Congrats – you’ve been accepted into UCLA! High school is starting to be a thing of your past, and now it’s your time to start school in the City of Angels. You’re ready for it all – new, intelligent people that think like you, staying up late, meeting the love of your life. These are the “best years of your life!” When I came to UCLA, I had all of these expectations and more, that left me disappointed when reality differed. How does one navigate these emotions and expectations without being utterly confused? Your tour guides and new student advisors will tell you things you can expect, like, “go to office hours,” “go to class,” and “don’t drink anything someone hands you at a party.” However, there is much more to learn. Here are things that nobody warned you about as a freshman at UCLA.
1. You will miss home.
Even though you thought you never would, you will miss your parent’s homecooked meals, your best friend, your dog’s wagging tail, sleeping in your bed, and not spending money on toothpaste.
2. You don’t have to be pre-med.
How will you make money after college? The answer doesn’t always have to be a doctor. If that life is for you, great! However, college is really about finding out what you’re truly interested in or passionate about. If you’re doing things you think you should be doing rather than what you want to do, you probably won’t be that good at it.
3. You don’t need 30 pairs of shoes and a frying pan.
You’ll come to school with two suitcases and end up with five suitcases worth of stuff. Use moving out to get rid of the stuff you don’t need. Most likely, you won’t use a ton of what you bring, and probably won’t have space for it either. Leave the non essentials at home.
4. You WILL need a jacket and jeans.
If you’re from the East Coast or the Midwest, don’t think that California will be tank and shorts weather all year. You’ll get used to 75 degrees and sunny, and will get cold at 68 degrees or when there’s a cloud in the sky. Bring a few layers for when beautiful California weather turns you into a wimp. An additional insider tip: bring a red t shirt you don’t want, to trade for a UCLA shirt on BEAT ‘SC week!
5. You have to start “adulting” now.
Not only are you technically on your own, but you’re also living with people. Be courteous and look after yourself (for your sake and your roommate’s, too). This means getting organized, cleaning your room, and doing your own laundry.
6. Buffet-style dining halls are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Please try to eat a vegetable or fruit every once in a while during your time here at UCLA. Eating pizza and fries every meal does happen to people, and it can’t be good for your arteries. You’ll thank yourself later on; trust me. Additional insider tip: people can tell who the freshmen are in dining halls because they use dining trays instead of just grabbing the plates. Look like a pro and skip the tray.
7. It’s hard at first to make meaningful friendships.
At first, you’ll probably just hang out with people on your floor. If you all get along and are best friends for the rest of your life, that’s awesome. However, don’t feel discouraged if you don’t seem super interested in being friends with your floor. Finding people that are passionate about the same things you are will make a world of a difference. You just have to get involved and friendships will come to you.
8. People will be different from you.
Leaving home really “pops the bubble.” People will say things you would never expect to come out of someone’s mouth; it wasn’t how you were raised and you completely disagree. This can be enraging, frustrating, and exhausting. But this is good. This inspires conversation. Don’t silence people who think differently from you; hear them out, and try to explain where you’re coming from. It’s where the learning begins.
9. LA has LOTS of traffic.
LA is an amazing place that has so much culture and opportunity. It’s always fun to hike in Griffith Park, eat from a food truck in Venice, or visit the Getty Villa. However, it can take forever to go from place to place, which can be expensive or discouraging. Don’t fret! There are so many events going on around UCLA and in Westwood that you won’t be bored when you’re short on cash. Go for a stroll in the Botanical Gardens, eat pastries at Stan’s Donuts, go to the Hammer Museum, go green at Ecochella, or try out the Challenge Course at Sunset Rec.
10. It’s okay to stay in.
To some, college parties can be great. To others, parties can be overwhelming, isolating, boring, or tiring. If you’re part of the latter, it’s okay to stay in. Taking time for yourself and relaxing is important in college. Decide what’s best for you.
11. Chill out.
Don’t feel obliged to follow this advice all the time. If you need a break and want to eat pizza and fries, go ahead. You probably deserve it. Don’t stress out too much.
While it might be hard to adjust to at first, recognize that getting into college is a learning experience. Continue learning, stay inspired, keep doing the things you love; because while school is important, the things you do and the people you spend time with and the relationships you have are equally essential. If you want something to change in college, then change it. It isn’t going to happen by itself or be given to you. Explore, open your arms to new people, and don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone. College is more than school; it’s your new life, and this is your time to live it.