College is a seminal life experience for many young people. For most, it’s the first time they’ll live away from home and have their first taste of independence. It’s exhilarating, to be sure, but the sheer amount of new things to learn and deal with can also be quite intimidating. Here are five ways to make sure you have a great college experience regardless of whom you are or where you come from.
Okay, so studying itself might not be oodles of fun, but avoiding it will lead to dire consequences. College social scenes are overwhelming, and it can be easy to let yourself get distracted by new friends and new activities. Being social is an important part of the college experience, but if you flunk out, you won’t be able to participate in the social scene anymore. Also, you’ll have wasted a good deal of time and money. It’s important to remember to keep a balance and not let yourself get carried away by too much of one thing.
2. Make Friends
For many, arriving at college means leaving a familiar system of support. For those who move away from home, friends and family typically don’t follow. Your life will simply be more enjoyable if you have more people to share it with, and when times get tough, having people to lean on that are in the trenches with you will be invaluable. Your parents are most likely a phone call away, but they won’t be able to relate to you as well as your fellow classmates will.
3. Join Stuff
A great way to make friends if you’re not the biggest social butterfly is to join groups or take part in extracurricular activities that interest you. If you did theater in high school, figure out a way to do that on your campus. If you were into social justice, odds are there’s an Amnesty International group or something like it in which you can take part. Not only will branching out beyond academics and partying help you learn more, you’re likely to meet like-minded people. And like-minded people typically make pretty decent friends.
4. Keep Your Sense of Self
When you’re in a new place, it’s easy to go with the flow in an effort to be included. That said, if being included requires you to engage in activities or behavior that goes against your personality, avoid it. You know the best way to live your life, and if you lose that trajectory, you could wind up with a life full of things you don’t like. This obviously applies to your social scene, but it also pertains to your studies. If you’re going to Chicago State University intending to major in social work, but your dad went there too and wants you to major in English Literature, tune him out. It’s your life, not his. Only you know what will make you happy, so while it’s good to try new things, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.
5. Remember Why You’re There
Unless you have unlimited funds, you’re going to need to get a job after college. One of the primary functions of higher education is to arm you with marketable skills that will hopefully make you employable. So while you’re having a blast learning, making friends and being independent, keep considering what to do after college. Knowing that you will one day have to leave your school and break out on your own will keep you focused on making a plan. That way graduation will be a joyous day as opposed to a stressful one.