The transition from high school to college is a daunting one, even if you’ve done everything in your power to prepare for it. If you’ve attended hosts of seminars and maybe even spent a summer at an on-campus educational camp, for instance, great! Being proactive in these matters is definitely an element of responsibility and character that you want to take on your path to higher education. It is important to note, however, that even those wonderful opportunities aren’t able to put into perspective certain things about the college experience that can only be learned by living them. This is because the biggest challenge that most freshmen face is independence. It sounds like a good thing - and perhaps it is - but the burden that comes with being freed from the shackles of curfews, supervision, and (hopefully) transportation restrictions lies in the self-discipline that it then commands from students who want to succeed in school and their future careers. So, if you’re currently in your first semester of college, here are a few things that would be of service to keep in mind.
This one’s a no-brainer, but at the same time, it’s undoubtedly the most pervasive issue that plagues incoming freshmen who are inexperienced with the new workload and time management skills that the college curriculum demands. The first semester is a time of transition, and it’s especially easy to be overwhelmed with the academic and social scenes of your campus. So, while it’s perfectly natural to be overwhelmed and feel endlessly stressed or lost, it’s critical that you don’t let that plunge you into a head space of catatonia and depression. This is one of the times that you need to apply yourself, because things that you previously may not have had to have responsibility for are now all in your hands. Buying textbooks because there aren’t class sets, finding peers to create study groups or reaching out to peer tutors for help instead of professors who may be too busy - and even menial tasks like having to do your own laundry at unconventional times of the day or week to avoid eternal lines will certainly dogpile on your conscience. But don’t procrastinate on any of these things (certainly not your laundry!) because at the end of the semester, the damage that this negligence can do might spoil the rest of your years at college - you definitely don’t want to be spending the rest of your time there remedying grades.
Work out a balance between your work and social life
Hanging out with friends and going to parties may sound like a counterproductive means of subsistence in college, but it’s equally important to reserve a social scene in your life because you might otherwise regret your decision not to. Whatever you enjoy doing, even if it has no fiscal or extracurricular value that you can put down on a resume, it’s a good idea to continue doing these things since committing exclusively to academia isn’t necessary to pave a promising career path for yourself right out of college - or even just to stay afloat in school if that’s as far as you’re concerned. Of course, ultimately you should do what fulfills you, and if that means making the aforementioned type of commitment, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that either. But when I say that you risk regretting not enjoying yourself more in school, I mean to remind you that college isn’t an institution that you go to just for an education. You’re there to meet people, to experiment with prospective passions, and most of all, to learn about yourself - to carve an identity out of everything you’ve been through, especially including your time there. The earlier you figure out the type of balance that fulfills you on both sides of this aisle, the better!
College isn’t always exciting
Alas, we end on a solemn note. I do this because at the end of the day, we’re all still going to school. And coming out of it, we need to be adults whose perceptions of the world are based in substantive knowledge of the realities that we are preparing ourselves to survive in. It really only takes a few days after the hysteria of settling in fades away for you to realize that college isn’t anything remotely similar to their cinematic counterpart. It’s not an endless cabaret of parties and drama and sunny days spent in the quad. We’re sold these images long before we attend these institutions, and almost no one tells us how much daily studying is required of students. While you can definitely manage your time to make your college experience its picture-perfect version that we watch before television screens, it remains an indispensable fact that there will still be a substantial amount of studying involved, provided that you want to graduate. This isn’t an uplifting message, perhaps, but it is one that you will eventually need to hear.
Amidst all of these things to keep in mind, there is one more: college flies by. Be it your first finals week or a slow day with a particularly heavy workload, your first semester will fly by like a speed demon, and by the time you rear your head around to look back at it, you might find yourself close to graduation. You’re a freshman now, and in just a few more years, you won’t have the privilege of scheduling your obligations (classes) around your sleep schedule anymore, or of hanging out with your friends as frequently. You might be a senior whose sights are trained on something else, or a fully-fledged adult who can only reminisce about the days of yore. So, remember to do the things that your future self will smile looking back upon.
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