how you’re doing, how you can improve. Again, don’t wait until finals.

Most of them will be understanding and want to help you if you show that learning actually matters to you. They get tons of students every day, every semester, every year that don’t give a crap. They have no time or energy for students who don’t want to try. Just do your best and be honest and friendly.

Romance, as I said before, is sometimes a big complication. If you know for a fact that you have too much homework and studying, then you might not want to invest in a relationship during that time. Or make sure the person you’re interested in is fine with not seeing you every day. You need to balance your work/love load. Too much of one detracts a lot from the other. It helps to date someone in the same place as you are. Dating a senior as a freshman just ends with that person graduating and being emotionally and physically somewhere else. Dating someone who didn’t go to college may have a hard time understanding your priorities. Dating someone younger than you may prove difficult because they’re still in high school. That creates various types of distance, but you can make it work if you try. (I’ve dated all 3 of those.)

My personal feelings: if they don’t jump out at you as someone you NEED to spend time with, don’t bother. Focus on personality. Sometimes, people aren’t what they seem, so keep your heart open. But it’s never worked out for me to spend time with people who I don’t feel seriously compelled to be around. I am on the asexual spectrum and didn’t get my first boyfriend until the end of my freshman year of college, so I’m not necessarily the best person to ask about this.

Other important things:

  • Help other people whenever you can.
  • Scan your notes and print copies for people who weren’t in class.
  • Keep your eye on the weather.
  • Get coloring books and other crafty, creative activities to get your mind off things.
  • If you absolutely have to stay in and watch Netflix, try do it with people on your floor so you can make stronger bonds with potential friends.
  • Call your family at least a few times a week.
  • Don’t go home for the first few weeks. Those are the core times to make important friendships.
  • Join clubs or teams or other campus organizations.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Have notebooks and paper and pens/pencils everywhere you go.
  • Get rid of meal plans when you can. They cost double (or more) whatever you would actually spend on food.
  • Don’t listen to people who tell you how to live your life.
  • People who tell you to move off campus or you aren’t an adult–they don’t know you. Do what works best for you.
  • Save your work often. Use a flash drive. Campus computers may not save your work.
  • Don’t refer to your professors as “teachers.” They really, really hate that.
  • If you see a dog or cat or other pet, ask their owner if you can pet the animal. It’s worth it.
  • Other people, no matter how nice they seem or how attractive they are, may not have your best interests in mind. Get to know them first.
  • If people tell you that you can’t do or be or like the things that make you happy, they don’t actually care about you.
  • You are allowed to be whatever gender or religion you most identify with. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
  • You are a darling, lovely individual who deserves love and happiness. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
  • You are worthy of being in college or wherever you are in life. You can do anything if you put your mind to it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

I hope this helps! I also went to grad school, so please–everyone–feel free to ask me more questions about college and school and life in general.

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