Final post of College Week!! Thank you to all of you who have kept up with this week’s posts — it has been a really successful series, I’ve been appreciating your comments and Instagram DMs so much! The final section is for those of you about to enter college. As I’m entering my senior year this fall, it feels so strange to be writing this, but hopefully it can be of help to some of you!
The Social Scene
Here’s a reminder for you: everyone who is a freshman is new and looking for friends. Don’t miss this prime opportunity to meet people, because it’s ridiculously easy in the beginning weeks. Even if you don’t stay close friends, it’s always nice to know people and see a familiar face once in a while. Tactics include: popping into other people’s dorm rooms, opening conversation with people in the dining hall, attending dorm welcome events, and saying hello to the person sitting next to you in class.
Go Out or Don’t
Partying is a huge part of the social scene in college, but it’s not the only scene. Go out to experience it, but if it’s not for you, there will be other friends who feel that way too! Own that it’s not your thing, because it’s really not a big deal. If going out is for you, learn the value of balance. Have fun, but be aware of your limits. It’s hard to be the “every girl/boy” — the person who manages to go out 5 nights a week, pull good grades in class, and juggle a club or two. Learn what works for you and always, always be safe, because abuse absolutely happens on college campuses.
School Spirit Is Cool
Depending on your high school, school spirit may have lacked a little…well, spirit. That just isn’t the case in college. Learn to relish it and try to take part in as many school traditions as you can (buy a football pass, go to events, etc.), and wear your colors with pride!!
Put On Your Smarty Pants
Join Clubs — But Don’t Overcommit
College can be really hard at times. Often, 30-60% of your grade relies on the final weeks of instruction. There’s a lot at stake, and it can be easy to forget this in the first few weeks. Definitely join a club or organization that interests you — it’s the best way to connect with people and create lasting friendships. But prioritize. Don’t take on more than you can chew.
Take the Classes That Interest You
On paper, I’ve taken History 100D and English 34A. In actuality, those classes translated to History of Broadway and Literature of the City. I took them because they piqued my interest and low and behold, ended up being two of my favorite classes (there are more than just two, trust me) at Berkeley. The amazing thing about college is that for the first time in your life, you can take nit-picky classes that zero in on a specific topic. You’re learning from some of the best scholars in the field, and no matter what you take, you’re developing critical thinking skills you can apply into life and a career. The whole point of college is to better understand where your passion and zeals exists — what gets you excited about life. Don’t take a class because it’s what you think you should be taking. Take a class because it’s made you curious.
[Also so you can really understand my point, I’ve also taken classes on the Holocaust, the growth of cities, children’s literature, Alfred Hitchcock, and 1930s/40s films — to name a few. Sometimes the nerd in me has to pinch herself because it’s just too cool.]
Go to Class
There will be the morning you say, “eh, I’m just not feeling it.” Get up and go. Professors may drop test hints or go over something that not in the online lecture slides. Think of class as 1 hour of studying — it’s an hour you won’t have to worry about before the test.
Understand that procrastinating will bite you in the butt — big time. Chances are that it will still happen, but if you give yourself an earlier deadline, you’ll never run into the risk of quickly finishing a paper or studying the day before it’s due. I love listening to white noise on Spotify to help me focus!
Use the Resources Around You
You are surrounded by passionate people who can talk your ear off about something — take advantage and learn! Be a porous sponge and soak up everything. Visit the career center, meet with your professors, and intern. Being a “college student” has perks — take advantage!
Learn How to Study With Friends
Find a group of people you can focus with, and study, study, study!! Sometimes, someone else will get a note you missed or even have a correction for a note you jotted down incorrectly. It’s so nice to have a group to bounce ideas off of, and I’ve had a study group to thank for the classes I’ve been most successful in.
Make a Resume & Go to Career Fairs
Make a resume and have it critiqued. Then print out 10 copies, dress in your best business wear, and show up to your next career fair ready to network and hand it out. Recruiters show up because they’re looking for college students specifically — it’s never too early to start networking.
