Before the school year started, I asked my friend Maggie to write about her transition from high school to college. She is back again to share the real, honest truth about her freshman year at Georgetown University!
When Mandy asked me to guest post again, my initial thought was, “How am I ever going to be able to give readers even a sense of what freshman year of college is like?” I naturally wanted to describe a perfect year at a picturesque school and make you excited to go off to college in the upcoming years or to look back blissfully on the past months you’ve spent away from home. But while I’m able to accurately call Georgetown the perfect fit, I don’t feel right saying the same about the year in general. Wonderful and exciting, maybe, but not perfect. Actually, I would say the best word to describe freshman year is quirky.
As I wrote in September, absolutely nothing can prepare you for college life. It’s full of new experiences, relationships, surprises, highs and lows. From the moment you step on campus to move in to the second you lose sight of the place you’ve lived for nearly a year, every day is different and shapes you in some way. Your life is incredibly influenced by your walking between classes and conversations with friends, by meals in the dining hall and dance parties that last into the early morning hours. I believe the best way for me to give a review of my freshman year is to give quick snapshots of what I’ve learned about the many aspects of college life, so here goes nothing:
Dorm life is quite something. My freshman dorm had four floors with one hundred people per floor. Just to let you all know, that was bigger than all of the students in my entire high school combined (we had ~380). It was definitely an adjustment living with so many people and not knowing everyone around me. Over the course of the year, I learned that communal showers are not that bad (advice: invest in a good pair of shower shoes!), to avoid bathrooms on weekend mornings (another piece of advice: bring flip-flops to wear throughout the entire year when you walk around outside your room…you never know what you might encounter), to expect your friends to want more than just a taste of whatever you’re cooking (okay, maybe reheating takeout) or baking in the common room, and to take advantage of the free programs and tickets, and food, your RA offers. On a more general note, after college you will probably never live anywhere with a similar environment to that of a dorm. While it can certainly be a bit annoying when you’re trying to study or when you’re sick or when all you want to do is sleep, it’s also an incredible way to meet people and make some of the best friends you’ll ever have. So don’t complain about it, embrace it, take advantage of the opportunity to get to know awesome people, and most importantly, make your dorm your home.
Necessities: mirror, hand vacuum, cleaning supplies, microwaveable plate and bowl, one set of real utensils, coffee mug, stepping stool, and a very cozy blanket
Let’s talk food. Unless you’re very lucky and are going to a school with great food, I can promise you’re going to get sick of the dining hall. Options are repetitive and when you’re in a rush it’s usually easier to go for an unhealthier option than to take the time to put together a nice salad or wrap. Most dining halls offer healthy options, but they also offer the ultimate college vices: pizza, pasta, waffles, and ice cream. Unfortunately, I learned “The Freshman 15” isn’t a myth. I tried really hard throughout the entire year to avoid it. I made a concerted attempt to eat healthy and work out a couple of times a week. But when I was stressed, I reached for carbs (especially pasta, I’m Italian, I can’t help it). When I had a lot of work to do for my classes, I didn’t get to go to the gym or take a run to the monuments. The thing is, I knew I wasn’t always making the best choices. But it’s part of the learning curve that comes with going to college and growing up. You have to learn how to make the healthy choices for yourself and take the time to get up and get moving, even if just for a half hour, because it really will help you to feel better and be more productive.
Getting back to food for a minute, definitely learn how to cook some simple dishes and take trips to the nearest grocery store to pick up containers of pre-made food. I was lucky enough to have a Dean & Deluca store just a few streets down from campus, and it was my saving grace to be able to go there every few weeks when I was fed up with the dining hall. It was expensive, but it was worth it. Don’t be afraid to spend money on buying groceries—personally I made trips to the grocery store every two weeks because I really love having fresh berries and yogurt in the morning—or going to lunch or dinner with friends. You definitely shouldn’t skimp on your health and on what you like to eat.
Now we can’t forget why we all actually go to college: to learn.
Here’s what I learned this year: college is hard.
You don’t sit in class all day like you do in high school, and having free time is amazing, but it’s also tricky finding a balance between when to do work, when to work out, when to sleep, and when to relax with friends. There’s no perfect formula that will give you the percentages of time you should spend doing each, and definitely no formula to dictate how many hours you should spend on your assignments. Some nights you’ll have almost no work and other nights you’ll be in the library until the crack of dawn. I personally discovered that I am really not a library person and work better sitting in my comfy pajamas at my desk in my room. Most people aren’t the same. You have to figure out at what hours, how and where you’re most productive, and tailor the rest of what you do to maximize those conditions. Here’s another thing about college: midterm season lasts forever. They sneak up on you as early as the beginning of November and can quite literally go until the week before finals. Constantly check your syllabi, go to office hours, STAY ORGANIZED, and make at least one acquaintance in each class. Those four simple things will really help you to succeed in whatever subject you take on.
But don’t think I’m promising you’re going to get all A’s and have a perfect GPA. Chances are that you’ll struggle with one or two classes each semester. If you don’t, congratulations. But it could mean you’re not pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and challenging yourself to learn more and be a better student. I took a computer science class in the fall having zero prior experience with it, but I was really intrigued by the subject matter. So I took two more classes second semester. And boy, weren’t they difficult. I am now proud to say that I am a computer science minor (but don’t ask me about my major, I’m still figuring that one out). I’ve also fulfilled almost all of my core requirements in just two semesters and in doing so have taken some really interesting classes with the most inspiring professors that I may not have gotten to meet otherwise. Therefore I’d like to give you some advice: get core classes out of the way so you can explore later, but take one class per semester that is simply just interesting to you. Use RateMyProfessors.com, but don’t be scared away from a class just because everyone says the prof is a really strict grader. Ultimately college is a time for you to learn as much as you can about as many different topics as possible, and to share what you know with others both inside (don’t be afraid to ask questions or speak up) and outside of the classroom. Your point of view and thought process is unique from everyone else’s, so any contribution you make is bound to be a good one.
So I just realized this was a pretty long post, but I felt I needed to do a worthy retrospective. I’ll simply leave you with this piece of advice about college: no matter what happens, it’s going to be the best years of your life. You’re going to have a lot of really late nights for various reasons, and those will be some of the best memories you’ll make and keep with you. Immerse yourself in every aspect of the experience, take chances, get to know as many people as you can, and don’t forget to take lots of pictures.
Thank you oh so very much for quest posting, Maggie!
I cannot wait for you to launch your own blog sometime this summer!
Keep things covered up!