I chose a college that was four hours away and that not a single member of my high school had ever attended before. It was a small liberal arts school where I would completely start over, reinvent myself, and meet a new type of person. I was so excited, and as college starts up again this year, I’m watching all the little kiddos start their college careers with proud momma tears in my eyes. What’s important to keep in mind is that while I am a unique flower, I was/am also awkward, weird and nerdy. And my freshman roommate was a jock. Yikerz. We ended up being super best friends and five years later, we’re still crazy close. Here’s how I survived and hopefully, how you will, too!
- Accept right now that you don’t know everything. My dad always said that college broke down into the following: Freshmen are terrified, sophomores think they know everything, juniors just want to be seniors and seniors just want the hell out. It’s so true, except freshmen also think they know everything. If you want to be respected by Your Elders, accept right that now that you do not know everything. In fact, you don’t know anything. You don’t know where you’re going, you don’t know what you’re doing and you don’t know who you are. All of these are facts when you start college, deny it all you want, it’s true.
- Only wear a lanyard if you want to look like a freshman. Maybe this is a rite of passage, I’m not sure. I did it as a freshman and then then next year I was like, “Awww, look at all the freshmen with the lanyards around their necks, how cuuuuute!” The best is when people wear their keys on lanyards but backwards, like, they fling it around neck so it hangs down their back. Oh, you super creative little buttons, you are just too precious! (And yes, I totally did that. Shaddap.)
- Leave your high school yearbook at home. No one cares how your history teacher wished you the best of luck in the coming years. Guaranteed your roommate and friends will have way more signings than you, because they were cool, and you were not.
- Shower with flip flops on. As gross as those communal showers are, you have to use them (and if you don’t, we have a whole new set of problems). One way to avoid contact with the disgustingness is to wear waterproof flip flops. Seriously, if you’re not wearing these, you’re the grossest person in the world and you will get fungus on your feet. This didn’t happen to me personally, but it did to a friend. Remember: SOME PEOPLE PEE IN THE SHOWER.
- Set boundaries. I was that person who laid it all out for my roommate our first week: “I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs and I don’t have sex. If you want to do that, go for it but don’t do it in here or we’re going to have a problem.” It was probably the most direct and fierce I’d ever been in my whole life, but my roommate was awesome and respected it. Remember: you live there, too. Don’t always sacrifice your comfort just to stay friendly.
- Be flexible. At the same time, be flexible. Pick and choose your battles. Yes, she’s working on a paper at 3am, you’re trying to sleep and she keeps asking you about MLA format, but you know what? It could be worse. Rattle off key points about parenthetical citations and tell her she owes you big time later.
- Never offer to drive anyone anywhere. In the rare opportunity that you, a freshman, get to bring a car to campus, do not advertise this. You will be used by people who don’t even like you. Luckily, I was warned this would happen before I got to school so I restricted my car to the following people: ME. And my roommate, if I felt super generous. Never let anyone drive it other than you (unless you are with them and are incapable of driving). People need to earn their way into your car. It’s sacred, like your pikachu.
- Do not complain about being broke. You will be met with eye-rolls. You’re in college. You’ll be fine.
- Don’t leave your Sims game open while out of the room, even if it’s just to pee. I’m really serious about this, because if you do, your roommate’s friend will ask you, “Why are all your Sims named after those Harry Potter people?” and you will have no good answer. Not a single one.
- Do not set out for the “typical” college experience. Do you know how many frat parties I went to? None. Zero. Nada. Ignoring that my school didn’t have Greek, I didn’t even go to the baseball house or the lacrosse house (we had houses off-campus that tended to be rented out by the coolest members of a team). It just didn’t interest me. Especially as an education major, if I had gotten caught drinking underage, I would have been finished. I didn’t party with the red Solo cups, I didn’t dance on tables. Some people might think this means my college experience sucked eggs but really, I don’t regret it. I was busy going to the zoo with friends and practicing my scales like crazy and playing mother freaking LASER TAG every Friday night like a BOSS pretending I was Jack Bauer and completely pwning everyone. It wasn’t at all what I expected out of college but I loved it so much and miss it all the time.
- Stop with the dialect arguments! Seriously! You call it “pop” and I call it “soda”, WHO CARES? I mean, clearly it’s called soda and you’re an idiot if you call it pop but really, do you think that’s how you make friends? By calling everyone a bunch of hicks, slamming your books down and walking away? Trust me when I say this doesn’t work.
but really guys it’s called soda
- Go to your roommate’s crap. I was bad at this. She was good at it. She went to a few of my voice recitals but I only went to one of her soccer games. I felt great seeing her out there in the audience and when I went to her game, I felt really proud of her. Remember that she needs support as much as you do.
- Your high school was not that great. It doesn’t matter how many times you insist your production of Les Miserables was fantastic, no one was there so no one will believe it. Just drop it. Don’t harp on about the past. Stop making it a competition. Seriously, Becca, stop it.
- Do not go home every weekend!!!!!!!!!!! This is so super important! I don’t care if you live 15 minutes away, stay on campus! I don’t even care if there’s nothing to do! This is important. This is really important. You will not feel connected to your college if you leave all the time. I had a friend who went home every weekend and he didn’t understand why he didn’t love school as much as I did. “Stop going home,” I told him, and he finally listened second semester. Everything went up-hill for him: his social life, his studies, everything. Force yourself to go through that homesickness. You will learn to appreciate your family, to find ways to talk to old friends, all that crap. It’s not just good for the school if you stay, it’s emotionally good for you. A lot of growing up happens on those weekends when you’re alone and miss your old life. Don’t run from it, embrace it. Please trust me.
- SAY YES SAY YES SAY YES SAY YES. After moving in and my parents left the building and drove away, my roommate asked if I’d would like to join her at lunch with some of her soccer friends. I turned her down because I’m a ~nester~ and needed to settle in but I always regretted that. It took me four years to learn to say yes and I wish I had started doing it earlier. I missed out on a lot those first few years. SAY YES TO THINGS.
- But not the bad stuff. Like, if someone asks if you want to snort cocaine off a dead hooker, it’s okay to say no. Use your best judgment.
All pretty basic stuff, right? It’s not that bad, I promise. Just please please PLEASE remember the following: Everyone is just as scared as you. Every single person is petrified. They are amazingly good at hiding it though, aren’t they? You’re screaming inside and they’re just laughing and smiling and making friends like it ain’t no thang but really, they’re screaming inside, too. Initiate things. Don’t wait for others to make plans and invite you because you’ll just get left behind. Be that person who pulls people together, people love that person. And finally, have fun. Have so much fun. Meet people who are different from you, try new things and call your mom once in a while. She’ll appreciate it a lot because she loves and you’re her baby and you’re all grown up now. Now, off you go! Good luck to you and try not to embarrass me.