Keep your eyes on the horizon
It goes without saying that a person giving advice to incoming freshmen should probably be at least a sophomore or junior. It doesn’t make much sense for someone who hasn’t even started college yet to give advice about doing so.
I’m an incoming freshman. So, now that we’ve established that I have no idea what I’m talking about, here are my thoughts anyway.
Starting a new life at a new school is nerve-wracking no matter who you are or where you’re from. Personally, I’m occasionally terrified by the thought of how far away from home I am, but even those who’ve always lived in St. Louis are going to have plenty of adjusting to do at their new home here. My first few days have been chock-full of worries, anxiety and a constant, nagging doubt, wiggling around in my brain, trying to convince me I’ve made a huge mistake and I’m going to be miserable for the next four years because of it. There is one simple fact that keeps me optimistic (most of the time) despite this: I’m not the only one, not by a longshot. We’re all in this together, and as a result, I’m not worried or embarrassed at all by talking about how I feel.
Clearly, I can’t gauge how well I’ve succeeded in my own choices so far because I haven’t started yet, but there is another important step I am taking: Creating goals for my future here at Washington University. Some of those goals stem from advice and recommendations I’ve received from others, most are personalized for myself, but all serve to keep me sane, grounded in the present, and aware of where I want to go. My hope is that reading these could give others ideas for creating their own goals, or even aid in the struggle to maintain confidence in the short-term. Regardless, here they are, in no particular order.
First, I want to force myself to be OK with being just OK. I tried insanely hard in high school and cared deeply about being at the top of my class. I don’t regret that, but everyone at Wash. U. was at the top of their high school class. I don’t mean to suggest I won’t continue to try my hardest here, just that if I don’t quite achieve the grades I’m used to, I want to avoid beating myself up over it like I always would have in high school. I simply want to do my best and focus on learning.
Second, I want to balance my social relationships. I am in a long-distance relationship that I fully intend to keep through all of college, but my girlfriend and I both know I need to branch out and meet new friends, which means I can’t spend every moment in my dorm FaceTiming her. Of course, all I want to do is talk to her all day, but I intend to find a balance that suits both of us.
Third, I know I’m not normally the most talkative student in a class; so, I want to take the extra time to get to know my professors. If I don’t forge relationships with any of them, I will have wasted and taken for granted a huge and incredible resource.
Fourth, I already know of specific extracurriculars that I will participate in and am all but guaranteed to enjoy, but I want to explore others I don’t know as much about. I want to make my college experience include broadening my horizons in every sense of that phrase, which includes trying new clubs or groups I might not have always intended to try.
Fifth, I want to find a way of dealing with stress that works for me, and keep it up, whatever it is. I know stress will come, but I don’t intend to let it to conquer me. That’s easier said now than done later, obviously, but the goal is still important.
Lastly, I want to constantly remind myself that no matter what challenges come, things will be OK in the end. We’re at college to learn, but mental health is more important than any one lesson. There will be sad times, there will be hard times, but I hope to keep one thought in the back of my mind through all of them: This will pass. Things will fall into place. It will be OK.
Maybe I’ll write a follow-up in a year that explains why every goal I’ve just discussed was a terrible idea and didn’t work whatsoever. But right now, making these straightforward, achievable goals has taken a weight off my chest, and I’m ready to dive into school and enjoy things to the best of my ability. For that reason alone, it was worth it.
I’d encourage anyone who feels anxious or overwhelmed to make their own list.