Greetings from your local senior! As part of the class of 2017, it’s my distinct privilege to look at all of you frosh and feel very, very old. Fortunately, there’s still some youth left in me…just enough to tell you the nine things I wish I’d known freshman year. Check out the tips below, and enjoy your first weekend of college!
1. It’s okay to admit that you’re having a tough time.
Freshman year of college is one of those major transitions where people like to pretend they’re having the time of their lives, even if they’ve never been lonelier. Social media can make it seem like you’re a loser for being worried about making friends or getting into the right classes, but trust me, you’re not. Your orientation buddies and roommate(s) are probably having the same thoughts, so don’t be afraid to break through the small talk and share your fears. You’ll feel better, and they might, too.
2. Many of your hallmates will become your best friends.
When someone told me this during my freshman year, I was skeptical. Really? I’m going to befriend the guy who blasts classic rock on his way to the hall bathroom? Yes, despite how much I cursed him out internally for not wearing headphones, he’s now one of my closest friends on campus.
I also met several of my future roommates just by living on the same hall. I don’t remember when I started thinking they were fun to hang out with—it’s the kind of friendship that sneaks up on you—but I assure you, it will happen with someone in your dorm. Let the communal space work its magic, and you’ll end up with a bestie for life.
3. Your love life will likely be a hot mess, but you’ll have stories to tell about it for the rest of college.
Here’s what I learned from a year-plus of the hookup scene: Being single at Wes is both exhilarating and awful. You can fool around to your heart’s content, but be prepared for the emotional rollercoaster that entails. Try not to ruin friendships over sex, and be clear about what you want out of your time with each partner. (It’s better to find out sooner than later whether they’re looking for something long term.)
If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, “Thank goodness I’ve got my wonderful significant other back home,” I have news for you. Unless you turn out to be one of those magical people who can make their long-distance relationship last beyond freshman year, you may find yourself joining what’s known as the “Turkey Dump” this November. It’s that awkward reunion over Thanksgiving where you tell your boyfriend or girlfriend that it’s “just not working” and you really need “the full college experience” (a.k.a. hooking up with strangers). If you can make it past that speed bump, I salute you.
4. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health.
I can’t stress this enough: If you’re feeling anxious or depressed or dealing with drama, don’t wait to go to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). There’s no shame in speaking to a therapist, and you’ll only feel worse if you allow those bad thoughts to fester.
This advice applies equally to your friends and hallmates, so make sure to suggest a visit to CAPS or reach out to a Residential Advisor if someone you know seems unstable.
5. You will be SO grateful to yourself for getting General Education and other requirements out of the way.
I forced myself through 8 a.m. Arabic and Principles of Biology my freshman year, and I couldn’t be happier about it. It didn’t affect my social life in the slightest, and I was able to study abroad and fulfill my GenEd requirements by the end of junior year.
As an upperclassman, I look back on those time-consuming classes and wonder how I managed. I can only assume it was my freshman enthusiasm, so I urge you to capitalize on yours. Finish some of the harder stuff early on, and fill your schedule with fun classes once you have the seniority to get into them.
6. You’ll find some of your favorite classes during Drop/Add.
While pre-registration can give you the sense that your schedule is set in stone, Drop/Add will actually determine your semester. You may discover that the professor for the class you loved is terrible in person, or that the subject matter bores you beyond belief.
But for every Drop/Add disappointment, there’s a surprise success. You might stumble across a class that was only added to WesMaps in August, or snag a seat with the perfect professor thanks to an older friend’s advice. So brace yourself for a confusing few weeks, and rest assured that you’ll emerge with four or more classes that don’t fill you with dread.
7. Staying in touch with your parents/guardians is worth the effort.
Your parents/guardians love and miss you, and they’d be delighted to hear your news. If that’s not reason enough, consider what an attentive and unbiased audience they are compared to your college friends: Your folks will gladly commiserate over your roommate’s messes or listen as you name every single dining station you’ve sampled at Usdan. Give them a call when you need a conversation that feels like a hug, and remember that they treasure the time with you even when you’re sad or hungover.
8. You’ll come to love your extracurriculars as much for the people involved as for the activity itself.
At the Student Groups Fair on Sept. 16, you’ll have the chance to scope out your extracurricular activities for the semester…and maybe for the rest of your time in college. Don’t worry about making that distinction yet, but try to find a group that offers a sense of community. Your bond with those club members will provide support as you navigate your years at Wes and ensure that your hours spent outside of the classroom are as rewarding as those inside it.
9. You don’t have to be totally sure of your major by sophomore fall.
You’ll be asked about your major from now until your deathbed, so don’t feel like you have to rush to decide. As tempting as it can be to choose a major for the prestige or the financial stability, remember that you’ll have to suffer through three or more years of classes in that discipline to earn your degree. Besides, why aim for a career that’s just as likely to make you miserable?
I went from Neuroscience to Psychology to the College of Letters and the Writing Certificate, so I understand the struggle of wavering among majors. I promise that you’ll find one (or two or three) that captures your passion, and that it’ll feel awesome, even if you have to explain what your major is to every non-Wesleyan person you meet for the rest of your life.