When I first came to college I didn’t know what to expect. Stepping into an unfamiliar and intimidating world, I was vaguely aware of the challenges I was about to face.
Your first year, you’ll grow.
One of the challenges I faced was growing up. I’d never grown so much so quickly before. Yes, it was hard, but I’d matured intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Change often entails growth of some sort. Just like pruning hurts but helps plants, growth may hurt, but it will help.
Mrs. Rebecca Weier, director of the First Year Experience office said that “[freshmen] do mature a lot.”
Your first year of college you’ll often feel uncomfortable. College will take you outside your comfort zone, and you’ll feel tempted to give up. But it’s precisely in those moments when we grow the most. God often uses difficult times to refine us and mature us.
So know that you’ll emerge from this hard year a better and more mature person if you allow yourself to be molded. Reach out to others for support, and embrace this time of growth.
Your first year will challenge you academically.
Maybe you’re dreading academics the most. True, college classes will require more study time and more effort if you want to succeed in them. Gone are your high school days when you could wing a test or presentation. Now you must prepare for them.
But there’s hope. Learning how to manage your time well—and thus how to study better—will help you keep those grades up. You can swing by the Academic Resource Center to see your first-year advisor when you have questions.
“All of the freshmen have a first-year advisor, who is also an academic coach,” Weier said. She also added that they can answer questions students may have regarding time management and study skills.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to them; their job is to help you succeed academically. And don’t feel alone, either—your fellow freshmen are overcoming the same obstacles you are.
Your first year will challenge you emotionally.
You’ve probably been stressed in high school—or maybe not. Stress in college isn’t that much different, but college stress seems worse because expectations are higher. This stress can mess with your emotions.
“Some of that emotion is just adjustment. It’s just normal cultural adjustment that happens to everyone when you go to a new culture,” Weier said.
As a result, don’t be surprised if you feel anxious or discouraged. But don’t keep your feelings to yourself. Open up to a trusted friend or stop by the Student Care Office for additional support.
Homesickness also affects many if not all freshman students. If you feel homesick, call your family or your friends from back home. A quick call will help you know your loved ones are supporting you.
Your first year you’ll make a lot of friends—choose wisely.
Someone once said that friends are family you choose for yourself. When you’re young, you spend most of your time with your family, and as a result, they influence you the most. However, in college you spend most of your time with your friends, and they can either influence you for better or for worse.
As you consider what friends you choose, remember to be friendly to others. Proverbs 18:24 tells us that people who have friends must also be friendly to others. Focus on giving friendship, not only receiving it.
Cultivate those first-year friendships. Although you’ll make more friends throughout your college career, some of your friends from freshman year will become your closest friends by the time you’re a senior.
So invest in those friendships because you never know—they may last a lifetime.
Your first year you’ll want to get involved.
My first year I hardly got involved on campus. I thought college was all about studying, but I was wrong. I missed out on a lot of great activities—serving others, meeting awesome people, having deep conversations—and all because I was “too busy.”
Even though you’re busy, you should still try to get involved on and even off-campus. Weier said that at the beginning of the semester the University hosts organization and ministry fairs, where freshmen can discover outreach and involvement opportunities.
The one organization I did get involved in, the International Student Organization (ISO), left a lasting impact on me. Apart from helping me relax and have fun, the ISO introduced me to many of my friends, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
By getting involved you’re not only helping others, but you’re also helping yourself.
Your first year will be what you make of it.
“The best way to make the most out of first year is to come in with purpose,” Weier said.
Although your freshman year won’t define the rest of your college career, it will set a foundation for success in your next three years.
In the end, it’s up to you. You decide what your freshman year will be like. Obviously there will be circumstances out of your control, but even so, make the most out of your first year experience. “We want students to thrive, not just survive,” Weier said.
Now that you’ve gotten a sneak peek of your freshman year, decide what you want it to look like, and go for it.