How-to advice on having a successful first year in college is oftentimes cookie-cutter and written by those who have not been in academia for years. The same advice is always given to these impressionable young adults: join a club, go to office hours, make friends with your hallmates and many others. However, all of this advice fails to encompass the fact that everyone navigates through their first year differently. Especially in light of the last year and a half, incoming freshmen have experienced their first year in a way that no other class has. There is no one-size-fits-all advice out there, and there was definitely nothing that could have prepared the classes of 2023 and 2024 for their first years. For some, like myself, advice suggesting joining clubs or getting to know all of my hallmates just didn’t seem all that appealing or helpful.
As a first-generation college student, my main concern was getting by after going into my college experience blind. I switched majors three times and I almost got evicted from the dorms due to issues with financial aid. Joining clubs, making friends or studying my days away could not have prepared me for the reality of the college experience. The reality is that college can be a difficult, confusing and sometimes even a lonely experience. The transition from high school to college is intense. The best advice I could give to incoming freshmen is to try your best and take this time to explore.
It’s okay to feel lost and confused. College is often the first time most young adults step into independence and start making their own decisions. In these cases, it’s wisest to turn to those with experience. Ask for the advice of older siblings or older peers. No one is ever truly alone in this venture, and the beginning is always the hardest part. If one-on-one interaction isn’t your speed, email your professors, join the class GroupMe and use technology to your advantage to reach out to groups of people to help support you.
Take care of yourself, and don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. If you’re struggling, know when to reach out to someone if you need help. College is just one aspect of your life, and though it may be at the forefront, don’t let it consume all of your time and energy. The first year of college can always seem more daunting than it has to be. No matter what the end goal is, everyone should be gracious to themselves. Remember that college is a journey unique to every individual and that this is the beginning of a greater future.