This time last year, everyone had senioritis, was busy with college decisions and was skipping class to go out to lunch on sunny days in April and May, generally enjoying all of the things everyone says are great about senior year. Those memories mean even more looking back at them, because when August came around, all of those people you spent every second with went be going their separate ways, and you knew you wouldn't see some of them until another whole school year had past.
I know as well as anyone that keeping up with friends can get lost in the endless to-do lists college life piles on top of us, but I decided to go back and ask some of my friends who have split up all over the east coast what they've taken away from their first year away at school.
1. Find a small group you can feel comfortable with at a big school.
"I learned how important it is to get involved and join things related to your major/interest; you meet people really similar to you and it makes a big school like RU feel like home."
–Marissa Scognamiglio, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
2. Don't be afraid to reinvent yourself.
"The most important thing I learned this year is that college is a way to reinvent yourself. All of the ideas, notions and expectations of what you were in high school are no longer a thing. College gives you a clean slate to let you be whoever you want to be."
–Jeffery Toth, Ramapo College of New Jersey, Mahwah, New Jersey.
3. Be able to take care of yourself, instead of feeling you have to do everything.
"I've learned that with college comes what seems to be boundless freedom. At first, it's exciting because you don't have someone constantly telling you when to eat, what time to go to bed or waking you up in the morning, but then you slowly start to miss those authority figures — and that's totally OK. You don't always have to be on your own. Taking a break, asking for help and seeking support is something that is so integral."
– Priyanka Eluri, Pace University, New York, New York.
4. Break out of your comfort zone.
"I learned a lot about who I am as a person and that I've always had a tendency to back out of things that seem uncertain or just not something I would typically think I'll like or be comfortable with. When I have the most aversion to something, things usually work out the best when I just force myself to do it. I've had some of the best experiences breaking out of my shell. It's just totally okay to do things that make you a little uncomfortable because you learn the most and make the most memories that way."
- Brandon Guagliardo, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware.
6. Be conscious of emotional, as well as intellectual, growth.
"Having an IQ is important for college, but the real important thing is an emotional intelligence. That has the personable skills to make you stand out and succeed, like going out and networking freshman year and improving your maturity with others."
– Nicole Bommer, Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania.
7. Put yourself out there.
"The most important thing I learned this year is that it's important to branch out and get involved. Even though it was hard at first, I would be in a completely different place right now had I not gotten myself so involved around campus."
– Jaime Plitnick, Ramapo College of New Jersey, Mahwah, New Jersey.
8. Have fun, but know your limit when partying.
"I learned about self-control and tolerance. Going out or having fun can quickly turn into something serious if you aren't careful or aware of your limit."
– Joe Calderone, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey.
9. Organization is Key.
"Going to college honestly feels like entering a completely new — you feel like such a changed person. But besides my newfound love for econ (says no one ever) college has taught me the importance of organization first and foremost: how to live solely through the use of a color coded planner, just to at least pretend my life is together. College has also taught me to feel so thankful for my parents, because even amongst all the new friends and freedom, I miss the little things my parents used to do with me, even if it was as simple as watching TV on a Sunday night."
– Sam Jaeger, University of Richmond, Richmond, Virginia.
10. Sometimes it's the people, not the classes, that you learn the most from.
"This year I learned that no matter where you're studying, you can turn it into somewhere you want to be. I had the privilege of working with so many people this year who are motivated, hard working and inspired, but most of all, amazing at what they do. I watched people make movies and produce entire shows from scratch, by themselves, and through those processes, I learned more than I think I ever could have in a classroom. I am so grateful to the talented friends I made this year, and can't wait to continue to learn and grow from the things they were able to show me these past few months."
– Hannah Wunder, Ramapo College of New Jersey, Mahwah, New Jersey.
Even though the majority of college students spend their first two semesters in the same types of general education classes, just like in high school, the overall increase of freedoms and the ability to choose the people you surround yourself with, and what you do with them, paves the way for a highly individualized experience from person to person. College is different from anything any of us has experienced before, and by talking with my friends, both old and new, I've discovered that we may have a lot more to learn from each other than we thought, because every person really does take away something completely unique from their first year away at college.
Lead Image Credit: Pexels
Editor's note: Some comments have been edited for clarity.