I just recently finished my first year at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. While I hate using cliché metaphors, I would be neglecting their typical accuracy by not comparing my first year of college to that of a roller coaster ride. There were many ups and downs, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed my first year of school.
I still have so much to learn about how to thrive in the college environment, but in reflection these are the three things I wish someone had told me when I arrived on campus the first day.
1.) People, Organizations, and Activities... Are Not Going To Find You
Up until high school much of my life had been planned out for me. My parents prodded me to join sports leagues from a young age, and while I thoroughly enjoyed them, my parents always took the time to sign me up and take me to games and practices. In college, you're the one that has to take the time and effort to join the clubs and organizations you like, because I can assure you that they are not, nor will they ever be, searching for you.
Likewise, many of the close friends I had before college were people I had known since early childhood. There friendships came naturally, whether it be through family get-togethers or school activities. In college, you will be put in a new environment where no one will know about your past. For some this might be a good thing. For others it might not. Regardless, my advice is to be yourself. Your old friends must have saw some redeeming quality in you that made them stick by your side, and so in college, put yourself in social situations where others can see those same character traits.
2.) Go In With An Open Mind
All high school seniors dream about what college will be, based on what high school isn't. I did it, and I'm sure you will too. In truth, some of your collegiate fantasies are bound to come true, but some are inevitably going to remain fantasies.
Ultimately, don't set yourself up for disappointment. College is all about having the ability to adapt to your environment. I struggled with that in a sense, because some of my aspirations didn't translate to reality. Don't get me wrong, you should have high hopes for your freshman year, but I advise that you recognize the positives things as they come during your first two semesters, and allow them to overshadow the negatives ones.
3.) Complaining Is Okay, But Keep A Healthy Perspective
It's instinctual to complain about the things that annoy us in our lives. In college there will be plenty of those "things." People, pop quizzes, 10 page essays, jobs, projects, and the dining hall to name a few. I complained about them and you will too.
However, it is worth noting that very few people in the world ever get the chance to attend a school of higher education. In fact, only 7% of the people in world hold a college degree.
So when you complain, understand that while the things you are complaining about might be frustrating things within your environment, you're in a pretty darn good environment. You have an opportunity that others can only dream of.
In conclusion, that's what college is: an opportunity. Get involved, go chase your aspirations and goals. Nothing worth having is going to come running to you. It's okay to have big dreams about what college will be, but keep an open mind that is accepting of whatever reality has in store for you. And lastly, be happy. Because you have an incredible chance that so many others will unfortunately never get. Use that as motivation, and don't let your time go to waste. My freshman year flew by, and so will yours.
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