If you are anything like me, you did your research before you headed to college. What to bring, what to expect, roommate advice, and everything else college-related. I looked up EVERYTHING. But no amount of articles or videos could really prepare me for what I was going into. Yes, the tips and advice helped me a little, but nothing could fully prepare me for the experience itself. Freshman year was unlike anything I had ever experience before. It was my first time living away from home, giving me more independence than I ever had before. I went from having my parents drive me everywhere and pay for everything, to me taking shuttles and using my summer job money to buy groceries. It was a big change, and I learned more than I expected. Everyone told me I would grow and learn, but I thought that was just cheesy advice. Little did I know how true it was. In no particular order, here are just ten of the many lessons I learned my freshman year of college.
1.) Friend groups change - and that's okay.
If you have watched any youtube advice video about college, then you have heard this before. I heard it over and over again, and always doubted it's truth. When I went to my summer orientation, I was convinced that the friends I met there would be permanent, life-long friends. We all seemed to mesh together so well, and I was sure I had found my core group of friends. And for the first few weeks of college, it was true. We did everything together and discovered what college life was like. But then something happened. One by one, we each began meeting other people - people that meshed even better with each friend. Even by the time fall break came around, my friend group had changed drastically. And that is okay! The first few weeks of college, everyone is just so nervous and eager to meet friends, so you'll make friends with a lot of new people. But the further you get into the year, the more you find people that you actually connect with. This doesn't necessarily mean you'll lose all your original friends. I am still friends with each person from my original group. They just aren't my core group. Even going into my sophomore year, I can see my friend group changing a little. We are in a season of growing and learning who we are, so it's only natural to change friends and discover who you really can grow and connect with. And instead of fretting the change, I learned that new friends are a good thing! Just don't ditch those that impact your life in a good way.
2.) Cooking is fun... and actually not as hard as I expected.
Before coming to college, I literally had no idea how to cook anything. Like, maybe scrambled eggs, but that is it. My college was very unconventional. Each dorm included it's own kitchen, and the school did not provide meal plans. Which meant I had to cook ALL MY MEALS. Going from having my mom cook everything for me, to making all my meals myself was a huge transition. First of all, I didn't even know how to go grocery shopping by myself. You have to actually plan out meals before you go shopping, who knew? My first shopping trip turned out to be a collection of random foods that did no got together. (Side note, buying your own toilet paper is also really strange). But learning from friends around me and many youtube videos, I slowly learned by experience. And somehow, someway, I learned how to cook. And surprisingly, I like it! It's fun to combine foods and see what you can make on your own. And it's also surprisingly easier than I expected - but also way more time consuming than I was aware of.
3.) Prioritizing is key!
In high school, I had very little going on outside of school. I went to school, came home, did my homework, and had free time for the rest of the night. My schedule was pretty set every day. But college was a whole new level of "busy." Suddenly, I had a few hours of classes a day and the rest way up to me! Homework, studying, hanging with friends, watching t.v., reading, having quiet time, shopping, anything was in the realm of possibilities! And I learned pretty quickly that I could not fit everything I every day. So I had to learn the importance of prioritizing. Key things first, and then have fun. Trying to fit everything in everyday will drive you crazy.
4.) Learn to say no.
Hands down, I am a people pleaser. I like to make people happy and hate saying no to people. But this goes back to the last point of prioritizing. There is no possible way to fit everything and everyone in. Sometimes you have to say no to helping people out. As important as it is to be kind to others, it is also massively important to not neglect yourself. And as fun as it is to hang out with friends, you cannot keep pushing your school work back. Saying no is hard, but it is necessary to get through college.
5.) There are so many beliefs out there.
Growing up, I attended the same school all thirteen years of my education and the same church my entire life. I was surrounded by the same beliefs my whole life, and I believed many things without questioning them. When I got to college, I discovered how much there was still to learn about my faith. I had to do research on my own on why I believed what I believed, and I heard new things about my faith I hadn't thought much about before. And while I still ended up believing mostly the same things I had before, I now knew why I believed them. I learned to be firm in my belief while also allowing others to share their beliefs. I learned from others and had the opportunity to teach others as well. I am still constantly growing in my faith and learning new things.
