Starting college is a very exciting time. It’s a brand new idea of a new life… new friends, new surroundings, new goals and ways to go about reaching them. But college freshmen also have it pretty tough… this special time of your life is also very nerve wracking.
This year, the pandemic has turned what used to be an already anxiety provoking (but still great) experience into one practically unfathomable. The uncertainty surrounding college life this year is only growing. But that doesn’t mean fall 2020 can’t be a great time to start your next chapter.
So to all you soon-to-be college freshmen out there, I’m here to give you some tips and tricks about starting college off strong. This list of tips will include both general starting-college advice and some starting-college-amidst-a-pandemic advice (which, I’ve never actually done of course. But I’m hoping my experience on the topics of both living during the pandemic and once being a college freshman will suffice.) So sit back, relax and enjoy my efforts to tell you how to feel great as college freshmen, pandemic-style.
1. Don’t Freak Out.
This piece of advice goes for all college freshmen, regardless of current world crises. As stated before, college is an extremely weird time. The constant influx of new information, new experiences, and not quite knowing who you are yet all add up to create mental chaos more often than not. But you just have to believe that it will all work out. Don’t force friendship- natural ones will come, don’t overthink the could-bes, what will be will be. When getting ready for this big move (either to campus or to your new Zoom life), just stay calm, collected and yourself… as much as possible, that is.
2. Talk to your roommates beforehand.
Another piece of general advice- this one comes from personal experience of doing the exact opposite. Get to know your roommates at least a little bit over text, social media, or you can even practice your surely needed Zoom skills. If nothing else, at least establish a friendly rapport. You don’t have to become best friends right away. In fact, you might never become best friends at all. THIS IS OKAY! But try your best to learn what they’re all about, their interests, major, goals, things they are looking forward to about starting school. That way when you are finally in person you can get to know each other even better, and you’ll at least have some commonalities to talk about and activities to do together.
3. Make or buy some home-y decor for your dorm.
One of the hardest parts for many college freshmen (whether they want to admit it or not) is not being at home for the first time. Your mom’s throw blanket hanging over the chair or the most comfy pillow on the couch just won’t be there to comfort you anymore. So find some pieces you really love and bring them with you. These can be blankets (Marshall’s has quality throws for super cheap!), pieces of artwork, or photos of you and your friends and family from home. Anything to keep you grounded and calm in your new space will be crucial.
4. Research the city.
Get to know your campus and the surrounding city. This can be done virtually beforehand or in person. After you arrive and have moved in but before classes start is a great time to explore the area. Before you arrive, do some research about the area around school to find places you might want to try out. Coffee shops, restaurants, workout classes, parks, and potential study spots are all going to be key to your new life, so try them all out to find where you feel comfortable.
5. Research the current restrictions.
For the pandemic-time college freshmen, this one’s for you. Try and do some research about how the pandemic (and all else that has gone on over the last few months) has affected your campus. If gyms aren’t open and you are a big worker-outer, you’ll want to know before you arrive on campus. That way your anxiety-invoked need to release some energy can be taken elsewhere (like a walk around a local park, perhaps?). Based on the restrictions you research, decide your game plan and how you’ll go about getting into a routine.
6. Get comfortable on campus.
Even if your classes are online, get a feel for the school. Walk through campus, eat at the dining halls, study at the library (if it’s safe and open). This is going to be a super hard year for college freshmen to really understand their schools. So do what you can to make it as immersive as you can for yourself.
7. It’s okay to eat ALONE. In fact, it kind of rocks.
Speaking of eating at dining halls, this is my favorite tip of them all. Throughout high school many of us were very focused on who was in our lunch period, who we’d eat with, what table we should sit at, the list of lunch-time anxiety goes on. But college is very different from high school (which you college freshmen will come to realize in more ways than you can even anticipate). So don’t let the lunch-scene freak you out. With so many different schedules, school buildings, and even dining halls at many schools, it’s super hard to coordinate lunch dates with your friends. But, sorry to say, you still have to eat. So take your lunch break as an hour to chill, check up on social media or just enjoy the ~delicious~ dining hall food at your disposal.
8. Get to know your professors.
Even if you never see your teacher in person (due to online classes, etc.), still get to know them. Go to ~virtual~ office hours. Email them personally with some questions specific to you. Just because you won’t see them face-to-face every week doesn’t mean they can’t help you this semester and in the future (connections are everything). So get to know your professors, TAs and other admins as much as you can. Pro-tip, your TAs are often the people actually grading your tests, quizzes and essays… so get on their good side and show initiative. It’s as simple as that.
9. Find your friend fit, but don’t force it.
Finding friends your first year can be extremely hard. That’s why so many college freshmen join greek life, intramurals, and other clubs. Don’t limit yourself to one or the other. Find out what your school’s clubs and groups are like, the events they take part in and what it means to be a member of them. Then try out as many as you are interested in (not your roommates or their friends). The more genuine you are about joining new groups, the easier it will be to find like minded people that just might become your best friends for life. (easier, that is. I never said easy.)
10. You don’t have to turn into someone you’re not… but it’s also okay if you do.
As college freshmen, it’s so easy to say “I’m going to leave everything behind”, “my past is my past”, “this is my brand new life and a brand new me”. But you don’t have to change just because your surroundings did. Stay true to yourself. That being said, it’s also okay to try something completely different. If you’ve always been an athlete, but dreamt of the day you step on stage for a musical… go do it! Who’s to say you can’t do both, even if it’s something super new and different. College is a time for EXPERIMENTING. So get to it. Try new things, don’t be scared, and understand that you will change more in these next four years than you could have ever imagined. So just let it happen and find a way to make this college experience uniquely yours.