My college began again last week, and I truly can’t believe that I won’t be there for the new school year. Packing up the car, driving down to Southern California with my dad, moving everything into a new dorm, and reuniting with my friends – for the past few years, this has defined the start of each new year. Although I’m really excited about where I am in life and what is in store for me, I can’t help but feel nostalgic. College is truly a special time in life, and it’s sad to know that it can never be recreated. I’ve been thinking a lot about how my experiences in college changed me and shaped me into who I am, and today I want to share some of those reflections. To be honest, I’m mostly writing this for my own sake – as a way to process the things I experienced and the changes I’ve been through. But if you are heading into college yourself, I hope that this advice helps you to make the most of your next four years. They will be incredibly fun, challenging, inspiring, and formative. With that, these are some takeaways from my four years as a college girl.
- Academics isn’t everything. This was an interesting lesson for me to learn, as the girl who strived so hard in high school for perfect grades. Things change in college, and I think that it’s important to let yourself expand beyond classes to focus on other priorities, too. In high school, my life looked something like this: 80% academics, 15% athletics, and 5% social. In college, it was more like this: 40% academics, 40% social, 10% athletics, 10% Netflix, 10% lounging around with my roomies, and another percent here or there thrown in for random adventures. My life was so much more full – I had way more fun, I was challenged beyond my comfort zone, and I formed a much stronger social circle. Somehow, I still managed to do well with the academics, too. So give yourself permission to explore new interests and opportunities.
- Be social. This one, in particular, is for those first couple of days. It can be hard to put yourself out there and try to be friendly and funny and interesting with all of the new people you meet, especially if you’re introverted, like I am. My brother gave me some simple yet great advice for those first few days: just say hi to everyone. All of your peers are in the same boat during those first few weeks of freshman year: looking for a friend to sit with in the dining hall or a group with which to head to the party. So put yourself out there: a conversation here, a compliment there, and even an invitation to do something together. These people may not be your best friends forever, but you’ll make some great memories with them in those first few weeks, and meeting new friends will be much easier if you’re already involved in a social circle.
- Remember how much true friends really matter. Once you’ve found a group of friends, make the effort to seek out those people with which you truly connect. For me, these girls entered my life throughout my four years in college, in a very organic way. One I met during the second day of orientation freshman year; another lived next to me the year after; yet another I met many times at parties before we really connected while both studying abroad. These are the best girlfriends I’ve ever had, and I met them here and there throughout my college experience. So keep an eye out for those people who really understand and compliment you: these relationships will likely be your most important takeaway from college.
- Take advantage of new experiences. College is one time in your life when you have the chance to explore so many new directions, all at once. Whether this is a possible career, a particular sorority, or an organization on campus, try as much as you possibly can. For me, this included studying abroad. The six months I spent in Europe were life changing in many ways: I had the best new experiences, I was exposed to new cultures, I learned to rely on myself, and I gained so much self-confidence. The experiences you have in college will make you a stronger, more well-rounded person – so don’t shy away from embracing these possibilities!