What to Expect Your First Semester of College: Our Community Tells All

September 3rd, 2019 at 5:00am
what to expect in college

It’s that point in the summer when the last sun-soaked days begin to blend into the fast-approaching fall semester. Last year, I was nervously noting how many days I had left before my first semester of college. It’s hard to believe an entire year has passed and I am going to be a sophomore come fall. Whether you are leaving home or staying local, there are always questions about what to expect during your first semester. I received countless bits of advice, but it’s difficult to grasp what I was heading into as a freshman. There is an exciting thrill to moving onto a new stage in your life but along with the glory of something new and fresh, there tends to be the worry of the unknown. I was in your shoes one year ago, and I can assure you that it passes in a flash. To help with those burning questions about what to expect come fall, I reached out to our Community Members to give advice on what to expect in college. This is what they had to say. 

Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Get Involved

As a rising sophomore, my first semester of college is still fresh in my mind. I remember the bubbling nerves in my stomach when the day to move in arrived. The familiar five-hour drive from my hometown to my university did little to calm my nerves. The few times I had made the drive were never because I was going to college myself. Fast forward to today, and I am gearing up for the same move but as a sophomore. That’s not all that is the same as last year—my mindset is in a similar place. I started my first semester of college with a goal to take advantage of my surroundings.

Jordyn Wissert, a junior at Iowa State University, agrees with this sentiment. She told me, “My biggest advice for an upcoming freshman would be to explore. College is all about finding yourself. So step out of your box, get involved in clubs and meet new people.” For me, this meant checking out club meetings and finding a group that I wanted to invest my time in. I was lucky to find a few campus organizations that became my support system away from home. In the wise words of fellow Community Member Kelly Rogowski, “Take advantage of the time to be young and have fun! And get involved on campus, you’ll meet so many new people that way.” So, if any piece of advice sticks it should be that you get involved on campus—you won’t regret it. Community Member Ana Acosta shares the same attitude when it comes to getting out there and meeting new people. She told me, “I think my biggest piece of advice is to be open to meeting new people.” Ana recounted how she “invited a bunch of girls over to my dorm to watch a really funny comedy movie (‘Barely Lethal’) and I made so many friends that night.” 

Yes, You Actually Have to Study

We’ve all seen the movies and television shows that portray high school to be a time of letting loose with friends and basically doing everything besides actual homework. I don’t know about you, but high school was not all fun and games for me. And as a recent graduate of high school, you probably know this best. College is no different in its commercial portrayal (think: a slew of late nights spent with friends, spontaneous adventures and wild parties). While you can create fond memories, there is also the part that is often not shown on screen—the actual going to school part. There is a reason why “college” and “cramming” are almost considered synonymous.

But don’t fret! College is completely different from the academic structure of high school. For one, I went from taking eight classes to taking five or six. And let me tell you that I don’t even know how I managed before. With all the distractions of joining clubs and exploring your surroundings, it’s important to develop some habits early on to help you succeed. Lea Muhigi, a third-year student at the University of Moncton, wants you to know that you should “start as early as you can on projects and studying for exams to avoid the stress of last minute. When you start early, you set yourself up for success and it’s overall better for your mental health.” And I completely agree with Lea. College can be an absolute adventure, but you can’t forget to buckle down and focus on your studies.

But Don’t Forget to Enjoy Yourself

It’s all about balance. College is first and foremost about school, but don’t let yourself drown in work. Find the happy medium between focusing on your academics and having fun. This is something you will learn along the way, especially the first semester of college. I struggled to understand that I did not need to be only thinking about academics 24/7 to be a good student. Your mind needs a break sometimes. Community Member Avery Rizzotto understands how academics can consume you and told me that “if I could go back to my first semester of college and give it another go I would most definitely try to enjoy myself more. I was so focused on making good grades, staying organized and following a strict schedule that I planned out for myself that I didn’t take the time to step back and just enjoy myself.” Take Avery’s advice and loosen up the reins once in a while. Your mind and body will thank you.

It Takes Some Time to Find Your Groove

College is all about adjusting. Adjusting to a new academic structure, adjusting to the unknown, adjusting to yourself. This is where learning about yourself comes in. When you are forced to immerse yourself in a life opposite of your usual, you realize what you truly enjoy. Maybe you’ll rediscover your love for reading or finally take up that hobby you’ve been considering.  The things you discover are what will help you define your place when everything is so unfamiliar. A fellow Community Member Demi Balogun summed it up perfectly when she said, “Freshman year is really hard; you’re in a new place surrounded by people you don’t know, you don’t really know who you are and what it is you want to do with your life, and that’s okay. I turned to fashion and blogging  because I was able to tap into that thing that took me away from the stresses of school, and found what truly made me happy.” Understanding how and where you want to focus your energy is no simple feat and it’s totally fine to not know what your groove is.

Community Member Briana Wilvert was spot on when she told me, “It’s totally okay not to have a clear path that you want to follow! But transitioning to a new place and a new phase of life is overwhelming enough, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself if you don’t know what you want out of this experience yet.” Finding your groove also entails digging up your confidence. It can be especially difficult to find your place in a world that seems to be ten steps ahead of you, but comparing yourself to others will get you nowhere. Take it from Naomi Parris, a rising sophomore at the School of Visual Arts. She told me, “The two most important things to remember for a first-year freshman is prioritizing your time wisely and don’t compare yourself to your peers. The more I compared myself to my peers and friends, I started slacking in my classes and no longer cared about being late or absent.” So, there’s your little dose of confidence to start your first semester off on the right foot.

Let us know in the comments what you expect from your first semester of college! 

Opening image by Sarah Gargano