by Madeleine Brown
Not to add to the pressure on incoming first-years, but I have yet to do anything as important in my life as starting university. Truly. However, I am not saying that either college or university are important. They’re not. It’s the circumstances that surround this moment in your life that hold importance. Whether you move onto residence or commute to campus from home, you’re about to embark on the first stage in your life where you have the opportunity to claim full ownership.
To add to the abundance of advice you’re likely drowning in, here are three pieces of my own. Consider them, but understand I didn’t develop them (or at least become aware of my development of them) until the end of my university career. Who knows what advice you may doll out to someone in your position in three or four year’s time?
Expectations are the bane of my existence. They overshadow experiences. It’s not until some time after the fact—usually when I’m organizing receipts during tax season—when I realize the importance of an experience and how it turned out nothing like my expectations. And thankfully so. (Sadly receipts are my form of adult scrapbooking.) Don’t expect a high grade on your first test, but likewise don’t expect a low one. Don’t expect to meet your best friend or soulmate, but don’t expect not to. You likely have a delightful imagination, but when it comes to real life let’s leave its course up to the world’s greatest creative genius, fate.
Unless you had an nontraditional upbringing, chances are your routine has remained unchanged for eighteen odd years. It’s about to explode into one thousand-some pieces. Some weekdays you won’t have classes, some you may only have one starting at 2 pm and others you may have an overwhelming amount. You may adopt an unbearable two-hour commute to and from school or you may have to schedule dinner yourself at your cafeteria. Whether you thrive on a routine or not, at least reflect on the basic parameters of your new one. Perhaps write it out in diagram form, color-coding based on the nature of the obligation, or speak it out with friends or family. And returning to controlling expectations: don’t expect to master your schedule during your first month.
Or if you prefer more banal forms of advice: have fun(!!!). And, no, I don’t mean out-drink your roommate or hook-up with your neighbor across the hall. Enjoy the freedom (in whatever degree) you’ve been gifted. College and universities are worlds onto themselves, aiming to make their resources as accessible as possible. So attend office hours—even just to attest to their existence to your peers—lose your breath at a spin class at the campus gym or sign-up for a questionable, poorly organized club. Like the independence you honed in order to make those decisions, you can just as easily choose to never make the same ones again.