Do you remember your freshmen year in college?
What were you like back then?
What were your fears, reservations, hesitations?
What questions did you have that first year?
What were your insecurities?
Launching to college—particularly away from home—provides a whole new sense of independence and adventure to your life.
Prior to college, all I really knew before was Little Rock, Arkansas and the same school I had gone to for 13 years of my life; along with many of the same friends since 1st grade, the same church, same sports and activities I did, same hangout places.
Come August following my senior year in high-school, my world changed tremendously and had I been a bit more prepared on the front end, I perhaps could have spared my self a few hard knocks along the way.
Fast forward nine years later, and this past week, I started up a small group for Freshmen girls in college, in partnership with the Young Life student organization on the University of Texas’ campus.
The plan is to meet weekly with these 13 girls—each with different stories, backgrounds and interests—to…talk life, get in the Word together and navigate the curveballs of college life (a crash course in Surviving College 101).
While highschool teaches you about being prepared for the classroom in college—little does it educate you on life outside the classroom (like making friends, dealing with tough roommates, dating, choosing a major, going through Rush, washing your sheets, etc.).
And so, to my freshmen girls—really all college girls—heed to this tidbit of advice:
Dear College Girls,
Welcome to ONE of the times of your life.
No, it’s not THE one and only time in your life, but it is most certainly a sweet season of fun, adventure and freedom—freedom to be independent, explore, have no real strings attached.
Here’s to lessons learned (many the hard way) back in the day (not too long ago)…50 lessons to be exact.
Take a deep breathe and read on.
- Stop comparing yourself—just stop. Instead of looking to others, wondering how you can be more like her, turn inward—how can YOU be an amazing YOU.
- Peer pressure is not just confined to junior high and high-school. There’s plenty of it in college, and just because it’s the ‘thing you are supposed to do in college’—means didley squat (drinking excessively, parties, sex, chasing a certain ideal, etc.).
- You are never going to be 100% satisfied with your body. So quit hating on it so much. Instead, seek to do things that empower, inspire and enliven you—inside and out. Nourish your body, mind, and soul.
- Don’t go looking for Mr. Right. Throw yourself into doing things you love, and investing in building good girl-friends, and Mr. Right is going to find you.
- Juice cleanses, 1200 calorie diets and episodes of purging that slice of pizza you ate may seem like good ideas in the short term, but only leave you hangry, dissatisfied and set you up for a struggle that quickly gets out of control.
- Lay out the ground rules with your roomies on the front end—from boys in the dorm, to taking out the trash, washing the dishes, keeping the main space tidy, borrowing one another’s clothes—save yourself lots of heartache later.
- 9 times out of 10, you are not going to meet your future hubby at that frat party. He may not even be able to remember your name the next day. If you don’t feel like going—you don’t have to go.
- Be the first one to initiate conversation—in the cafeteria if eating by yourself, in class—even if you don’t feel confident meeting new people, chances are others around you feel the same way. Fake it til you make it—it’s captivating.
- Repeat people’s names back to them when you meet them. People’s favorite word is their name and it helps store their name in your brain.
- Follow through. Freshmen are known for being flighty—socially, with clubs they sign up for, weekend plans. Be a woman of your word—it speaks highly of you.
- Stop stressing over your major. The average student changes their major 4 times anyway.
- It doesn’t really matter what your major is anyway. Grad school can help pave the way if you have a distinct path in mind (med school, law school, etc.), otherwise, I’ve known biology majors who became fashion designers, business majors who became photographers, journalists who became therapists, psychology majors who went into marketing. The world is your oyster!
- All nighters are overrated. Sleep will help you think better than trying to cram everything in at once.
- The day you get assigned a paper, set up your Microsoft Word document with your heading, name and/or title page. Even the first sentence or paragraph. Get the ball rolling so it’s not as daunting later.
- Scope out cool places to get your study on—environments that bring you to life. Local coffee shops, 24-hour diners, outside in a park, bookstores—the library can be great, but also a black hole.
- Take breaks from the books every few hours and schedule fun rewards to look forward to—a walk, episode of your favorite TV show “Girls”, a workout, coffee or phone date with a friend, etc. Keep your brain from going mush.
- Handwrite your notes in class. Writing helps solidify details and info in your brain, more than a bleak computer screen. (and helps keep you off Facebook)
- Early morning classes typically have more availability and give you a leg up on the day ahead! They also help you stick to routine.
- Take a speech class (even if you don’t have to). Communication skills are among the more important things for the job hunt and interview process post-graduation.
- Connect with your academic/school advisor. She or he can become one of your greatest friends and advocates. On that note, also introduce yourself to your professors the first few days of class. Put a name to your face, shake hands with them, and ask them a thing or two about themselves as well!
- Bring enough clothing to school with you that you can go two weeks between washings, but not necessarily your entire closet! You will NOT wear it all.
