Sydney Scott, a freshman at Southeastern Louisiana University, continues her series on her life and times as a college student. View college life through her eyes and learn alongside her as she journeys to her future career. Share with the students in your life - this post is great for everyone.
It’s July. You’re minding your own business, just running to Target to get some snacks before you start your next Netflix queue, and then you see it: BACK TO SCHOOL! The displays of looseleaf paper, the rows of backpacks, the smell of those big, pink erasers you used to stab holes in when you were bored in art class… this all feels like a personal attack.
No worries, I still have a month left of summer, you may say to yourself. Then, you realize that in just 30-ish short days, you will be starting college. Agh!
The panic begins to set in: You soon find yourself at a Bed, Bath, and Beyond, feeling like a bonafide adult because you’re shopping for towels — is this what adults do? Do I need a mini-fridge? Where am I supposed to buy textbooks? What if I don’t get along with my roommate?
The small crisis that follows these panic-inducing thoughts is one that all incoming freshmen experience. This month, I would like to help you incoming freshmen get prepared. I assembled the collective wisdom of college students who have been through this before and survived. Hopefully, this will help you enjoy your last month of summer without wondering what the heck a mattress topper is, why you need one, and where to get one. You can thank me later.
If you’re living in a dorm…
Living in a dorm is what some would call the most inaugural experience for incoming freshmen . Moving into a communal living situation can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re away from home. Maddie, a chemistry major at LSU, has some advice for incoming freshmen on living in dorms:
“The biggest thing I learned my freshman year was how much I value respect from others, and how necessary it is to give them that same respect, especially in spaces shared by others, like communal dorm bathrooms. Even though it may not feel like home, it is, so make sure to keep whatever you use just how you found it.”
—Maddie, 19, sophomore at LSU
If you have a crazy roommate…
Hopefully, if you’re living in a dorm, you were able to choose your roommate. Life happens, though, which means you may have to room with a stranger. Hailey, a wildlife ecology major at LSU, was supposed to room with a friend her freshman year. The friend’s plans changed and Hailey was paired with a new roommate with whom she did not get along. Hailey’s best advice for incoming freshmen is on keeping the peace with a crazy roommate:
“Initially, I was able to choose my dorm roommate, but things fell through and my roommate and I were not great match. The best way to deal with a roommate that you don’t get along with is just to respect each other's spaces and speak up right away when something is bothering you. Also, usually your Resident Assistant (RA) will have you two fill out a ‘roommate agreement’ that acts as a guideline on how you will live with each other for the next year. If your university doesn’t do this, I recommend making one of your own. It’ll make everything smoother when problems arise. Just make sure to speak up when you’re making the contract. I made the mistake of agreeing with whatever my roommate said, and that made a difficult situation even worse.”
She also has some advice on making the best of things:
“Make friends with the other people on your floor. Since I couldn’t really bond with my roommate like I saw others doing, I made friends with some of my dorm neighbors. We ended up becoming best friends. I was over at their dorm room a lot, and they saved me from hating my dorm experience. They turned it into one I loved!”
—Hailey, 20, sophomore at LSU
If you still don’t know your career path ...
It’s okay if you aren’t sure what direction you want to go in. By the time freshman year is over, almost all of your friends will probably have switched their major, or at least thought about it. Going through school without any sort of direction, though, can quickly lead to you wanting to skip class because “what’s the point?”. Emily, a student at Southeastern Louisiana University, switched from majoring in Biology to Social Work her first semester. Here’s her advice on persevering through periods of feeling indifferent:
“My best advice is just… keep going! There are going to be times where you won’t want to get up and go to class, but you have to. When moments like these occur, I think about all of the money that would be wasted if I didn’t go to class. Also, I recommend aiming for a definitive goal that you can really use as motivation to get up and get going. You can adjust your goals over time, but having even one small goal can help you on days, weeks, or semesters where you’re feeling directionless or unmotivated.”
—Emily, 19, sophomore at SLU
If you’re financially independent and don’t have a huge budget...
