How to Make the Most Out of College
What I've Learned from My First Month of School
Change isn't easy. Moving over 1,000 miles away from your family and friends and everything you've always known isn't easy. I'm the kind of person that generally doesn't enjoy change (but I mean, who does?) and, in most cases, doesn't handle it very well. Going off to college both scared me and excited me greatly, mostly because I've known I wanted to be at this particular school for the past two years, but it's so far away from my little hometown that it felt like the scariest thing in the world.
I've now been here for a little over a month, and let me just say, college is full of ups and downs. So much of being here is super fun and exciting, but it's also difficult and terrifying at times. I miss my mom and my friends, and the work can be a little overwhelming, and my anxiety? Wow. But I've also learned so much already, done so many new things, and I've met so many wonderful people that I can't complain TOO much. I feel so grateful that I am able to have this experience, and I'm very glad I made it here. In case you're also a new college student and you're feeling a little bit lost, here are some things that have been helping me through it all so far:
1. First things first, make sure your space feels like it's yours.
If you have your own room, make it feel homey. Make it unique. Make sure it reflects you as a person. For example, my room has lots of books and pictures and objects I brought from home, and everything is decorated in a way that makes me feel comfortable. When I walk in, I know it's my room and no one else's. It's very cozy, and I've made it a place that I enjoy spending time. If you have roommates, maybe try to make the space that's only yours feel that way too, and talk to your roommate about how you can make your shared space a place you both feel safe and happy. All in all, make sure you have a place that is your own, otherwise you'll feel like you're in a weird place and not like you're at home.
2. Make friends.
Obviously you don't have to be friends with everyone you meet, but try your best to be willing to put yourself out there! I'm personally a very anxious person, so this can be challenging for me, but somehow it hasn't been as hard here. Everyone is very kind, and it's easy to fit into a group because we're all here for the same thing. This may be unique to my school because it's a "single major, everyone does the same curriculum, very small campus" kind of place, but if that's not where you are, make friends with people in your classes/major. You'll already know that you have at least one thing in common, and that can be just what you need. Ask people if they want to study with you, join a group of people you recognize for a meal, go to campus events, join groups that interest you, etc. Don't let yourself be totally alone all the time—even if you're the kind of person who isn't very out there (which I 100 percent understand), it really helps to make friends and have people to spend time with so you don't get too lonely.
3. Keep yourself organized.
Now, this can definitely be a challenge at times—but boy oh boy does everything feel just a little bit easier when you can keep your shit together. This goes for everything. For me, keeping my space tidy keeps my mind feeling a little less cluttered. Everything has a place and generally looks nice, and that helps me feel more relaxed. That might not be the case for everyone, and that's totally ok—if you aren't that kind of person, then don't stress about it. However, organization wise, keeping your schoolwork organized is super helpful. Every single school year I buy a planner, and every single school year it gets abandoned a few months in, sometimes sooner. This year, I decided that I needed to stick with it, and it's already done so much for me. Basically, pick a planner that works for you (I personally really love The Original Student Calendar one), and write EVERYTHING in it: assignments, appointments, meetings, activities, etc., whatever you might need to remember. Use lots of colors to make it look nice while keeping everything sorted out. Lay things out in whichever way works best for you. Again, this isn't a necessity, but it really helps to make you feel like you have everything together, and it really helps to have a place to note everything you need to take care of, especially if you're a forgetful person (which I often am).
4. Go to pretty much every campus event.
Sometimes it can feel like a serious challenge to meet new people/make new friends in a new place. When I arrived at school, I already knew a few students in my freshman class, but the rest of them were a mystery to me. I'm not the most social person. I have a pretty hard time putting myself out there. However, I tried to attend as many campus events as I could, especially if they were things that interested me, because it was a good way to meet people without having to randomly introduce myself. This was especially helpful during the first week, but it's still helpful now. It's no longer for the purpose of meeting new people, but it's a GREAT way to socialize and have fun. Take advantage of the opportunities you have—don't miss out on or skip anything that you think would be fun or you'll regret it later.
5. Join clubs and participate in activities.
I feel like most people go into college knowing what groups they'll want to join, and that can be a huge help. For example, I play violin, so I knew right off the bat that if there was an orchestra, I was going to join. I also knew that I would join whatever sort of LGBTQ groups they had available. Those were givens for me. However, I did join a few things I didn't initially plan on doing, and it's been totally worth it so far! If there's something you've been wanting to do but haven't had the time, money, etc. for, then do it! Pretty much all college activities are free (or at least they are to my knowledge), and if you don't like it you don't have to stick around. But, similarly to attending campus events, it's a great way to meet people, and it's always exciting to do fun and new things.
6. Take care of yourself.
It can be hard to focus on yourself when you're adjusting to a new environment, but doing things for you and knowing what you need makes things feel a hell of a lot easier. Make sure you're eating, sleeping, getting exercise, etc. If you're getting sick, go to the doctor and get checked out. If your mental health is a little rough, talk to someone. You're not alone. There are plenty of resources on campus that you can utilize. Take advantage of that. It really, really helps to remember that there are people all over campus that can and will help you out, from teachers to fellow students to other faculty members. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Reach out when you need things. It really does make a difference.
Obviously none of this is required of anyone, and everyone's experience varies, but these are just some of the things that have helped me through my freshman year of college so far. It's a whole new environment, things are different, and it can never hurt to receive a little extra advice!