- Never leave your clothes in a washer after the cycle is over. Be there to take them out right before the cycle ends—you never know who will take them out for you (or take them altogether).
- Never trust a friend under the influence who says: “I’ve got this. I feel like Miley Cyrus right now.”
- Costume party? Go all out. This is the only time of your life when Halloween happens more than once per year.
- Seek out random internship opportunities on breaks and vacations. Experience is the greatest teacher of all.
- Just because Urban Outfitters is on the drag on the way to class does not mean you need to have a new outfit every day. Emergency credit cards don’t equate with shopping emergencies. You WILL regret it.
- On that same note, get a credit card (preferably just ONE), and make all your gas, grocery, school-related and main bill purchases on it (up to 20% of the card’s balance). This will help to start building your credit. BUT if you start spending more, or can’t pay the balance in full for even one month, tear the card up.
- Food is everywhere—and lots of times free or cheap (pizza nights, college fried chicken nights, Tiff’s Treats homemade cookies delivered straight to your dorm, all-you-can-eat cafeteria buffets). Keep in touch with your hunger-fullness levels (check in with yourself before meals and after meals) to eat when you are truly hungry and stop when you’re full. In addition, aim to have a protein, healthy fat and veggie with most every meal. Balance.
- Occasionally, skipping class is not the end of the world. Just don’t make it a regular habit.
- Dishwasher soap does not go into the dishwasher detergent compartment in your dishwasher (#bubble bath!).
- Sleep on top of your sheets with a down comforter or fleece as your blanket. Avoid having to wash your sheets quite as often.
- Ensure you are drinking water throughout the day! At least half your bodyweight in ounces. Constipation is no one’s friend.
- Wear flip flops in the community bathroom and shower—at all times.
- You can’t do it ALL—pick 1-3 clubs or activities to invest in this semester/year, and be all in. (it’s utterly exhausting if you sign up for upwards of 10 things!).
- If you have to choose between a double major and getting involved on campus, get more involved. All the knowledge in the world won’t help you if you come out of college with zero experience, networking or professional relationship experience.
- Guard your reputation on your social media profiles…they can catch up with you later on down the line. Annnd…Don’t mix drinking and social media. Just don’t.
- While it can be tempting to go home as much as you can, or stick to the friends you know on campus (or at other colleges from your hometown), aim to be PRESENT with the people you are around right now. Hang around on the weekends. A lot of bonding happens in the spontaneity of down time and presence.
- Find YOUR style and boldly claim it. Just because everyone is wearing Nike running shorts + Tory Burch sandals + Greek sorority t-shirts + Kendra Scott earrings does not mean that is your required ‘school uniform.’
- If the sign says ‘No Parking’—don’t park there. Campus parking police hide in bushes. And towing can cost you up to $500.
- Stock up on some healthy snacks to keep in your fridge and dorm for those times you miss the dining hours. (You can even store some cafeteria eats in your room). Try: tuna, nitrate-free deli meats, hardboiled eggs, rotisserie chickens or grilled chicken breasts, raw nuts, almond butter, coconut butter, fruit, carrots, organic plain grass-fed yogurt, herbal tea, grain-free granola, zucchini, broccoli and celery, avocados, a quality protein powder, nitrate-free beef jerky, kale chips, even sweet potatoes and eggs themselves are easily cookable in the microwave.
- Get your sweat on. Just because highschool jerseys and cheer uniforms are retired doesn’t mean fitness has to stop. No time like the present to explore new modes of fitness that are fun, challenging and empower you feel to amazing in your own skin. Take advantage of all the classes and gym on campus—or student discounts you get at local yoga studios, bootcamps or CrossFit affiliates. Find what moves you.
- In fact, MILK THAT STUDENT ID. Ask for student discounts everywhere you go.
- Get an AMAZON PRIME account for free with your student e-mail.
- ALWAYS back up your computer and files. Get a DropBox or iCloud system for storing all your hard work.
- Set some goals for yourself. Don’t let this year slip away in the midst of crazy busyness. While you’re at it, keep organized with your thoughts, goals and to-dos. Invest in a Passion Planner to not only pencil in your assignments and social events, but to remind yourself of where you are going (with your goals) on a weekly basis.
- If you get a bike, get a U-Lock. Bike theft is rampant on college campuses. (As is theft in general…keep your purse on you).
- Carry mace spray on your key ring; and walk in numbers—never go it alone at nighttime, no matter how well-lit the campus is.
- 4 out of 5 sexual assault cases are committed by someone known to the victim; and 1 in 4 women will be a victim of sexual assault. Be picky and choosey with the guys you hang around.
- Pencil in times to call the parentals and siblings. They love to hear from you—and distance makes the heart grow fonder.
- Always believe you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think and twice as beautiful as you’d ever imagine.