Your freshman year of college might be the first time you don’t have financial support from your parents and learning to budget can be tough. Kacie, a pre-med student at Southeastern Louisiana University, learned early on about budgeting as a college student:
“It’s easy to want to blow your money with your new freedom, but you're going to need that money at some point. At one point during last semester, I ended up having to pay $1,000 in school fees, buy two new tires, and pay a speeding ticket all in one month. Just be smart with your spending. Save some money and eat in the cafeteria every now and then, and don’t go out with friends every night! Also, if your parents offer to buy your groceries, LET THEM!”
—Kacie, 19, sophomore at SLU
If you’re terrible with time management...
Bad news! College can be tough when you struggle with time management and prioritizing what should come first. The good news is, now is the perfect time to learn how to juggle all of your responsibilities and become an initiator. Reed, a pre-med student at LSU, recommends that all incoming freshmen learn now to allocate their time efficiently:
“I’d say the two most important traits an incoming freshman should strive for are (1) taking the initiative, and (2) and good time management. No doors will open unless you take the first steps, whether it be scholarships, new friendships, or connections with professors. Also, in college, no one is there to babysit you, so time management becomes an increasingly important skill. By using your time wisely, you can better carry out your responsibilities (like homework) while still having fun. Procrastination is your worst enemy.”
—Reed, 19, sophomore at LSU:
If you’re living away from your parents for the first time…
Freshman year is usually the first time you’re no longer living with your parents, and depending on what kind of relationship you have with them, there might be some learning curves or new situations you’re faced with. Nate, a criminal justice student at Navarro College, is to establish some routines to deal with the commotion that comes with setting up a new home:
“Moving out of your parents’ home for the first time can feel daunting. It can also feel very freeing at the same time. My advice is to do what our parents encouraged us to do growing up, which is to establish healthy, stable routines for yourself. It may feel like a drag at first, but following some of mom and dad’s advice will definitely save you from feeling overwhelmed by all of the inevitable chaos that ensues from disorderly living and/or study habits.
We're students, not machines. Sometimes, we need to default to the things that we found comfort in at home to keep some order in our lives. In short: don't run away from home! Keep doing the things you love and bring a piece of home with you.”
—Nate, 19, sophomore at Navarro Community College (TX)
On making new friends…
College might be the first time you’re in a situation where you don’t know anyone. Don’t worry, though, because freshman year is the perfect time to find where you belong. Whitney, a Louisiana native who plays tennis for the University of Montevallo in Alabama, has some advice on making friends in a place where you don’t know anyone:
“To incoming freshmen who are worried about making new friends, I’d suggest these three things. One: Consider rushing a sorority or fraternity. You may have some biases toward Greek life, but when you rush during recruitment week, you’ll be thrown into a group of people who you are bound to become friends with. I didn’t do it my freshman year and I regret it. Two: Go to the optional orientation events and activities that the Student Activities group runs. They’re a great way to meet people. And finally, three: Find one person in each of your classes that you like and talk to. That way, going to class will be more enjoyable because you’ll have a buddy.”
—Whitney, 19, sophomore at the University of Montevallo
If you’re not an early riser…
If you’re one of the rare few who enjoy waking up early, then you can skip past this. For everyone else: listen up! Waking up early can quickly make you resent going to class, so you have to learn how to do it the right way. My advice on how to get yourself out of bed for your 8 AM class is:
Set as many alarms as you need. I’ve been known to turn my alarm off in my sleep and not even hear it, so I usually have anywhere from 3-5 alarms set. Also, when you go to sleep, put your phone across the room from you. That way, when your alarm goes off, you’ll be forced to get out of bed to stop it, and voila, you’re up! Not the funnest way to get up, but it definitely gets you out of bed on those mornings you’d rather just skip class.
—Sydney, 19, sophomore at SLU (and your author, hey!)
To wrap things up:
Starting college can be overwhelming to think about, but remember that everyone was a freshman at some point. Take advice from other students, and don’t worry too much about how things will work out. Freshman year truly goes by in a blink of an eye, so enjoy it. And I promise -- you’ll make it out alive. Queue season 5 of The Office in peace.