I constantly think to myself, what if senior-year-me could see into the future? If I could see small, ten second increments of what I would experience this spring, what would I think? Why would I be packing my dorm into storage in March? Picking up my dogs’ poop in mid-April? Or come May, why would I be in front of my computer for stats class, shuffling through Snapchat filters to put on my professor through the Zoom screen? And what even is Zoom?
Being a college student has become more difficult to navigate. I don’t know what any of your first years, no matter where you go or what you do, will look like. Now more than ever, I wish I could predict the future.
Whatever fall 2020 has in store, there is a day you’ll step foot on campus. Whether this day comes in August or further down the road, it will mark the true start of your college career. With my freshman year just behind me, I would love to share a couple pieces of advice that aren’t always disclosed.
First, I want to share with you something I call the sponge effect. At the beginning of freshman year, you absorb absolutely everything, hence the sponge reference. One day you’re home, the next you have to change your shipping address. The change of environment is drastic and there is no suitable preparation.
Everyone knows college is an adjustment. Not everyone knows how it feels to adjust. In the fall, I would wake up and think I was at camp. This was my room, the person I’ll live with, where I’ll eat and the shoes I have to shower in. You take everything in at once. Emotionally, you’ll feel the impact. You’re more vulnerable in a new environment; the highs are high and the lows are low. Eventually, it will fade and after a long day when you just want to go home, you’ll think of your dorm room.
Another overlooked aspect of freshman year is luck. It was luck the last song that played before my parents dropped me off was “Changes” by David Bowie, a song that was already important to me. My dad and I looked at each other with wide eyes through the rearview mirror. There is an element of luck that can significantly influence your start at school. This includes whether your randomly selected roommate, or the one you met on Facebook, works out. It includes whether you like your dorm, floormates and professors. At any moment, you could be in the right place at the right time to meet the right people or experience the right things that will be formative to your experience.
These moments of sheer luck happen to everyone. Hold onto them and don’t get discouraged when they don’t appear. This isn’t to say that luck is defining of the college experience because it’s not. Everything works itself out in a “trust the process” kind of deal. You meet new people throughout your first year and beyond. You will surely work towards your best times and best friends.
College is a balance of coulds and shoulds. You should go to class, sleep, eat, do your work and call home. The coulds of college are boundless and the most exciting. This is where you can join organizations, meet people or explore a new area.
These freedoms, and how you use them, undoubtedly dictate your college experience.
Use your coulds wisely, ensure they make you happy.