Well, I blinked, and my first year of college was over. In all honesty, a few weeks ago I felt like it was never going to end, but, in retrospect, it really was the quickest year of my life. As I reflect on my freshman year, the only word I can use to describe my feelings is grateful.
I am grateful for a school that welcomed me, for parents who believed in me, for a roommate who became my best friend, for friends who supported and encouraged me, for a boy who loved me despite the distance, for classes that challenged me, for a faith community that refreshed me, for opportunities that excited me, for times that tried me, and for the lessons I learned.
Now, I am sharing those lessons with the hope that others can learn from them as well.
Five Lessons From Freshman Year of College
1). Say “Yes”…
College is your chance to try new things. I firmly believe that you should do one thing every day that scares you. It doesn’t have to be as extreme as auditioning for an a-cappella group or trying out for a club sports team to still be significant, although it certainly can be. It can be as simple as grabbing lunch with the girl who sits next to you, trying a new fitness class at the gym, or sharing your opinion in philosophy class.
Not only will these new experiences introduce you to others and help you discover your passions and talents, but they will also push you outside of your comfort zone, which is where all growth occurs. As you conquer small challenges, you will gain self confidence and become comfortable saying “yes” more often.
2). …But Also Say “No”
Know your limits. As tempting as it may be to sign up for every email list at the activities fair or go out every night of the week, you’ll thank yourself later if you resist doing so. Instead, allow yourself time to rest and recharge periodically so you can be at your best for those things you do choose to participate in. Don’t be afraid of disappointing anyone; you are your first priority, and any true friend will respect that rather than pressuring you to think otherwise. Remember: you cannot pour from an empty cup, so take care of yourself first.
3). Call Home
Whatever you do, don’t forget to call home. And not just when you’re panicking for your chemistry exam tomorrow and need Mom to assure you that you’ll be fine. (Guilty!) Call regularly, including when things are going well, so your parents don’t think you’re always locked up in the library or crying in your twin XL. They are your biggest supporters after all, and your absence is just as hard for them as it is for you.
4). It’s Ok to Not Be Ok…
I won’t sugarcoat it: college is hard. Between leaving home, meeting new people, living with a roommate, and taking challenging courses, there are plenty of times you might just want to call it quits. It’s even worse when it seems like everyone else has it all together. But the truth is that no one has it figured out yet, and you can’t let yourself be deceived by the highlight reel that is social media. This was certainly something I had to remind myself of all year long, and I encourage you to be honest about when things are hard, ask for help when you need it, take care of yourself first, and simply try your best.
5). …But Ultimately You Will Be
Spoiler alert: things will get better. You’ll be ok. You’ll miss home less and less, make true friends, and figure out (or at least get through!) your classes, and, soon enough, it will be summer and you’ll be wondering where the time went. So don’t forget to enjoy the everyday and prioritize your happiness because, otherwise, what’s the point?
Mary Kate Etscorn just completed her freshman year at Georgetown University, where she is majoring in Global Health with aspirations of going to medical school. In her free time, Mary Kate explores her creative side on her lifestyle blog, Everyday MK. You can also find her on Instagram.