I’m officially a “college student.” Actually, let me rephrase that: I have moved in and started orientation. Classes will be up and running in no time, though. And as someone who had zero clues, I thought a brief synopsis of my experience could help give those of you yet to leave a better idea of what’s coming.
1. There will be heavy lifting
This will, of course, vary by school, but generally once you arrive on campus you need to transfer all of your stuff into large, moveable bins. Sometimes people will be there to assist you. Often times, not (but don’t worry, they’ll have wheels). Elevator lines are inevitable, and chances are your wait time will be composed of parental small talk with the people next to you and silent panic over whether or not you brought too much stuff. (I was personally freaking out over being “that girl.” Trust me, though, there will be someone there who need more bins than you do).
2. You’ll still need to buy a ton of things
After shlepping all of those suitcases into your “cozy” shoebox, you’re going to need to do some serious unpacking. (Pro-tip: if you don’t have A/C, find the fan first). You’ll quickly find that stuff has been accidentally left behind. Or, if you are an eighteen year old girl like yours truly, that you need twice as many hangers as you originally thought. Don’t let this stress you out. Yeah, the amount of people in the Bed Bath and Beyond will make it feel like Disneyland on steroids. But you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do. If you really want to avoid crowds, scope out your student store; they tend to carry a good amount of essentials.
3. It is possible to lose your ID on Day 1
And when you do, you will be consumed by instantaneous panic. Breathe. Retrace your steps. Then, when even that fails you, don’t be like me and buy a new one right away (only to be emailed an hour later that it’s been turned in). Try to give it a few hours, if you can. That $25 I blew is basically the equivalent of two NYC-priced coffees.
4. Absolutely no one will want to eat (or do anything) alone
I was petrified to have my parents leave for the night, and they were coming back in the morning, only because it meant truly being on my own. It all comes down to having to put yourself out there. If you have a roommate, grab a meal together. If you have a neighbor, introduce yourself. (Facebook messaging them is not creepy!) If you find a group, ask to join in. These don’t have to be your best friends for life; in fact, they probably won’t be. But having a buddy to sit with really makes all of the difference. The beautiful thing is that everyone is just as terrified of being alone as you are. Be friendly and be approachable – I guarantee that it will make someone’s day.
5. You’re going to have to persevere through the awkwardness
My first night I went out to dinner with my parents and absolutely gorged. By the time they left, though, I needed to do something. So I figured, if I made myself a salad in the dining tent, I’d have my reason for asking to sit down and eat with someone. In front of me, two guys were chatting, looking relatively harmless, on a nearby bench. And in my brazen streak of independence, I inquired about the open spot just to the left. The one guy gives me the go-ahead only to, as I sit down, completely turn his back and continue rambling on about something that apparently didn’t concern me. There I was – staring at a salad I didn’t want in the first place – having utterly failed my mission of making conversation. (It didn’t help that one of the boys was, err, not too bad looking).
What I’m getting at is that, as deflated as I was for a moment or two, I quickly shoved that salad down, stood up, and kept going. I’ve found it easiest to simply laugh at the discomfort of college. And sure enough – I went on to meet a very pleasant boy at the fruit stand. After all, that’s where all the pleasant boys hang out.
6. Get used to answering the same questions
You’ll be asked four things when you start college: What’s your name? Where are you from? Where do you live? And what are you studying? Any time you make it beyond those topics, consider yourself blessed.
PS: you are probably going to run into the same person and have a repeat experience of all of those. It happens – you’ll do it too.
7. Find little victories
When you’re feeling down, you will need to make your own pick-me-up. Revel in the small things, like successfully showering without forgetting your underwear…
Or finding the best water bottle fill-up station on campus. It’s not a lot, I know, but after some days it will be enough.
8. All you can do is focus on yourself
You may want to jump to conclusions – don’t. It’s impossible to use the first day as a precursor for your entire experience. People will evolve in front of you, and so will your affinity towards your surroundings. The best advice I can give is to simply check in with yourself from time to time; do what you need in the moment and remember to prioritize your own wellbeing.
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About Elise Gout
Elise writes articles for the Magoosh SAT blog to help teenagers during an exciting time in their lives. Despite residing in Southern California, where she attends San Dieguito Academy high school, she has no surfing abilities whatsoever; it’s actually rather sad. She is your typical senior high school girl who sword fights daily, and is pretty much convinced that bananas are a food sent from heaven. Elise will attend Columbia University next fall to study environmental science.
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