The start of college can provoke much anxiety, uncertainty and unease among students – particularly freshmen. I remember last year; I was late to class on the first day, ended up in the wrong psychology section, and thought to myself the adjustment process would be a long and arduous one – but it isn’t so, and it doesn’t need to be.
College is a major transition from high school into the real world. You have suddenly entered a place where no one cares if you show up to class or not, or decide to skip. You are entirely responsible for your actions, decisions and ultimately your education. At the end of the day, no one is going to call home and tell your parents you didn’t show up to your 9am class.
How does this make you feel? Anxious? Nervous? Happy? All of the above? The truth is, you’re bound to feel many emotions at this point, and that’s perfectly acceptable. As you try to find safety and security in a new environment, you may find yourself questioning your identity and who you are as an individual. But don’t let anyone change you! We’re past the point of peer pressure here, and you are who you are.
You’ll learn, (eventually) that you never really stop “adjusting” to the college environment, because you are always evolving and accommodating to your surroundings. Even three years from now, you may still find yourself questioning where you are and idealizing where you would like to be. What you DO learn is how to manage your time, emotions and all other aspects of your life. You learn what works, and what doesn’t, how to study and how to make that good grade. I like to think of freshmen year as a “trial and error” period, but that doesn’t mean you should allow yourself to fail out! Generally, this crucial year is all about figuring out what works best for you in terms of studying, and finding out a little bit more about yourself.
The best advice I can give is to tell you to stay true to who you are. At some point, you might find yourself surrounded by situations that will challenge your values and morals. You may end up going against them, but this is what the learning process is for. Every experience you go through shapes who you are and has the potential to make those values stronger. You may not do everything “the right way” the first time around, but you’ll get better and managing time and emotions (like stress, disappointment, etc.) fairly well. For many of you, this is literally your first time away from home. It’s a time where you will become independent. Some days, this fact while leave you feeling a little unsettled. You’ll feel lost, lonely, anxious, and maybe even scared. But these feelings won’t last. Remember that you’re here for a reason. Surround yourself with positive people, and get to know yourself first. Make sure to acknowledge your feelings; don’t ignore them. Ignoring feelings only creates (and perpetuates) problems for you.
Most importantly, take this time to learn how to balance work, school and a social life appropriately. Don’t jump off to extremes on either aspect. I still struggle with this every day, but it’s a work in progress. You can do it! I sincerely hope that every single one of you (freshman or not) has a great, successful, and wonderful start to the new school year.