The First-Year College Experience

by Dave Berry

Those of us who are college veterans will never forget our freshman year at college. Some of us may like to forget our freshman year, but in general it is a time filled with anticipation, some anxiety, and wonderful discoveries.

College is a lot different than high school. You may decide to commute from your home to a local campus. Your freshman experience will definitely make an impression on you. Without doubt, though, the most dramatic freshman year is for those living away from home. What can you expect as you head off into the wonderful world of higher education?

The first thing you'll notice is the workload. It will be heavier and more intense than you ever experienced before. The major challenges of college work are the large volume of reading, the short deadlines, and the writing, writing, writing. A related effect that can be brought on by the workload is doubt, frustration, and possibly loneliness. You'll be away from the comforts and friendships your home provided for you over the previous years.

On some of those long, seemingly endless nights of studying and writing, it will be only natural for you to long for the good old days. Hang in there. These down periods will pass. Whatever you do, don't make major decisions about your major, your courses, or even your roommate during one of these blue periods. Things always look better in the morning.

You'll be making a lot of new friends. Continue to be yourself. Don't strike a pose or play the role of someone you're not. Select your friends with the same care and patience you have always used. Believe it or not, your college friendships will be among the most satisfying and long-term of your life. It's always exciting to discover how wonderfully diverse college relationships can be.

You'll also be on your own, your own boss (more or less) 24 hours a day. Be careful here. Don't go flying off the end of the pier. Enjoy your newfound freedom. Stay up until dawn talking about your ideals and ambitions with your dorm's regular bull session buddies. Sleep in until the afternoon on a light class day. Explore the local town or suburbs with one or two of your new friends. Remember, though, with freedom comes responsibility. Even though your parents won't be around to follow up on your loose ends, you shouldn't let things go completely. Just find your own style.

You may even start to think about your future. Be on the lookout for role models. Maybe a certain professor is especially inspiring. Perhaps your school has some ground-breaking research going on. Be sensitive to your own gravity. If some area of study attracts you, find out all you can about it. It might be the beginning of your self-definition process. Going to college is as much about finding out who you really are as it is about getting that degree.