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Five Lessons Learned I Wish I Knew before I Started College

Kathleen Moyer | May 26, 2015

Dear Freshman Me,

Today is your first day of college. I know that you’re nervous and excited about starting this new chapter of your life. That’s understandable, as the next four years of your life will be both the most fulfilling and the most stressful you’ve experienced. I won’t lie; there will be days when it will seem like you won’t make it to graduation, when you’re so overwhelmed that you won’t know how you can possibly complete everything that you have to do, but you will. Not only will you graduate with honors in four years, but you’ll also tremendously grow as a person over the years, and have the best time of your life. That being said, there are some things that I wish I had known as a freshman. I’m writing now to give you my words of wisdom, as a La Salle graduate.

First, don’t stress about finding the right major. I know this is one of your biggest concerns right now. You don’t know what you want to do, you feel like you have no direction, and you’re afraid of choosing something that you’ll end up hating. Calm down. You will figure it out, and everything will fall into place over the next few years. Don’t feel pressured to rush into the decision. By the end of your sophomore year, you’ll choose a major, but you’ll still be a little unsure of whether it’s the right one for you. During your junior year, you’ll get a sense of what direction you’d like to go with that major. By the end your senior year you’ll be sure that you’ve chosen the right major, you’ll know exactly what type of work you’d like to do in your career, you’ll have specific career goals, and you’ll have a dream job in mind. Don’t worry so much about this decision. Listen to the guidance of your adviser, and let your developing interests and skills take you in the right direction.

I know that you’re also worried about making new friends and figuring out where you’ll fit in socially. Over the next four years, you’ll make more friends than you’ve had throughout your whole life. However, this will only come about as you learn to open up more. Don’t be afraid to talk to new people. Break out of your shell, and step out of your comfort zone. You’ll end up meeting a ton of people, some of whom will end up becoming your best friends. These friends will help make your college experience memorable, and will help you through some rough times ahead of you. You may still have some reservations about opening up by the time you graduate, but you’ll be surprised by how much you change over the years. You may not even notice how much you’ve come out of your shell, but those who know you now will be shocked by how different you are in 2015. The key to this is opening up and letting go of your fears about how others will perceive you.

Something that will help you do this is getting involved. It will be a little more difficult to find clubs and organizations that you can be involved in as a commuter, but keep looking until you find some that interest you. Don’t wait until your junior or senior year to get very involved.  It’s better to become involved during your first year, because, as I discovered over the years, your college experience becomes increasingly more enjoyable as you join more organizations, clubs, and committees. Attending programs and going on bus trips can also help you have a memorable college experience. Don’t let the next four years go by without taking advantage of the opportunities you’ll be presented with.

One of the most important things you need to know going into college is to trust your gut. You’ll have to make a lot of tough decisions in the coming years, and a lot of them will require you to simply follow what your gut says. You’re interested in something, but just don’t feel like you can turn it into a successful career? Don’t major in it. A relationship doesn’t feel right? End it. The “college culture” tells you that you should behave a certain way, but you don’t want to? Don’t. A friendship feels like it’s turning toxic? Let it go. In the end, your gut is always right when you’re faced with these issues. Never ignore it. You’ll be happier and healthier if you follow it.

There are other habits you should start to adopt in college, in order to lead a heathier life.  I know that you’re used to eating pizza, fries, soda, and those delicious M&M cookies from your high school cafeteria for lunch almost every day, but you can’t keep eating that way, or all of that junk food will catch up to you.  Skip the pizza and get a salad or some sushi for lunch. You’ll feel more energetic and more confident when you start eating healthier foods. However, if you slip up, don’t beat yourself up; you deserve a treat every once in a while. Also, take advantage of the gym while you’re here. This is the only time in your life when you’ll be able to go to a gym for free. Start working out ASAP – it feels good and it’s a great stress reliever. It’s also important to stay mentally healthy throughout college. That means don’t overwork yourself.  I know that that’s difficult to do when you’re a perfectionist. Know when to stop studying. Studying for thirteen hours straight is not necessary. You need sleep – and four hours of sleep a night is not enough. Don’t make that the norm. Take care of yourself, because unhealthy habits will be harder to break after college.

An extremely important thing to keep in mind over the next few years – and throughout your whole life – is love yourself. Some people will try to put you down and make you feel bad about yourself, and some may succeed. Some people will discourage you from pursing your goals. Know, at the end of the day, that they’re all wrong. The people who put you down know nothing about you, and the people who discourage you have no idea what’s best for you. Don’t let them get to you, and never compare yourself or your life to others. Loving yourself involves accepting yourself, being confident in what you want, and standing up for those things. Like Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Don’t let anyone put you down, and if they try to, tell them exactly why they’re wrong. Accept who you are, including your flaws, and learn to love yourself.

Although college can be stressful, you have to remember to have fun. These will be some of the best years of your life. Don’t waste them away by obsessing over your work. You can still get As without studying for hours on end and relentlessly proofreading papers. Do your work and keep your grades up, but try to leave time for fun. Go out with friends regularly. If you don’t, you’ll regret it after you graduate and you’re no longer all together. Enjoy these next four years, and make lots of memories you can look back on.

This is a new chapter in your life; make the best of it. Live, learn, and love. It may seem like you’ll be here forever, but believe me, the time will fly faster than you can imagine. I know it did for me.

 

Good luck,

Graduate me