Whether you’re majoring in business, nursing, communications, education or anything in between, there are many universal lessons we all come to learn within the first semester of college. For the vast majority of college freshmen, it’s our first time away from home; we’ve learned to be independent, to advocate for ourselves, to manage our own time, to be responsible and, most importantly, to be ourselves. We’ve had our ups and downs, we’ve laughed, we’ve cried, but somehow, we’ve made it through our first semester and winter break is now upon us. Here are just a few ideologies I’ve adopted since move-in-day back in September.
1. Your upbringing may vastly differ from somebody else’s.
My campus may be small, but our student body represents all walks of life. Growing up, I didn’t really know anyone who didn’t live in an upper-middle-class suburb of a major city. However, since starting school, I’ve met people from right next to Boston (where I go to school), to the midwest, to China and I now know students who grew up in farm towns and students who grew up in cities. My peers come from so many different places, cultures, religions and socio-economic backgrounds. It’s safe to say I have a much better comprehension of how diverse our world really is now that I’m out of my small suburban town.
2. You can make your own decisions, so do what’s best for you.
Your mom won’t be there to keep you from eating pizza every night. You likely won’t be punished for staying out all night, and nobody’s going to hunt you down and reprimand you for skipping class. With all these temptations, you may find yourself making deals with the Devil and doing things you’ll eventually come to regret. It’s important to remember that your continued freedom depends on your ability to be responsible and make good decisions. Eat a salad every now and then, go to the classes you’re paying so much money for and get adequate sleep.
3. Good study habits are essential.
Some people already know and live by this advice; however, for many, high school was a breeze and one could get by with solid grades simply because they’re smart. In college, the professor is there to act more as a facilitator and provider of information, because at this level, it’s ultimately your responsibility to teach, and reteach yourself the material. For some, this may mean group study sessions, others may make up flash cards, markup readings or visit the library for a quiet, distraction-free environment for a certain amount of time each week. There are many different methods of effective studying, so the key is to find what works best for you. You may find that you no longer get the results you desire if you omit studying completely.
4. It’s OK to be unsure of your major or career preference.
In high school, teachers, guidance counselors and peers would sometimes make it feel like you had to have your entire life mapped out by the time you turned 18. The reality is a lot of people don’t figure out what they want until they’ve spent a little time in college exploring their options. I know people who know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their lives, people who thought they knew in September but have since changed their mind and people who are still torn between a few options. If you truly don’t know, there are opportunities to take new classes and participate in a variety of extracurriculars or service opportunities that may give you some hints. At most colleges and universities, you don’t have to declare your major until sometime sophomore year.
5. You may be exposed to new ideas...and you may not always like them.
One of the great things about college is that you may find your personal opinions and beliefs challenged. This may not sound like fun, but in the end you’ll be thankful for this opportunity. When you’re exposed to new ideas, you either learn something new and open your mind, or you are put on the spot and forced to defend yourself with facts and the art of persuasion, a skill you’ll likely need to develop for the professional world anyway.
6. College is an incredible experience.
You may find yourself more stressed out than ever before, but you may also find yourself staying up late on a Friday night laughing and singing with some of the coolest people you’ve ever met. You may find yourself missing home, but you may also find yourself learning how to live independently and experience all your new community has to offer. In other words, college has brought about a multitude of new emotions and experiences, some negative, but many positive, and having this opportunity has ultimately taught me a lot about myself.
It’s hard to believe we're finished with our first semester of college. Take some time to look back this holiday season. What have you learned or experienced? What were some positives and negatives? How can you make next semester even better? Without realizing it, we’ve already grown a lot in the past three or four months, and we’re on our way to a bright and successful future.
Lead Image Credit: Nik MacMillan via Unsplash