I completed my first semester of college just a few weeks ago. I’m pretty sure that I learned more in four months than I did in all of high school, and I haven’t even started taking my major-related classes. Regardless, I’ve been exposed to so much that I wouldn’t have been aware of if I didn’t attend Ball State. As a freshman, I went in knowing nothing. I knew a few people at my school, but not many. Most of them were just acquaintances, not close friends. I remember pulling into my residence hall parking lot on move-in day on August 14 and feeling so nervous, but also so excited. There were so many people standing just outside my residence hall – people helping us to move in, hall staff, other freshmen like me. It was overwhelming to say the least.
Over the last four months, I’ve learned a lot. College isn’t easy, but it is easy to get carried away in college. Some people go to a party once and decide that’s all they want to do for the rest of the semester. Some people never leave their dorm room. Some people choose to get involved. Some dedicate themselves completely to studying. None of these are bad when done in moderation. Some are certainly better than others. Here’s what I learned during my first semester of college:
1. Getting involved is no joke.
Honestly, I’m not sure what I would have done if I didn’t get involved right away my first few weeks on campus. I can’t imagine having nothing to do during my weekday nights. Organization meetings, events and other clubs help me break through the monotony of classes. You don’t have to be deep into the study of public relations to join the Public Relations Student Society of America. You don’t have to have been a teacher to join the Student Education Association. You don’t even have to be an education major! Heck, I joined an agency without any PR experience!
2. You’ll meet a lot of people your first week…
… And you may never talk to them again after those first few days. During the first couple of weeks at school, everyone is looking for friends. Everyone is in the same boat. You’re just looking for someone to go with you to get dinner so that you don’t have to go alone. You’ll hang out with these people for a few weeks, and you may become more distant. That’s okay! However, you also might really connect with those people. My best friend on campus was someone I met during the first week.
3. There’s something for everyone.
Whether you like to stay in, go out, paint, cook, run or make movies, you’ll find someone who likes to do the same thing. On a campus of nearly 20,000 like Ball State, you’re bound to find someone who shares your interest. That’s why joining clubs and going out and socializing is so important!
4. Roommates are tough.
The idea of living with someone I didn’t know terrified me. And now, that idea still is haunting me. My roommate transferred to another school after this semester, so I’ll either be alone next semester or get a new roommate. It’s not easy living with someone you don’t know. You might have different personalities, you might have different sleep schedules, you might have different ideas about cleaning. Unfortunately, you just have to deal with that.
5. Your parents are always there for you.
Always. Honestly, I don’t know what I would do without my mom. I called her every Thursday after my night class as I walked back to my dorm. I also called her Monday nights. Or whenever I was having a mental breakdown. It was always refreshing to hear her – she somehow always knew how to calm me down. It’s really hard being away from your family, but it’s important to remember they’re just a phone call away.
6. Classes aren’t everything.
Of course, you’re away at college to study. There’s no denying that. But, as I said in the first point, getting involved is hugely important. If you don’t get involved and go out and do things, you have no real connection to campus. You might as well stick it out at a community college, at least for the first year, if you don’t get involved.
7. Classes are still important.
It’s absolutely integral that you remember that you’re there to get an education – that’s why you’re paying thousands of dollars each semester to be in class. Treat them seriously. Read your books. Take notes. Study.
8. Missing a class won’t kill you.
Sometimes crazy things happen. You might sleep through your alarm and therefore sleep through your 8 a.m. class. It’s not the end of the world. Email your professor, get to class if there’s still time left, and ask someone in your class for notes. Sometimes you might just need a mental health day, and that’s okay too. Just don’t take too many!
9. People aren’t as judgmental as they are in high school.
Eating alone in high school? Embarrassing. Eating alone in college? No big deal. Grabbing a quick bite to eat in between classes is common. No one cares if you’re sitting at a table alone. People do their own thing in college, which is one of the greatest parts of being away at school. You can truly do whatever you’d like (within reason, I guess) and people won’t care. Do what makes you happy!
10. College is awesome.
I’ve never had such a great opportunity to be so independent. I think that the greatest thing I’ve done this semester is become more independent. I’m consistently shocked that I’ve grown so much over the last four months. College is definitely a transformative experience, more so than I ever imagined.