6.) People do not care as much as you may think.
High school often tends to be very shallow. People talk about others, and it is sometimes very "cliquey." This caused me to be very aware of how I looked and acted everyday. Freshman year gave me insight into a very different feeling. People literally show up to class in pj's and crazy hair, and no one judges. College allows people to express themselves, and no one is here to judge. Everyone is just doing his own thing. And it made me realize how much I used to care about other's opinions. I used to never leave the house without makeup. Now I only wear makeup on special occasion. College will do that to you. My missing eyebrows and acne are now out in the open to the world - and I really couldn't care less. (This confidence also largely came from the help of my amazing fiancé, who continues to give me the confidence we all deserve).
7.) Do not pull all-nighters.
Contrary to popular belief, all-nighters are not necessary in college. In fact, my freshman year was actually easier than I expected, school-wise. Whether it was because I went to a good high school or just because my general education courses were basic, my work load was not too heavy. Definitely not heavy enough to pull an all-nighter. Once again, it goes back to prioritizing. However, I did manage to pull one or two all-nighters throughout the year, just to hang out with friends. And let me tell you, I regretted it so much the next day in my 8 a.m. class. I seriously do not understand how people pull all-nighters often. I physically could barely keep my eyes open, and ended up missing my next class because I couldn't stay awake. I also felt terribly sick to my stomach all day. I don't know if this is just because I have no stamina, but I highly do not recommend all-nighters, especially if you have something important the next day. It's just not worth it. But if you are really excited to pull one and see for yourself, go ahead. It is part of the college experience, in a way.
8.) Be yourself.
Growing up, I always had this label on me: The smart, quiet girl. Besides my close friends, everyone thought I was really quiet. When I was little, I was very shy and hated being the center of attention. While I was growing up though, I slowly began growing out of that stage. I felt more comfortable with myself. But there was something holding me back - this label. Whenever I talked, people would be dramatic, like, "Oh my gosh, she talks." I let comments like this hold me back. So when I was going to college, I was excited to no be known by anyone. I could me myself without any labels. And you know what happened? I got labeled as the quiet one again! At first it really bugged me, and even brought me to tears at one point. But I learned a lesson through it all - that is how God created me. Not everyone is made to be the same. Some are quiet, some are loud, some are goofy, some are serious. I slowly learned to be proud of how God made me, and I didn't feel like I had to go out of my way and talk so that I wouldn't be "the quiet one." I learned that I was naturally a quieter person in group settings - and that is perfectly okay! I am now comfortable with myself and know I can just truly be myself without worrying what others will label me as. Instead, I have learned to be proud of how God made me.
9.) Keeping in touch with old friends is hard.
In high school, it is hard to imagine losing the friends that are so close to you. But college is such a new experience, and you are constantly growing and changing. You may lose interests that you and your high school friends shared together. And on top of that, you are so busy! It is hard to remember to take time out of your day to text that friend from back home. So while a few strong friendships may last, do not expect to stay close to everyone you once were besties with. But while it is extremely hard, make time to keep in touch with a few friends. Do not let life sweep you away as to where you are too busy to send a text here or there.
10.) Give people a chance.
I found it easy to go into college looking for people to hang out with that resembled my old friends. I knew what I liked, or at least I thought I did, and I tried to let that limit the people I hung out with. But people will constantly surprise me. I was often pleasantly surprised as I gave people chances. Do no let your past friends dictate your new friends. Give everyone a chance, and you might just find a new friend. Or more-than-friend, as I did myself :)
On top of all these lessons, I was constantly reminded of God's goodness. I came into college thinking I would be prepared after all of my research. But God reminded me to just follow Him and see what He will do. Life is an adventure, and as much as you prepare for something, you don't truly know what will happen until you live it. I never would have expected to find the close friends that I did, or most of all to be engaged by the end of the school year. I did not expect to learn any of these lessons, no matter how many times I heard that "I would grow" in college. So whether you are heading to college yourself or just entering a new season of life, enter it with the expectation to grow and be excited to see how God will move in your life.