You’ve done the standardized testing, written the Common App essays, gotten into the college of your dreams, and now what? College has always seemed so far away, but as the time to move in gets closer and closer, you may be getting nervous and trying to gather as much advice for college as possible. Here are some tips that I wish I knew before going to college that can hopefully help you have an amazing first year.
1. Don’t stay in the first-year bubble
Although you do spend NSOP surrounded by first-years, make sure to branch out and make upperclassmen friends. When it comes to perfecting your résumé, looking for an internship, or needing help with picking out the best classes, going to your first-year buddies for advice may not be the best idea. Although Columbia can be an ultra-competitive environment, many upperclassmen want to help you succeed. They can help you with a problem set you’re struggling with or arrange interviews with their bosses from past internships. Upperclassmen are a tremendous resource to have on campus, so look out for them in your classes and extracurricular activities.
2. Be careful about getting attached
At the beginning of your first year, friendships can change quite often. Although you could very much meet your best friend during NSOP, be careful about getting attached to anyone too quickly. First-semester first-years are trying to figure out who they are, and they often go about that by bouncing from one friend to the next. To avoid getting attached to one person early on, be friendly with as many people as possible at the beginning of the year. Moreover, if you feel unsatisfied with your friendships at the beginning of the year, you do not have to feel stuck. Keep chatting to different people, and do not feel pressure to hang out with people who you do not feel are for you. As the school year goes on, you will notice which connections are genuine and you can begin to focus on them then. Close friendships can take time to form, but they will fall into place if you remain patient.
3. Have a healthy relationship between the past and the present
Leaving family and home friends can be challenging, but being stuck in the past is never a good way to live. Although it may seem tempting to want to run away from the scary new environment of college and go visit your high school friend at a different college or take the train home, do not do so if this is a way of running away from your problems. If you are struggling with homesickness, constant visits to family and friends from home will not ultimately solve the problem. Visit home and your friends at other colleges a healthy amount, but make sure to establish your life at your own college. After all, this is your home for the next four years. Don’t be a stranger on your own campus.
4. Take care of your mental health
The first semester of college can be perceived as a time when first-years enjoy freedom for the first time. Although it may seem as if everyone on Snapchat is at a lit party or running around Brooklyn with all of their friends, do not be fooled by what people put on social media. Yes, the first semester can be a lot of fun, but many people also struggle with being away from home and being in a whole new environment. If you feel that you need someone to talk to, both Barnard and Columbia have mental health resources. Many students do go to counseling at some point in their college career, so do not feel like you are the only one struggling.
5. Define the college experience for yourself
I’m sure you’ve asked lots of people for college advice. Perhaps you’ve been binging college videos on YouTube. After all, you wouldn’t be reading this article if you weren’t interested in tips for first-years. Every person is different, and therefore all experiences in college will be distinct from each other. Before you come to college, set aside time to reflect on your values and desires for your college experience. Sometimes college can become too social, to the point where you are never alone with your own thoughts and feelings. Make sure to not get caught up in other people’s opinions because you are the only one who knows what’s best for yourself. You came to college not to become a member of the crowd but to find out who you are as an individual. Don’t forget to introspect.
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