Move in day is just around the corner for college freshmen, and this year is extra special for me because I’m going into my final year at NYU and my younger sister will be one of those brand new freshmen in less than a week!
As we’ve searched for the perfect duvet cover or picked out meal plans, I’ve had plenty of advice for my sis, but most of it has been pretty trivial. While gems like ‘don’t buy a white duvet cover’ (you’ll just spill on it) or ‘force yourself to eat breakfast’ (you’ll be so much healthier) are important, I’ve slowly realized there a few bigger pieces of advice I want her to start school with.
College is an incredibly exciting time of your life, and I’m already getting a bit emotional about my time coming to an end. However, it’s also a time that you’re sure to make plenty of mistakes. Every college student will experience a horrible exam grade or a rough reaction to a night of too much drinking, and while no one can stop you from making those mistakes it doesn’t hurt to go in with some tips for how to navigate an entirely new world.
1. Make your dorm room feel like home right when you move in
It’s easy for college to feel like summer camp, especially freshman year when you’re living in a small space with a lot of people – but you should make your dorm room feel like home as much as possible. Print out pictures and pick out decorations that you love and then put them up in your room as soon as you move in, so that your space feels like home instead of just temporary sleeping quarters. Before you know it, classes will start and you’ll have no time to slowly decorate the space like you might have planned.
2. Spend time getting to know yourself, don’t get into a relationship immediately
One of the most important parts of college, arguably more important than the actual classes and degree, is getting to know yourself. If you’re like most, college is the first time you’re away from your family and the friends you’ve had since you were little. Instead of just going with the flow, take this time to get to know yourself. You aren’t who your parents think you are or the 13 year old your friends might still see, so do the things that make you happy and if you don’t know what that is, try out as many things as you need to find what you love.
3. Don’t stop making new friends
You’ll make a million different friends during your orientation week or first couple weeks of classes, but just because you have friends from the first few weeks of school, doesn’t mean you can’t keep making more. Too many people make ‘enough’ friends and then stop meeting new people and just stick with their clique. I’ve made some of my best friends in the last year and that never would have happened if I didn’t make an effort to keep meeting new people.
4. Save your money by setting a budget
I went into college with a lot of money saved up from high school jobs, but had zero idea how to set a budget or follow one and ending spend way more money than I should have that year. At different schools you’ll spend money on different things, but whether it’s eating out, alcohol, clothes, or weekend trips it’s important to start figuring out what you’re spending your money on and then create a budget. There will be big ticket items you’ll want to spend on, such as spring breaks and study abroad, so setting a budget and saving for those important experiences will make you feel way more secure when they actually come around.
5. College is school, and expensive school at that, so make sure you study and go to class
Moral of the story: someone is spending a lot of money for you to go to college, so don’t ditch class even if you think you you can learn everything for the exam out of your textbook. Some of the most important things I’ve learned in my college classes have been stories of my professors’ experiences, and that’s something you definitely can’t learn out of a textbook. It’s easy get FOMO if you’re not going out every night and studying instead, but you’ll thank yourself when midterms come around and you don’t have to read half a semester’s worth of textbook chapters in one night.
6. Let loose (but not too loose)
So this piece of advice is combination of my advice and a friend’s. His advice was purely to let loose, but I think the ‘not too loose’ part is key here. Like I said above, college is school and you have to spend a decent amount of time studying and getting involved, but the rest of the time you should go out and have fun. Spend weekends going out with friends and exploring everything around campus, but also make sure to be safe and smart. While you should never be afraid to go out and have fun, you should also watch out for friends and never do anything that feels wrong.
7. Make alone time for yourself
Roommates, classmates, busy dining halls, packed library – it’s pretty much impossible to avoid people when you’re in college, but getting alone time is probably my most important piece of advice. Being around your friends all the time is one of the greatest parts of college, but if you don’t find a few hours a week just for yourself you’ll end up going crazy. Try spending a night in with your favorite show on Netflix, doing a long workout by yourself, or finding a secluded spot to read a book.
8. Don’t try to grow up too fast
In my experience, college gets better and better every year so you have a lot to look forward to, but try to slow down and let yourself just experience your freshman year. College truly flies by and there’s plenty of time your junior and senior year for worrying about internships and your career. For now just worry about having fun and getting to know your school, because soon you’ll be starting senior year and it will seem like it’s all ending way to fast (aka how I feel everyday).