You know, as crazy as it is that I'm about to be completely finished with my freshman year, I can't help but think back. We all do it; we think back to our first college party, our first college friend, our first college crush, our first all-nighter, or our first time really being independent from our parental units. It's no secret that freshman year is full of firsts and new experiences. And it's no secret that college comes with a heavier workload, more independence, and a little bit of "culture shock" so to speak. Entering this totally new world and environment, it's expected that surprises and unexpected or unusual situations lie around every corner. That being said, I decided to reach out to my fellow freshies not only from my university, but from colleges all around the state of Indiana to answer the question: what did they not tell you about freshman year?
The overwhelming response I received ranged from the good to the bad, from the unexpected to necessary evils. One response I received from a girl I graduated with that attends a medium-sized state university read,
"I didn't know that I was going to have to plan my entire day all by myself. I didn't realize how structured my life was while I was in high school. Going to school, eating lunch, and doing my homework at the same time every day for years became such a habit I didn't even think twice about it. But, in college, everything is on your own time. It's a tough transition but you have to learn what works best for you and for your schedule."
I can definitely relate to this! Time management became an issue for me first semester because I actually had to make time for studying and homework, whereas in high school I didn't. Another response I received was along the same lines, stating that the transition was harder than she expected it to be. Retrospectively speaking, I was told that "you have to study in college, Jayde!" and I blew it off thinking that I would learn eventually. Don't do that. The same girl aforementioned also went on to claim her love for her planner. "My planner is my actual BFF," she told me, "I write everything from lunch dates to assignments to club meetings down. I even plan my naps accordingly. It may seem crazy to be that organized but it works for me". Time is precious, and it becomes even more precious in college when every minute is taken up by one thing or another.
Aside from time management and how that plays into your transition, I also received responses talking about other freshmen's social lives. One response read that she didn't realize how difficult it was to make friends that you hadn't already known your whole life. (Disclaimer/side note: I graduated from a small high school with a class of about 135 and we all grew up together) I also got the response that making friends actually became easier as college went on. Being forced in awkward orientation activities and the oh so memorable ice-breaker games we'd play to become acquaintances actually blossomed some pretty awesome friendships.
I also received responses about how you change as a person, whether it be for the better or the worse. One girl said that she exercised regularly and ate pretty healthily and still managed to gain weight. She said that she had been warned about the dreaded "freshman fifteen" so she did what she could to avoid it, and she still gained a little bit. Part of her response read,
"Nobody tells you that you're going to get bigger in college!! I think it's all stress-related, and nobody told me that I was going to need to manage my stress so closely".
So let this be a lesson to make sure you manage your stress properly so you can keep your body in its best shape.
I also received some responses about the stuff nobody wants to talk about or that nobody wants to warn you about. As humans, we typically want to be optimistic. And as we enter this new and scary stage in our lives, nobody wants to add more pressure. We want the process to be as painless as possible, understandably so. Like I talked about earlier, time management is vital. But the management goes far beyond just deciding when you'll take a nap on Tuesday or when you'll study for your statistics exam. This management is of your personal affairs: friends, both on campus and off, relationships, family, and work. One response I received summed it up best:
"No one told us that managing friends, relationships, school, family, and work would be so hard."
I mean, it is hard. I would've rather been warned and wary about the difficulty of managing all of those things than be slapped in the face with reality when it came around. In my personal experience, it was hard for me to keep up with some of my friends after we started at our respective schools. Me and my best friend would get into arguments over silly things because, while we wanted to be there and wanted to understand, we were in two different places with two totally different situations. Life really has a way of changing everything, and this rings especially true for college. It's hard to realize that the people you thought you'd always be friends with aren't in the same places as you are anymore. It's a situation that forces you to grow up faster than you wanted to.
Despite what you may think, not all the responses I received were negative. I got a response from someone that said,
"Nobody told me that I was going to meet some of the best friends I've ever had."
That response really warmed my heart because I could totally relate to that. The friends we find here are some of the best ones we'll ever have, and they'll teach us things that our friends in high school couldn't or didn't. Your college BFFs will be the ones that hold you while you're crying over a bad exam grade, give you water when you went out and had a little too much fun, and the ones that will totally be up to sledding and exploring campus late at night. College friends are really special, and nobody really tells you that; you just kind of figure it out on your own.
The last response I received was my favorite, and it read:
"College is a leap of faith. Nobody tells you that you have to go with the flow and hope that it takes you where you want to go. Nobody tells you that you have to trust your gut with decisions, and to just go for it. You don't want to have regrets."
I think the most important thing I've learned throughout my freshman year is that nobody really knows how to "college" quite yet, and everybody is in the same boat as you. Everyone is trying to make the best out of tough situations, and you really just have to go with the flow. College is this big leap of faith within itself, and you never really stop wandering blindly.
So maybe there are a few things that they didn't cover during our orientation, but rest assured, we're all doing okay. We've cried a little (or maybe a lot), we've lived some, we've learned a lot, and our journey isn't anywhere near being over. Freshman year was great despite every little surprise, and as the class of 2020 gets ready to step into our shoes, remember how we felt, my dear class of 2019.
Class of 2020, get ready to take this leap of faith.
Lead image credit: Jayde Anzola