How I Survived Four Years of College: Advice for Freshman Friends (or really anyone)

Dear freshmen,

I stood where you stand. I did what you’re doing. I took the classes you’re taking. Four years ago, I felt like I was beginning the impossible. GAs seemed ancient (but they’re not). Four years seemed like forever (but it goes by so, so quickly!).

I’ve felt that helpless feeling when Mom and Dad drive away and just leave you standing there to figure out life “on your own.” I remember figuring out how to find textbooks and schedule classes. I remember looking at syllabi for the first time–I must have spent at least an hour figuring out how they work. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed. Every. Single. Day. But I made it. I made it, and I have my diploma displayed to prove it. And apparently I’m a glutton for punishment, because now I’m back for another degree.

Classes at BJU start on Wednesday! So here are a few thoughts on how to survive college.

  1. Get a planner and keep it close.

It could be an app on your phone or an old-school notebook-style planner (which is what I prefer). When they pass out your class syllabi, write down your assignments ahead of time. Things are always subject to change, so I usually only write my assignments out a week in advance–no need to try to plan out the whole semester.

When you write down a week’s worth of assignments, you have a manageable chunk of the semester to work with, which keeps things from looking too overwhelming. Work on your assignments day by day, then work ahead as you have time. When a busy time hits (and it will), you’ll know what’s coming–and if you work ahead beforehand, all you’ll need to do during the busy time is review what you’ve already done. Trust me, this system cuts WAY down on the stress. I wish I had learned this sooner.

As soon as you find out the dates of required activities, performances you are in/need to go to, or the due dates of major assignments, write those in your planner as well. Trust me, those things are easy to forget, so write them down right away. This will keep you from suddenly being shocked by a busy week. Also write down meetings (with time and location) and meal plans.

2. Don’t wait to establish an organization system.

For me, it was a five-subject notebook with pockets on the dividers. I had a section of notebook for notes from each class. The syllabus and handouts for each class went into one of the pockets. It was an easy system that kept all of my class materials handy–all day, every day. Maybe a binder with folders and dividers would work better for you. Maybe you want a separate notebook and folder for each class. The key is to find a workable system and stick with it. You don’t want to lose the syllabus. You want to hang onto any handouts given in class. And you should keep all your notes in one place to help you study. An organized student is a prepared student. A prepared student is a successful student.

3. Take the opportunity to get involved.

Choir? Orchestra? Drama? Debate? Whatever your hobbies are, keep pursuing them. Put out some feelers–find out what kind of time is involved and how those extracurriculars will fit into your schedule. Freshman year is the best time to get involved, because you have the easiest classes and fewest responsibilities. As you get into smaller classes for your major, you may have to drop a hobby or two, so take the time now. I can also say that I met most of my friends in extracurriculars, not classes. But all of this brings me to…

4. Remember that it’s ok to say no.

Don’t overcommit yourself. You can’t do everything. Take it from the girl who tried. You can’t do it. If there is one thing that the overall college experience is going to teach you, it’s how to prioritize. You probably will have an overcommitted semester at some point–and then you’ll know exactly how much you can handle. I guess what I’m trying to say is this: don’t be afraid of a busy schedule, but definitely allow yourself to have a little down-time in there. You’re going to need it.

5. Make friends with lots of different people.

You’re going to form a #squad. It’s inevitable. You will have a freshman squad. That squad will change over the course of four years. You might even end up in an entirely new squad. I did. But don’t do everything with the squad. Make friends in your major. Make friends in your core classes. Make friends in your society/fraternity/sorority/collegian (whatever your school happens to have…). Make friends in your dorm. Do tons of things with multiple groups of people. You will learn more about the world and how different people think. And you will have more diverse experiences. This can also help cut down on the drama factor.

6. Don’t obsess over dating.

There are so many things I could say about this… but I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. The world of relationships has a tendency to take over the mind. Don’t let it. You’re (probably) not going to marry the first person you go out with in college, so don’t act like it. Stay chill. Go to different activities/outings/meals with different people. You have plenty of years to figure out this particular area of life.

7. Above all remember: one day at a time.

Don’t look at all four years at once. Or this whole year. Or a semester, or a month. Even a week can get overwhelming sometimes. I’m not saying you should never plan, but you can only take care of things as they come. Remember that God’s mercies are new every morning. Lean on Him. I’ve spent the last four years in almost constant prayer–and I expect to spend the next two years the same way. Really, that’s how life in general is supposed to work when you have a relationship with Christ. Pray without ceasing.

The next four years are going to stretch you in ways you can’t imagine yet. But it’s going to be so, so worth it. One day at a time. And in four years, you’re going to look back and wonder how all that time went by so quickly!

Happy freshman year! You’ve got a “big sister” figure praying for you!

 

 

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