I decided to start this blog for a couple of reasons. The first is that I believe writing to be a useful means of therapy. I find that when I want to get something out, it is much easier for my brain to get it out on paper than through speech. The second is that I hope to utilize this blog about advising to network with other people who share my passion for student success.
I'd like to start my first blog with the overdone, cliche, "What I wish I had known when I was a freshman" post. My youngest cousin is graduating from high school tomorrow and she will be beginning her academic journey in the fall. When thinking about what I could buy her as a gift, I started thinking about what I would have wanted when I was a freshman. The thing that stuck out most in my mind was: I would have wanted advice. So, I would like to share my very personal list of what I wish someone would have told me in those first weeks of the beginning of college.
1. It's okay to miss home.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a homebody. I don't have a very good memory, but I can remember distinctly the day my parents dropped me off at college. It was a whirlwind, but in hindsight, that was probably a good thing. We moved my things into my apartment (see 2.), slept for one night and the very next day I left for Fish Camp (see 3.) I didn't have time to realize just how much my life was changing. I was so busy the first couple weeks of living in College Station, but then it caught up to me. After the first round of tests (see 4.), I remember being so overwhelmed and tired that I just went in my room and cried for a long time. I though I was a freak for missing my mommy. I thought I was the only person in the world that would rather go visit home on a Friday night than get dressed in uncomfortable clothes, walk around in uncomfortable shoes, dance with strangers, and come home smelling like a bar. I thought I was going to be crippled for life and never be an independent grown-up. Looking back now, I realize that it's okay to miss home. When you're blessed with a wonderful family life like I was, you're going to go through an adjustment period and you're going to miss the comforts you grew up with. This is not true for everyone, but it was true for me. I wasn't used to buying my own groceries, cooking my own meals, or even getting the oil changed in my car. So, that first night that you feel like crying - don't hold back. Get those tears out, cry, yell, laugh, scream, call home, hug your teddy bear, do whatever you need to do. It's okay to miss home.
2. Create a space.
I believe that the energy of a space has a major effect on your mood, attitude, productivity, and overall well-being. Whether you live in a dorm, apartment, condo, house, whatever, make your space your own wonderful "homey" space to sleep, to study, to hang out, to think, to host parties, to do whatever it is that makes you happy. Get a comfy pillow, a candle that smells amazing, hang up pictures that make you happy. Make it somewhere you *want* to be.
3. HAVE FUN.
I didn't do this very well my first semester. To be honest, I didn't do this very well at all in college. Don't get me wrong, there are a few people whom I keep in contact with that I am certain will be life-long friends. I could conjure up a list of things I wish I had done or hadn't done, but my biggest regret about my non-academic college life was that I don't think I had enough FUN. I was way too wrapped up in trying to find a husband. Why? Because somewhere along the way, I got it in my head that I needed to be engaged when I finished college. This was an idiotic idea, and even now I can't pinpoint where it came from, but I wish to impart my wisdom onto every female entering college. Don't commit yourself to a relationship too early. Don't limit yourself to fulfilling anyone's dreams other than your own. I wish I would have gone on more dates, joined more clubs, gone to more sporting events, done more of what made ME happy. So, as a freshman and for the entirety of your college career, HAVE FUN.
This is a hard one for me to write because it exposes my flaws. I'm going to be extremely vulnerable with you, readers. I'm not as smart as everyone thinks I am. I'm just good at school. I do very well under academic pressure. I'm great with regurgitating information. I'm good at anticipating how a professor is going to test me and then conforming to that challenge. However, I wish I would have realized earlier how important learning is. It is much more important than performing. Making all A's, but not being able to tell anyone what you learned in your undergraduate degree, is performing. Carrying a C-average but being able to apply knowledge to real-world situation to solve problems, is learning. Please, please, please, I beg of you, learn all that you can. It will pay off, I can promise you that.
There are many more things than these that I try to tell my freshmen during advising sessions, but these are the few personal nuggets that I often reflect on. Readers, I invite you to share what you wish you would have known as a freshman, or if you're in those precious transition months of beginning your college career, ask the burning questions in your heart about making the best of your freshman year.