Dear Freshmen: It’s Okay If You Aren’t Totally In Love With College Yet

When people are going off to start their big, grown up college career, all the adults say the same thing: “I loved college! You’re going to have so much fun! Savor every moment, it’s over so fast!”

Which is probably true.  Those people probably did love college.  But I remember thinking that meant that I was going to love college too.  Like right out of the gate, puppies and rainbow fantasy land as soon as I put my Target lamp on my dorm desk.

This is my real-life freshman year dorm room desk setup.  Please note the Target lamp.

This is my real-life freshman year dorm room desk setup. Please note the Target lamp.

So when I got there, and then I didn’t love it I thought I was broken.  All the normal kids were loving it, and making zillions of new friends and I just wanted to be anywhere but where I was.  I felt like the only kid on the whole campus that wasn’t wholeheartedly embracing “the best time of your life”.

But of course that wasn’t true.  In fact, I haven’t talked to anyone that’s had a legitimately wonderful first semester.

Not.

One.

Person.

Which is not meant to frighten you.  I’m just giving you permission to acknowledge that maybe you don’t like school right now.  And that’s completely normal and okay.  It gets better, I promise.

Here is a list of perfectly normal things that happen to most people their first semester:

  1. You realize that everyone else in your major is just as good at stuff as you are, or better.  Stop seeing others as competitors and start seeing them as friends.  Future employers will care less about your grades and more about how you relate to others.
  2. Trying to find someone to go with you to the dining hall for every single meal gets exhausting after about the first week.  It’s okay.  Take a book and eat alone, I promise no one is assessing your social abilities.  Lots of people eat alone.
  3. You miss home.  That’s normal.  Call your parents, go home for a weekend, ask them to bring your dog to visit you, whatever.  They raised you for eighteen years, you’re allowed to miss them.
  4. Your high school friendships start to be less close.  This can be sad, but is also normal.  Most of the time, this doesn’t mean that you are no longer friends, but only that you have less in common to talk about. You’re both meeting new people and trying to transition into a new place.  They aren’t gone forever. Accept the distance, but stay in touch.  You can still enjoy coffee dates when you’re both home on break.
  5. Making new friends on purpose is hard.  Figuring out who, among the myriad of strangers you’ve just met, will be an actual good friend is difficult and awkward.  The friends you make during orientation probably won’t be the friends you take pictures with on graduation day.  It takes time to find your place, and that time will feel uncomfortable.  It’s okay, everyone feels awkward about it, nobody remembers how to make friends (it’s been so long since you’ve had to!)

There are, of course, other things that could be added to this list.  But my point is take a breath.  Let things happen.  Work hard, be kind, and be wise.  Everything will shake out soon.  But don’t feel like you have to pretend everything is just great when it isn’t.    Nobody loves their first semester.  Some people have better first semesters than others, but it’s hard for everyone.   You aren’t broken, you’re just feeling the transition.  Things will look up soon.

And if they don’t, don’t be afraid to make changes.  Change your major, change your roommate, transfer schools. Lots of people do that, it’s okay.

Don’t worry though.  You probably truly will really enjoy your college experience.  And maybe someday you’ll be the one glowing about how wonderful it all was.  Just don’t forget that awkward first few months.

Happens to everyone.

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