As a 20-year-old girl who is halfway through her sophomore year, I’ve got one thing on my mind: change. It’s something I blog about quite often — change in one’s perspective, change in one’s relationships, change in one’s life events — and part of my obsession with change has to do with the fact that I’m in college. After all, college itself presents a series of life changes, and we would all be lying if we said we didn’t allow our environments to change us.
January is an especially important time of year to recognize change. Because we have entered a new year, we are more likely to embrace the new experiences that we’re exposed to. Although it hasn’t even been two years since I first enrolled in college, I already feel like I have undergone some meaningful changes within that time, and that many of those experiences have become defining moments in my life.
For this month’s Freshman 15, I wanted to discuss some of those defining moments that many college students I know have experienced. Feel free to chime in with some of your own!
The Freshman 15: Life-Changing College Moments
1. The first time you refer to your dorm room as “home.”
For some, this moment comes quickly — in my case, within my first week of summer as a college freshman. And it can be a slightly emotional experience, because you might feel like by feeling so comfortable away from your family, you are betraying the home you have always known. It’s the moment when you realize that your dorm room is not just a few cinderblocks and some interesting wood furniture that no one actually owns in a real house, but rather, it is the place you always return to… a place where you’ve already begun to make some memories.
2. Establishing your core group of friends.
Chances are, you won’t remain friends with everyone you met at orientation. However, as the year progresses, the large group of freshmen you once clung to will begin to dwindle, and soon you’ll find yourself with the ones who you really click with. In college, you have a larger pool of potential friendships, and therefore you are more likely to find people you’re more compatible with than those you socialized with in high school. These friends will be the ones who help you through everything (and vice versa), and you will be thankful that you took the time to find them. If you’re the social butterfly, reach out to someone else — you can really make their (and your!) college experience all the more worthwhile.
3. Attending your first college “party.”
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge partier and I never have been. However, regardless of how many house parties you went to in high school, there is something exciting about going to your first actual party in college. Whether you’re looking for a raging frat party or a fun but slightly uneventful evening, you will be able to find exactly what you’re looking for. Plus, through trial and error, I was able to find out that I strongly preferred parties to awkward clubbing excursions anyway!
4. Doing all of those household activities you never thought you’d do.
Before college, I had done laundry maybe twice, and only with parental supervision. Boiling water? Ha! Who needed to boil water when you could just stick a frozen dinner in the microwave? Of course, I quickly learned some of the vital life skills for self-sufficiency, and I transformed from Girl-Who-Couldn’t-Use-Oven to Girl-Who-Bakes-Cookies-For-Everyone. A year and a half later, I maintain a tidy apartment and am more than capable of taking care of those daily chores. Of course, it is difficult not to have someone around to help you all the time, but being completely tossed in a situation in which you have to fend for yourself can actually be beneficial once in a while.
5. Discovering Hulu.
Okay… maybe this one isn’t exactly life-changing. But having access to all of your favorite shows whenever you want to watch them is an important skill indeed. Hulu taught me that it was okay to be busy — I could still have my down-time whenever I wanted.
6. Finding an organization on campus where you belong.
Knowing where you fit in and feeling a strong connection to that entity is one of the best things you will ever get out of college. The more you try to get involved, the better chance you will have at finding the club that changes your life. To quote Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower: “I don’t remember where and I don’t remember when. I don’t even remember the season. I just know that it was the first time I felt like I belonged someplace.” This is exactly how I felt when I first became involved in my honors college, and it is a feeling that I hope every college freshman will pursue.
7. Realizing it’s okay to ask for help.
Whether you decide to visit your professor in office hours or you attend tutoring sessions to prepare for exams, you are doing exactly what is right for you. In high school, there was always that stigma against asking for help — if you went in with extra questions, people might have made judgments about your intelligence in order to feel better about themselves. Nowadays, going in for assistance is often the “smart” thing to do. Once I realized that not knowing didn’t make me any less of a student, college became a lot easier for me.
8. Reuniting with old friends for the first time since college.
Let’s be honest for a minute… when I left for college, I did not want to look back. By the end of high school, I no longer considered myself particularly close with many people, and I was thrilled to move forward and meet new friends. However, I did maintain some close friendships, and occasionally I caught up with my high school acquaintances during vacation. Seeing people you haven’t spoken to in almost a year shows you how much you have changed since the last time you were both in the same place at the same time. You make for polite conversation, but at the same time you know that you have only drifted apart even farther.
9. Taking an introductory course that ends up making all the difference.
I originally applied to college with every intention of becoming a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. Soon after I started freshman year, I realized that while I still loved writing, I did not want to work for newspapers and constantly focus on the negative. I changed my major to Advertising/Public Relations on a whim, mainly because a career aptitude test on the Internet suggested it to me, and then enrolled in the two prerequisite classes: Principles of Advertising and Introduction to Public Relations. Those classes not only made me fall madly in love with the integrated marketing field, but they also gave me exactly the inspiration I needed. Within the semester, I became involved in two clubs related to the major, started working on my resume and created my very first blog.
10. Realizing that you like to learn and it doesn’t make you dorky.
College provides so many guest speakers, self improvement seminars and other educational events that you’d be crazy not to take advantage. Being at such a well-rounded university re-instilled in me a thirst for knowledge, one that I hope college freshmen will develop early on.
11. Going home for the first time.
Being in your old room becomes an out-of-body experience. Your parents and family will begin to notice changes in you that you hadn’t even begun to notice in yourself. Even after I came home from my first month at school, I couldn’t get over how many relatives had commented on how much I’d grown up in that time. Many of my friends began to undergo those same changes in that short period of time as well.
12. Volunteering with a group.
Everyone needs a cause to believe in and support. As a freshman, I went to a place called Give Kids The World with the honors college at my school, and immediately fell in love with the organization. GKTW is a place for families with children that have life-threatening illnesses to relax for a week and enjoy the theme parks as well as the organization’s own attractions. Going to this organization to volunteer gave me more of a purpose and a platform as I made my way through the first two years.
13. Getting your heart broken.
To put it lightly… this one sucks. It’s one of those “character building” moments that you really don’t want to happen. But college teaches you to be careful about who you trust in or how much happiness you can place in another person, and by getting hurt, you are simply learning that lesson the hard way. At the same time, you learn to treasure those who really are there for you, and some relationships do grow stronger. You also begin to learn what you will and won’t accept from someone else.
14. Recognizing that who you were in high school doesn’t matter.
Who cares if you were the jock or the nerd? Who cares what your GPA was or how you did on your SAT? You’re already in college at this point, so none of this matters. College gives you the chance to rebrand yourself, create a new identity and throw away the past if you so choose. At twenty years old, the petty memories of high school hardly mean anything to me anymore. People simply become characters and your former life becomes just another story.
15. Realizing that you have a choice in your future.
Now that you’re in college, you are just beginning to gain some control in your life. You choose your major, your friends, your daily habits, your classes, your career path. The choices you make now will start to shape who you will become, and it can be exciting and terrifying at the same time. Be sure not to make any hasty decisions, and put yourself first. It’s your life.
I hope you enjoyed! Here are some questions to consider:
– What were some of the defining moments in your college experience?
– If you aren’t in college yet, what are you most looking forward to?
– What topics are you looking to learn more about in the Freshman 15 series? Post your answers below!