Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Letter to My Freshman Self (and All College Freshmen)

So here I am, embarking on the last semester of my senior year of college. Pretty crazy, right? My life at the end of college has turned out totally different than little high-school-senior-Stephanie would have ever thought. I've transferred schools, I've made many incredible friends, I've gone through the best of times and the hardest of times, and I've grown and changed exponentially. My years in college have been truly life-changing.

As I reflect back on all these things as a senior, I realize how much I have learned and grown since I was a freshman. Freshman year is a weird time with lots of awkward moments and confusion, and lots of transitioning, adjusting, and learning. There are definitely things I know and do now that I wish I had known or done as a freshman.

If I could write a letter to my freshman self (or to other college freshmen), here are some things I would say.

Sometimes it's okay to forget about homework and hang out with your friends.
You don't have to (and you probably shouldn't) go to every movie night or every late-night ice cream run. But once in a while, choose an opportunity to have fun with your friends over doing homework or working on a paper. Studying isn't everything, and what is more, this is your chance forge deep friendships with the people at school and make lasting memories with them. So do it. It's worth it.

At the same time, make studying a priority, and form good study habits now.
Don't be that freshman who stays up until 3:00am every night hanging out with friends and never does their homework. While it's okay to do that once in a while, don't make it a habit. Not only will your GPA suffer, you'll be in for a rough wake-up call come sophomore year when your classes get harder. Do yourself and your GPA a favor by forming good study habits as a freshman that will carry you through the next three years.

There are tons of ways to save money and make college more affordable.
Be sure to explore your financial aid options: apply for scholarships from your school, for federal aid, or for scholarships from outside sources. If you have to take out loans, use a service like Earnest to help you refinance your student loans. Explore all your school's meal plan and living options ~ because usually there are a multiple options with varying costs ~ and choose whatever is best for you. Look into getting a part-time job on campus ~ it will allow you to save some money during the school year, and also give you a little pocket money.

Put yourself out there and get involved.
I know it's hard being a freshman and not knowing anyone. But don't hide away in your dorm room all the time. Introduce yourself to people (and try your hardest to remember everyone's names). Join a couple of clubs that interest you. Go to campus events. Soon enough, you'll be getting to know people who will be your best friends through college and beyond. At the same time, you'll develop your talents, delve into your interests, and, most importantly, grow as a person.

Lastly, I know you're really scared now, but it's going to be okay. In fact, it's going to be amazing.
Believe me when I say the hard, awkward freshman days don't last. This too shall pass, and before you know it you'll be having the most amazing time of your life. Your school will become just as much "home" as home is. The people you meet will become your dearest friends. You'll have unforgettable experiences and make lasting memories. College will change your life for the better. I promise.


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