Dorm Survival Guide
Invest in Shower Shoes…And Slippers…And Socks…And a Robe
Dorm rooms are livable but can be a bit gross. I never experienced anything too traumatizing, but that didn’t mean I wanted to prance around my room without wearing something on my feet. Shower shoes are a given (here’s a great pair for $2.50), but I also fell in love with socks in college…and slippers. It made walking to the bathroom — or even downstairs to pick up the dinner I ordered — 100% effortless. A robe also made dorm life so much easier — I could wrap myself up after a shower and not feel like I needed to balance a towel around my body. I’ve links some of my favorites below:
Load Up on Cold Medicine
Quick disclaimer, you will get sick in a dorm. It’s practically a rite of passage. You’re entering a small space with a lot of people. It’s a new environment (new germs!) and it’s so easy for any bug to spread. My freshman year, I got laryngitis, strep throat, and a common cold twice. I went to our health center and handled each sickness with medicine to try and stop the spread. Be prepared and just have some throat lozenges, tissues, zinc tablets, etc. stocked up for when the first wave hits.
Keeping Up a High-Quality Life
Get Crafty in the Dining Hall & Explore the Culinary Scene Around You
There was a time my freshman year when I grew addicted to watching “Chopped.” Dining hall food, like anything, might seem dandy at first but can get tiring as the options become limiting. So get creative. Try sampling a different mix and dressing at the salad bar, or make a panini to spice up your normal sandwich. I love this post from Spoon University about “dining hall hacks” — so worth looking at. On another note, take some time to explore the food scene around you. I’m lucky because Berkeley is one of the best college towns for food and living across from San Francisco means some of my favorite food is in the Bay. But every college town has that one tiny restaurant or cafe that will capture your heart (I’m looking at you, Elmwood Cafe!) — so be sure to sample around to find it. 🙂
Make a Gym Routine — STAT
This isn’t about body standards or looks. But staying healthy is a must in college. It’s way too easy to sit cooped up in a library for hours and get caught up in night life, so that your body’s health falls to the wayside. My workout routine was all over the place freshman year. Go to a couple of classes or pencil in a few workouts during your first weeks of college, and try to make time for it 2-3 times a week. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with everything going on, but making a commitment to yourself early means working out will become a habit rather than a casual fling.
The Roomate Situation
Learn How to Compromise
Within the first few days, my freshman roommate and I had a disagreement, and we had to learn how to come to an agreement. Compromise is key. Understand that you’re living space is theirs too, and vice versa. Show consideration and admit fault if something goes wrong. It’s not worth having a tension-filled room — that’s honestly way more stressful for everyone! Work through each problem as a team — do not let it fester. [Sidenote: My freshman roommate is now one of my absolute best friends.]
Try to Connect
You might not be best friends with your roommate, but it’s so much nicer to come home to a room where everyone feels comfortable. Try to find one common interest that you can connect on — maybe a style of music, a television series, a certain subject, or book. This will kickstart a bond between you and immediately turn the room into an enjoyable atmosphere.
You’re On Your Own
Mistakes Are Good & Not Having Everything Figured Out Is Healthy
Embrace not knowing. You might find something new you’re interested in, or learn you don’t really want the career you always thought you did. You might fail your first midterm, or decide you really want to major in something else. Everything will work out in the end. If there’s a will, there’s a way.
Think for Yourself
Until now, most of your decisions have been influenced by your parents. And though I guarantee in the next few months, you’ll be calling in need of some kind of advice, learn to be ok with thinking for yourself. As you converse with people from all different backgrounds, be open to reforming or strengthening your opinions. Start to question why you feel the way you do about a given topic. College is all about experimenting with new ways of thought.
College Will Be So Different Than You Think
There is no possible way to understand college until you’re in it. Stories and TV reenactments can’t do it justice. Sometimes, it is downright the most frustrating thing in the world. But most of the time, I’m shaking my head in awe that I’m in an environment of learning, of ambitious people, and of liberty to be myself. College isn’t perfect, but have an open mind. Learn to let your judgment go, and be open to everything, even if you take it with a grain of salt.
Do you have any tips for incoming college students? Are you headed off to you first year this fall? Comment below!