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Advice These College Students Wish They Would've Known Their Freshman Year

Updated: Feb 5

The transition from high school to college can be a tough one. For many students, going to college means living on their own for the first time, which comes with a lot more changes than just the academic setting. Living away from home and with a roommate, setting your own schedule, and being responsible for every decision you make is very different from living at home with a parent. For those who commute or continue to live at home while in college, the transition still comes with many more adult responsibilities. Below, six successful college students share advice that they would give to their freshman year selves, knowing what they know now.

Abby (she/her), Columbia University ’20

  • It’s okay to be lonely! College is a huge social transition and it’s okay and normal if you don’t find your friend group right away!!! You will.

  • It’s fine (and encouraged) to explore and do things by yourself.

Brynn (she/her), The Ohio State University ’21

  • Be yourself, try your best and everything will fall into place.

  • Even detours that may feel like you’re off your path can be meaningful and help bring you closer to your eventual long-term goals.

Kristina (she/her), Occidental College ’20

  • It’s okay to make some imperfect friends, especially in your first year at college, when just feeling included and seen is your priority.

  • The real and wonderful people in your life will be the people who mirror the energy and love that you give to them.

Jonah (he/him), Rochester University ’20

  • Don’t freak out if everything is not perfect and easy initially.

  • Be willing to fail fast, learn, and constantly adapt.

Maggie (they/them), Georgetown University ‘21

  • Take time to explore your interests — do things simply because you want to do them.

  • That might not seem like a good enough reason to do something, but I promise it really is the best reason to try new things.

  • Take that random elective “just because.”

  • Shed the idea of what you “should” do.

  • Boundaries are an act of kindness, not only to yourself but also to the people who love you and whom you love.

Jack(he/him), Northwestern University ’20

  • The transition from high school to college can be very daunting, especially for those traveling to out-of-state schools where you know few or no other people. I definitely struggled with homesickness and a bit of loneliness the first quarter of school. I found myself yearning for the deep connections I took away from high school and wondered if they would ever come.

  • My advice is to trust the process and know that with time you will find your community on campus, perhaps in places you never expected.

  • It’s also OKAY to feel overwhelmed. Social media often depicts an unrealistic ideal of perfection surrounding freshman year, and it is often not the case.

Each person’s college experience is different, and what works for one person doesn’t always work for everyone else. However, it is clear to see from each of these successful students that it’s always a journey! Being patient with yourself, being okay with taking a few risks and trying new things, being vulnerable with yourself and others about your emotions, and exploring new exciting—and sometimes daunting—possibilities are all a part of that journey.

Sarah Tibbitts, a 2020 graduate of The Ohio State University, currently works as a Social Justice Fellow at Stanford University’s Hillel.


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