A variation of this post was first published here.
Entering college is a major life event, and it can take serious adjustment. I learned a lot of lessons about friendship, academics, and life in general my first year of college. I’m sharing the top 7 mistakes I made freshman year and what I wish I did instead.
I didn’t join a student organization until second semester. Most universities have a large assortment of clubs, societies, and student organizations to give everyone an opportunity to get involved on campus and in the community. My first semester, I made the mistake of not joining any clubs! I did join a club my second semester, but I wish I took that step earlier. Looking back, making friends would have been easier freshman year if I joined a student org early on.
I didn’t say “yes” often enough. There were a lot of times when I had an opportunity to step outside my comfort zone, but I chose not to. Sometimes I felt shy, and I didn’t want to attend a party or hang out with a new group of people. Many of those times, I just wanted to study or curl up in my room and watch Netflix. If I had said “yes” those times, I likely would have walked away from my freshman year with several more stories and experiences.
I didn’t bond much with the roommates I was randomly matched with. I opted for a “random” roommate during my school’s housing selection period. I was matched with not one but TWO roommates! While we all seemed to like each other, we never became close friends. At the end of the school year, I stayed up until midnight with one of my roommates for the release of Taylor Swift’s “ME!” music video. It was one of our best experiences together. I wish we did more roommate bonding activities over the year.
I almost always studied in my room. When you have work to do, it can be tempting to retreat to your room and study at your own desk…or on your bed. But, studying in a library, coffee shop, or common room can be even better. My second semester, I made an effort to study in the library more often, and I became a lot more productive. I felt energized seeing other students working hard, too!
I didn’t bond much with my professors. I only went to my professors’ office hours a few times. Looking back, I wish I went more. Several of my peers told me that going to office hours regularly actually boosted their grades, since the professors appreciated those students’ effort and dedication. Also, now that I’m choosing a major, it would have been helpful to discuss my plans and ideas with my favorite professors.
I wasn’t always confident about speaking my mind in class. Whenever I had classes with upperclassmen, I felt intimidated by them! I thought their opinions were more enlightened than mine, so I spoke up less than I wanted to. There were also times when my opinion differed from the class majority’s, and I didn’t speak up at all. As I gained more confidence, I was more vocal in class, and my professors really appreciated it. Speaking up got easier every time.
I didn’t do enough acts of kindness. College isn’t always smooth sailing. You never know what someone else is going through! I wish I gave more compliments to strangers and held more doors open. I wish I thanked dining staff and janitors more often, too. The times I did random acts of kindness around campus, it felt great knowing I was spreading positivity. A simple act of kindness can change someone’s whole day.
When fall rolls around, I’ll make it my priority to do all of the above!