The first day of school has been a staple event in our lives for as long as most of us can remember. In the days leading up to this affair, we spend time coordinating the perfect outfit, fighting off suburban moms in line at Target for whatever supply scraps remain and hyping ourselves up that this year will, undoubtedly, be the best thus far.
This perception is unquestionably present freshman year. Freshman year is a chance to expel any preconceived notions about who you’re supposed to be. It’s an opportunity for a fresh start. College is the land of opportunities. It can be our best scholar, even beyond the bounds of our syllabi.
As I roll out of bed this year, with hair that has barely seen a brush in days, no possible idea of what I’ll throw on to wear and checking my class schedule to figure out where the hell I’m even going today, I can’t help but to be overwhelmed with nostalgia. I blinked and it was senior year. If there was one thing my senior self could gift my past freshman self, it would be what I know now that I wish I knew then.
First and foremost, I wish I had just showed up. Freshman year, without a doubt, is the only “easy” year college students will have, for a multitude of reasons. Most students are in the dorms—they don’t have to worry about paying rent from month to month, the stress of WiFi bills, or the simple fact that 100-level classes can be a walk in the park. What many teachers don’t tell you is that freshman year sets the precedent for the rest of your college career. Show up. If you don’t make it a priority to make it to class every day, don’t think that mentality will change.
College is a difficult time; however, there are countless resources around campus such as the Writing Center and internship counselors. If you need help, seek it. More often than not, many of your professors won’t think twice about you. You’re a minute crustacean in a deep sea. That doesn’t mean you’re alone. That’s where outside sources can become your best friend.
College is a time of self-exploration. Many people come into college with preconceived ideas. Some think their high school sweetheart is their soulmate. Others select programs to major in based solely off parent’s wishes. One of the best privileges of college students is having the opportunity to be a blank slate, submerged in a melting pot of diversity. Let your college experiences define you, leave preconceived ideas behind.
One of the most important things I wish I told myself was to calm down. There were countless times when I stressed myself out to the point of no return. Anxiety stripped me of sleep. Often times I would even worry myself into failing tests. Instead, take a deep breath and realize life post test (whether pass or fail) will go on. Instead of freaking out I wish I accepted that mental health days were necessary. Don’t push yourself to the brink of insanity. There are days when college will push you far enough, without help from your own self doubt.
The most important thing I wish I could’ve told my freshman self is that it goes fast. I spent freshman, sophomore and junior year wishing away my college days, just wanting to be a senior drinking mimosas at the Wal. Now that that’s only around the corner I wish I was a freshman, surviving on milk and cereal from leftover swipes.
College will be challenging. There will be sleepless nights, internal battles about whether or not to attend your 8 a.m. and times when your beliefs will be challenged. If I could tell my freshman self something I know now, it would be to embrace it all.
Ali is studying journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @AliSchultzzz.