You’ve moved in, the decorative lights, stick and peel wallpaper or college flags are tacked to your dorm wall and pictures have been shared online. School is in session and you’ve had your first taste of freedom to make your own choices about what to eat (or not), when to go to bed (or not) and how to spend your time. It can be exhilarating – I remember those days even though it was a long time ago!
Advice for College Freshmen
1. You don’t need to have it all figured out.
I didn’t as an 18 year-old and many, many adults still don’t have it all under control! It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, bored, unsure and unhappy at times. You don’t need to put on a brave front for me.
2. We’ll always be here for you and we will always love you, even when you’ve screwed up.
We are always your parents, who want you to live to your fullest potential but even when you don’t know we are here with a hug and smile and (hopefully) some reassuring words.
3. I’m trying really hard to respect your independence.
I miss saying good morning to you and hearing about your day at night. You can call, text or Snapchat me anytime (yes, I’ll work on figuring out Snapchat) – and I will do my best to answer. I’d love to have the same amount of contact as we had before but I know you don’t, so I’m working on it.
4. This is new to me too.
See above, I’m trying my best but I know I’ll make some mistakes, like texting you too frequently or telling you what to do or wear. Three weeks ago, you were under our roof still so try to remember this is a work in progress for me as well!
5. Try new things – seriously try new things.
Ask most adults my age and they will tell you they regret not putting themselves out there more and taking advantage of all the different experiences offered to us at college. Go to a game, comedy night, yoga class or new club. You never know what you’ll like or who you’ll meet unless you try it. Remember a balance of work and play, exercise and fun will help you succeed in college and life.
6. This may not be the best time of your life.
I know in many of your graduation cards, family friends and neighbors told you how much fun they had in college and how those four years were unbeatable. Memory is selective and often we only recall the fun parties, good grades and great times we had. But college is hard work. It’s different than the hard work you did in high school, because now you are “adulting” at the same time as studying.
Take the ups with the downs and do you. Don’t feel pressured to have the “best time of your life” every day in college regardless of what you’ve heard from others.
7. Cut yourself some slack and get off social media once in a while.
Keep perspective that the awesome times your friends are posting about at another college captures a sliver of their experience and it’s often photoshopped to look more awesome than it is. I know you know this, but try to remember it in the moment.
8. Keep your door open (literally) to meet new friends.
Try introducing yourself to someone new each day or week. Be kind to others and yourself too!
9. Be safe and smart.
You are in charge of yourself now and make good choices about whom you hang out with at parties or in class. Trust your gut and please don’t hesitate to use the free app that picks you up at night if you need a ride. Don’t put your drink down and don’t walk home alone or with someone you don’t trust. If something feels off, BAIL (in the words of your insightful cousin). It’s in our nature to be pleasers, don’t put yourself in jeopardy to avoid hurting someone else’s feelings.
10. Remember who you are and why you are there.
You are a great friend; loyal, reliable, smart and fun. You worked hard to get into your program and deserve to be there. All college students make mistakes – like staying out too late before a test or studying with a chatty friend. College is an incredible privilege. Being able to refocus and find your vibe has always been your strength. Let it guide you now.
And, can you please respond to my Snapchat?
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Shonne Fegan-Ehrhardt is a mom to three kids in the suburbs of Chicago. She’s a writer, reformed runner and volunteer who runs her own PR consultancy. She tries to weave levity, honesty and perspective into her observations on the chaos of daily life. She’s a founder of the Girlfriend’s Book Club in her neighborhood and is proud of its recent 13-year anniversary. Her work has appeared in PTO Today and Medium.