Freshman year of college is one of the most transitional periods of our entire lives. In middle school we learn the wonders of switching classes, and high school, the sweet freedom of driving a car, and in college, somehow we are tasked with figuring out what it means to grow up for real. Easy enough right? Truthfully, the nature of your first year of college is so fast-paced that each of your many experiences can and will teach you something important. When it comes to the most valuable of these lessons, an overarching theme lies in balance. They always say the key is “everything in moderation” but in college, this is especially true since everything is a balancing act. There are a lot of different spheres, (academics, social, extracurriculars, physical/mental health, etc.,) and a lot of expectations begin to settle upon you on top of those you set for yourself. These are typically positive since they catalyze us toward ambition, but as aforementioned, it is imperative to understand that it takes effort and everything needs balance. The following pieces of wisdom come from my reflections of my freshman year of college and are things that I learned from my experience that have helped shape me since then.
First and foremost, the most obvious areas that need balance are school and fun. In this sense I would advise that there are always going to be parties, but there’s not always going to be an exam curve or that opportunity for a position. In college there are more social endeavors going on than you could even imagine. Therefore, missing that oneparty or function at the end of the day really isn’t going to make or break your whole college experience, especially if you end up killing it on a tough exam instead. Playing Devil’s Advocate however, I also will say that you are young and it is important to live for some adventure while you can. By this I mean that all the fun things to do in college don’t have to be partying, but can be exploring, taking road trips, or just simply enjoying a nice night in. Schedule time in between your studying to make memories and do things that fill you up while you are in the same place as all of your best friends.
The next area that I find is important to balance is new friends and old. With this, my advice is to meet as many new people as you can your first year, but never lose the ones who have been there for you since the beginning. It’s easy to get caught up in all the new faces and trying to make new friends your first year especially when you begin to explore different interests and join new organizations. It is so fine (and honestly recommended,) to invest in the new friends you make; they will enhance your life in different ways than what you’ve known before since they are meeting you in this specific chapter of your life. But as I said, do this while maintaining care and time for those who have known you forever and been with you through it all. Schedule coffee dates with those who go to your school, or weekly phone calls with those who are elsewhere. There’s room in your heart for new people without having to kick out the old.
Finally, the last valuable balancing lesson that you learn in your first year comes through training your own mind and getting a handle on stress. This comes in different forms for everyone, but it’s inevitable that you’re going to feel stress to some extent during college. We all do. The important thing to remember is that stress can be a good thing, but don’t let it control you. A little healthy motivation for things like school and such can help you work harder, but it’s when you start comparing yourself to others too much that you need to get a handle on it. Understand that just because someone else seems to have it all together doesn’t mean that they do, and that just because you might not feel like you do at one point in time, doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to succeed. You are doing so much good, whether or not you let yourself notice it, and one little mistake here and there doesn’t change that.
I said it once and I’ll say it again, your freshman year is the most transitional period of your life. I learned more about myself my first year of college than I have in 18 years of my life and I couldn’t be more thankful for it. Among all of my advice, I leave you with one more thing to remember that embodies it all: breathe; this time of your life was made for growth and you don’t get there by being perfect.