Like many of you, my parents didn’t go to college. It was a bit of a mystery to all of us. Mom and Dad were excited for me and wanted me to do well in my studies, but outside of that, we really didn’t know what to expect. Who was I going to room with? What are professors like? Would I fit in?
I had no way of knowing how pivotal those four years at the University of North Carolina would be in defining who I am as an adult woman. Now that I’m ancient (read: 31 years old), I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on my college experience. Here are a few words of wisdom to get the most out of your first year of college.
Expand Your Social Circle
I bet you have some high school friends that are going to go to the same college you’re going to. I bet you’re making fabulous plans to pick each other as roommates, match up your class schedules, and hold hands and sing kumbayah every night. It’s going to be awesome because you know each other and you won’t have to worry about being with <gasp> strangers.
I challenge you to branch out. Just because you know someone, doesn’t mean they’ll make a great roommate. How are you going to make new friends and meet new people and have new experiences if you don’t give yourself the opportunity to try something new? Real change and growth doesn’t happen in a place of comfort. Challenge yourself to conquer the unknown.
Look for Completion Within
Think about your four years of high school. How much did you change over that time? I can tell you that your individual growth in high school is nothing compared to the growth you’ll experience in college, that is, if you allow yourself to grow. Love is amazing and wonderful and makes you feel al warm and fuzzy, but you’re not going to be able to attract what you need until you know who you are. Before you go seeking love in all of the wrong places, look within and love yourself first.
I want you to focus on you. I want you to become independent, self reliant, and have a very clear picture of who you are before you even start thinking about a serious relationship. Here’s one thing you can take to the bank: if you’re looking for somebody to complete you, you’re admitting to yourself that you are not a whole person. Sit with that thought for a moment.
Get A Job
College is demanding and your number one focus is, of course, academics. Believe it or not, between the studying and classes, I am 99.9% sure you’ll have time for a part-time job. I’m not talking 25 hours a week, more like 10-15 hours a week. I encourage you to take a semester to get acquainted with your new found independence and coursework and then start building your resume! There are great opportunities to work on campus and, with a little digging, you might be able to find a job in one of the academic departments on campus. If you live on campus, you can look into becoming a Resident Advisor (RA). Resident Advisor’s often have a portion or all of their room and board paid for by the campus housing office. Some positions include a monthly stipend as well. Bonus!
Getting a job can set you apart from your fellow classmates post-graduation. Don’t believe me? Check out this article at USA Today. Be proactive and use your time in college to set yourself apart from your future competition.
How Much You Learn Is Up To You
In high school, your teachers are dedicated to guide you through your studies. They remind you about quizzes, tests, papers, and homework. In college? Not so much. Your professors expect you to grab your syllabus and go! You are responsible for remembering quizzes, doing your reading, turning in homework, studying for your tests, and getting your papers in on time.
If you want an A, you gotta earn it. If you need help, you’ve gotta ask for it. Your professors have office hours. Use them. Your university or college has tutors. Use them. Your peers are just as brillant as you are. Study with them. Be proactive in your learning!
Enjoy Your College Experience
College isn’t easy and you’ll face your share of challenges, but I promise you that it will be one of the most amazing experiences of your life. It’s the only time in your life when paying for pizza with change is totally acceptable. Milk crates are acceptable décor and posters are the height of wall art. You might will see the inside of a classroom while wearing your pajamas, you will eat takeout at 3am, you will pull all nighters, you will stay out WAY too late and, if you’re lucky, you’ll make a handful of forever friends with whom you’ll reminisce about “that one crazy time, remember?”