What I Would Tell My Freshman Self
The end of my freshman year of college has drawn to a close. While I don’t by any means claim to know it all, the last two semesters were a time of immense growth accompanied by intense highs and lows. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the upcoming year and my excitement over new freshmen on campus. Upon reflection, I think I can sum my freshman year up into nine points. So for all of those about to enter this grand new adventure, here are nine things that I wish I'd have known before entering freshman year. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you…)
You will miss home more than you think.
We will start with this one, right off the bat. What I did wrong and what I learned was that it’s all right to mourn being away from home. The first month or so I got so swept up in the novelty of college life that I didn’t realize how much life had changed. When it finally hit me, it hit me hard.
Everything around you is changing. Life is not normal, and you are going to miss home. What I know now, and what I wish someone would have told me, is that missing your family is not a sign of weakness, but a sign that you have something beautiful. And the most beautiful thing is that even if you do feel alone, you know that you have a forever-friend who will never leave your side; that’s a welcome glimpse of home in a new and strange place.
The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. -Deuteronomy 31:8
Go to Office Hours.
An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. -Proverbs 18:15
I learned this lesson the hard way, by holding back until I was struggling in a class, only to find out that I had a helper and supporter waiting for students to express any need. I found that the classes I enjoyed the most were the ones where I had a good relationship with the professor. Just go. You don’t have to go back if they turn out to be unhelpful or rude, but most of the time your professors and TAs will be good allies in class and around campus. Yes, asking for help can be humbling, but it also has great rewards.
Give people grace. We’re all trying to figure out how to do life.
Somebody borrows your cutting board and leaves it dirty in the kitchen? It won’t ruin your day. The person above you is blasting music until 2 a.m.? You will survive. When a friend seems to be ignoring you or not communicating, there is often more to the story. Everyone in college is trying to figure out how to balance homework, family issues, social events, club commitments, etc. You will be a lot happier if you just assume that there are struggles behind the scenes, and treat everyone with respect and love.
Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace. -1 Peter 4:8-10
You do you. (Don’t play the comparison game.)
But now, this is what the LORD says — he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’ -Isaiah 43:1
One of the most unnerving things is looking around and thinking everybody else has it all together. Let me tell you a secret: they don’t… and they probably feel like you have it all together instead. We compare our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel. It’s a sad fact of human nature and a social-media obsessed world. Yet you are loved. You are unique. You are beautiful. You are talented. You have been called for a purpose. Keep doing what you love. Keep up with the study habits that work for you. Try new things, but don’t feel the need to be anyone else but you!
Give yourself room to change.
At the same time, give yourself room to find out who you really are. What makes you happy? What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to be? College is a chance to redefine yourself. Some things are going to change by circumstance (I’ve become more socially outgoing.), but others you get to decide (I’ve become more passionate about environmental issues). It’s one of the last opportunities you have to be free and honestly explore your identity. Don’t try to be the same person you were in high school. Figure out what you like about yourself and what you would like to do differently. Then, go do it!
Your morning devotion time may be the only moment of peace you get.
Be still and know that I am God. -Psalm 46:10
College is all about running the race well. In the fast pace of classes, extracurriculars, work, and social life, you will be tempted, a lot of mornings, to read quickly and move on to your impending homework (or stay in bed and hit the snooze 10 times). Yet that quiet half hour--or however long--in the morning may be the only time you have to center your thoughts and breathe. So take advantage of it. You will never regret spending some extra God-time (our email devos are a great place to start your quiet time each day!). He will reward the time you take for Him.
Leave your door open.
Two of my favorite things about college are unexpected friendships and spontaneous conversations. When you seclude yourself in your tiny dorm room, you will miss the laughter, jokes, dance parties, political debates, and religious discussions. You may also miss moments to serve — moments where you can lend a listening ear or a helping hand to a student in need. An open door is not only an opportunity to build relationship, but also an opportunity to show the love of Christ to a fellow classmate.
Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ -Matthew 25:44-45
Write down your first impressions.
This is absolutely something I wish I had done! Take the time to write down what you think of your roommate, the person across the hall, your RA, your bathroom, and the dining hall. You will thank me later. You’ll want to remember what you first thought as a baby freshman. They make for pretty great conversations later on…
This year will (most likely) be the hardest and best year of your life.
If someone were to ask me how my freshman year was, that’s how I would simply describe it. This year was the hardest. I made mistakes. I was lonely and homesick. I experienced frequent illness. I had to learn how to be independent. I had to deal with tragedy away from my family. I was mentally exhausted. I was pushed academically.
Yet it was also the best. I made wonderful friends. I tried new things. I achieved many small (and big) victories. I went on adventures. I was independent. I grew spiritually, and I fell in love with a college and a town. This year I realized just how hard life is and how messed up our world is. Yet through it, I also learned more about myself and became happiest in who God created me to be.
God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. -Ephesians 3:20-21 (MSG)
My hope for you is that you would allow the gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit to push you into far greater things than you could ask or imagine this year. Go and grow grandly!
For the upperclassmen and grads, what advice do you have for our freshmen starting college this semester? Share in the comments below!