You got accepted to your dream school. You hand-picked a roommate, and you’re excited to live with them. You have no classes earlier than 10 a.m. (goodbye, high school schedule), and your major could not be more perfect for you. Freshman year is bound to be perfect, right?
Before I answer that question, let me give you some background information. I will be a junior in college next year, but I vividly remember the summer before my freshman year. I constantly daydreamed about my college days, stalking my school’s Instagram page, talking to my future roommate, and buying cute things for my dorm. Don’t get me wrong — there is nothing wrong with being excited.
So, hear me before you read on: be excited for your freshman year! My goal is not to sway you away from that. However, my goal is to redirect you from a mistake that I made going into college:
Thinking everything would be perfect.
It’s easy to create a perfect image of college in your mind
I know, I know; you already know that life isn’t perfect, and college will be no exception. But let me tell you, it is much easier than you might think to create an ideal image of college in your mind (speaking from experience here).
The summer before I moved to college, I was so excited and sure of my choice that every second I spent thinking about college was spent thinking about it in perfect light. The images in my mind looked a little something like this: being best friends and having no conflicts with my roommate; going to every event on campus and therefore leaving no time to be homesick; and, of course, loving all of my classes, because clearly, I was going to love my major (spoiler alert: I’ve changed my major twice).
Let me give you a reality check. My roommate and I were not best friends, and we had problems. I missed home. And I dreaded every class I had in my major that first semester. I know what you’re thinking: this girl told me to be excited about college, but now she’s given me every reason not to be. Well, here’s where I will broaden the picture a little. My freshman-year roommate and I had problems, but I still have lovely memories of living with her, and we hung out many times during our second year. I was homesick sometimes, but I also looked forward to returning to college after each visit home. And I have found a major I love and feel ultimately settled in.
So, a summary of what I’m guessing you’ve taken away from this so far: don’t get too excited about college because it will suck at first, but it all works out in the end? Well, I’m hoping to give you advice that is somewhat more insightful than that.
Some advice for the summer before college
You can spend this, your last summer before college, doing what I did. You can romanticize everything about your future life as a college student, picturing your days as photo-worthy as your college’s (totally realistic) Instagram. You can choose not to think about the reality that this is real life, and there will be problems. You can do that, just like I did. But here’s why I’m advising you not to:
When the first bad thing happens, and your perfect image of college is tainted, it’s tough to bounce back.
I FELT UTTERLY LOST when I had my first unhappy turn of events during my freshman year. Here I was, at this place that was supposed to be a perfect fresh start for me, and I was not prepared for things to go wrong.
But they did, and they will work for you, too. And I’m telling you, you will save yourself so much heartache if you give yourself a gentle reality check this summer. Remind yourself that college will be awesome but that problems still exist on the campus of your dream school.
College is not going to be perfect
As I said, I’m not advising you not to be excited about college. I’m also not suggesting that you spend this entire summer dreading college because I just told you that you’d hate your roommate and your classes. That is not it at all. My advice is that college is wonderful, exciting, and new, and I think you’re going to love it — but it’s not perfect. There will be things you don’t like about your school, problems you face, and things you wish you would have done differently.
So as you enjoy this last summer before a significant change in your life, I encourage you to daydream about college and buy cute things for your dorm; but also take breaks from that to enjoy your hometown because you will be homesick someday and spend time with your friends and family at home because you will miss them even though you have wonderful new friends.
Your freshman year of college will not be perfect, but it will be memorable, and I hope you spend time this summer looking forward to that.
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