I Take a Stab at Adulting? College 101

Learning Adulting the Hard Way:
a look back on freshman year so far

People say college is the best four years of your life. They say you'll never have a schedule like this again. I let these thoughts go to my head all throughout high school. I envisioned myself at a school in a city somewhere, happy and working towards my future goals. I dreamed of a shiny new group of friends, a beautiful dorm room, and study sessions all over campus. While I certainly got the study sessions and amazing new friends, college life wasn't what I expected it to be at all. College is HARD. Sometimes it's like your Carrie Underwood and all you can think is "Jesus please just take the freaking wheel already" because life really gets the best of you. It's one of the most rewarding experiences I've had so far, but there are certainly many lessons I've learned along the way.

Here is my advice for making the most out of freshman year:

1. Overpacking is GOOD. 
You will find a billion articles far and wide on the internet telling you to go minimalistic on your packing for school. Let me just say, between my roommate and I, I think we had every aisle of Target in our dorm room on move-in day. And guess what? We always have everything we need. Need a dish sponge? We got it. Need a duster? We have one. Need to borrow a heating pad? Let me grab mine for you. It is absolutely worth it to stuff your car full of things you think you'll never use. You'll be surprised. Bring things from home, too. It will help ease the transition into your 5' x 10' cinder-block box. At the end of the day, you can always send home what you don't end up using or what doesn't fit.

2. Be willing to put effort into school.
I was a strong student in high school, and I never had to work very hard for my grades. I studied and did my homework, but I always did the bare minimum and still managed the grades that I wanted. Once I got to college, I quickly learned that motivation is E V E R Y T H I N G when it comes to achieving the GPA you want. You can be the smartest kid in the room, but if you don't put forth the effort to actually learn and digest, you can kiss a 4.0 a sad goodbye. Go to class. Do your homework. Get a study buddy. Make flashcards. You will learn what works for you.

3. Make healthy choices a habit right off the bat.
The freshman 15 is REAL, PEOPLE! It can be very difficult to maintain physical health with such a busy schedule and so much to do, especially if you were an athlete in high school with practices to keep you accountable. It can feel like you have -3 hours in your day to get your butt to the gym or to make a salad instead of ramen. Invest your time into making good choices. I am busier this semester than I was last semester but somehow have managed to find more time to make conscious healthy decisions. I feel more energized, more focused, more rested, and much happier. Starting these habits off from the jump will make your life so much easier later on down the road. Ramen can give you kidney stones, anyway. Do you want kidney stones? I didn't think so.

4. You will make friends. It takes time.
Making friends in school will come naturally. Everyone is in the same boat, wondering how in the world anyone will like them enough. Just be yourself and let the friendships fall where they may. People are attracted to authenticity. Don't force yourself to fit in with a certain crowd, you will regret it when you find yourself struggling to make deep connections. It's scary for sure, but be confident! You have so much to offer to others and so much insight to bring into the world. Rest assured in that knowledge and you will find your people.

5. Call your parents.
Your mom and dad miss you! Don't be a stranger. Added bonus if you get to see your dogs on facetime. Nothing quite like a Sunday morning facetime back home. Tell your mom about the biology exam you aced, or your dad about your pick-up basketball game. They miss hearing your every-day life, trust me. You will miss them too, even if they drive you crazy asking about what you're doing with your life or if you have a new boyfriend. They mean well, and they just want to show you that they care.

6. Let yourself be homesick.
If you're out of state, you will be especially prone to being home-sick. Even my friends who are two hours away from home miss their family. It's normal! This is a big transition, don't force yourself to pretend that you don't need a hug from your mom. Growing up is hard and sometimes you just want to go home. It's completely normal. Allow yourself to feel this way, but try not to go home every weekend. Challenge yourself to do what feels uncomfortable or what might feel scary. It will benefit you in the end.

7. Don't compromise your morals or your lifestyle.
Party life and hook-up culture are very real in college life. Being single and going out can be the pinnacle of having fun for many people looking to be care-free. Nothing is wrong with either of those things! Plenty of people are totally comfortable with that lifestyle and it gives them the most out of their college experience. However, don't compromise what makes you feel content and comfortable just to live a certain lifestyle you might perceive as cool. There are a million things to do on campus, and if something doesn't suit your vibe, you don't have to do it! Don't worry about your friends, either. If they're true friends, they won't judge you for your choices either way. Remember that.

8. Take time to relax.
Like I've mentioned, college is freaking hard. When you first get involved it can feel so new and so exciting, but it can get overwhelming very quickly. Take time to stay in touch with yourself. It's easy to fall into the cycle of waking up, getting everything you have to do out of the way, going to bed, and waking up the next day just to do it all over again. Try to carve a little bit of time out to do something that makes you happy or relaxes you. Draw, watch TV, listen to music, take a yoga class. Whatever you can do to de-stress, jump at the chance.

9. Mental health matters.
Check up on yourself. Check up on your friends. So often we forget that keeping up with our mental health can be just as daunting as keeping our physical health under control. College students are some of the most over-worked, over-tired, and over-stressed people I've ever seen. It is totally okay to not know how to deal with that and to reach out for help. Lean on your support system, and look into the resources available to you through your university. Don't brush it off just because "everybody gets stressed now and then." Listen to your mind and understand that it is okay to not have it together at every minute of your life. Mental health is just as important as physical health, y'all.

10. Don't let relationships define you.
So many people I know in college define themselves based on relationship status. Taken. Talking. Single. Red light. Yellow light. Green light. It can be hard to see past this issue when so much emphasis is given to relationships in a lot of social situations. Try not to define your self-worth in relation to other people. You are not just someone's fling, someone's crush, or someone's significant other. You are YOU! That's all you can ask of yourself. Being secure in who you are, what makes you happy, and what you have to offer the world is the first step in finding the security to be happy with or without a partner. Confidence attracts others, and the only way to achieve true confidence is to spend time loving who you are. Use this new transition in life to really learn what makes you feel most yourself. The rest will fall into place.

This will be one of the hardest, most challenging transitions you will make in your life. There will probably be days where you have no idea what the f*** you're doing or why you're even here. But there will be days where the weather is just right and you get an A on that difficult exam when you will understand that you're exactly where you need to be. It's moments like these that make all the sleepless nights and hours spent studying so worth it.