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The Top 10 Things I wish I knew going into Freshman Year of College

In the next week, as I face the final year of my college journey, my little sister will begin hers.  I wanted to write some tips not just for her, but for all of Augustana’s incoming first years because as I help her prepare for freshman year, I’ve been feeling intensely nostalgic about my own. Truth be told, it’s probable that I was, in fact, told all of these things from my counselors, first year professors and upperclassmen. It’s also probable that I didn’t take them to heart because I assumed they were corny tips given insincerely in the spirit of Orientation weekend. As my freshman year continued, and in the wise hindsight of sophomore and junior years, I realized just how valuable these tips really are. So, in no particular order, here are the top 10 things I wish I had known and taken to heart my freshman year of college.

1)      You are all in the same boat! That first weekend you’ll probably bear witness to a range of reactions to college. There will be those people that look like they’re extremely confident and have it all together, and there will be those who outwardly show their homesickness or nervousness. Everyone is new. Everyone is dealing with the same transition. Yes, some interactions will be really awkward…but that wears off after a bit. Then you laugh at the memory of those first awkward moments with your new friends.

2)      It’s ok if you don’t turn out to be friends with your randomly chosen roommate. I want to say immediately that it is entirely possible to become friends with your random roommate, and if that’s the case then that’s AWESOME! On the other hand, just because you were put together doesn’t mean that you have to become best friends. As roommates, you just need to be able to live well together. Sure, it might be disappointing if you don’t become friends, but as long as your living arrangement is acceptable, then it’s a winning situation. You can always be roommates with your friends next year!

3)      Man up and have the “Awk-Talk”. The “Awk-Talk” refers to the conversation you need to have with the complete stranger who you will be living with for the next year. This is the conversation where you establish ground rules about your living environment and includes everything from morning routines to drinking/partying to overnight guests (you know what kind of guests I mean). Having this talk now, at the beginning of the year helps you and your roommate understand each other. If this agreement is breached during the year then you also need to man up and confront your roommate. You need to feel comfortable in your room. This is the first step to doing so, even though it will likely be awkward.

4)      Try out EVERYTHING that interests you! College offers a ton of opportunities to get involved outside of the classroom and in the community. If you are interested in trying something, DO IT! Giving it a try doesn’t mean that you have to stick with it. At the same time, you might end up finding something you really love! My freshman year, I tried out crew team and ultimate Frisbee, and while I didn’t stick with crew (not because I didn’t love it, I just didn’t love early mornings) I found in Frisbee a fun, athletic outlet and a great group of friends.

5)      Buddy up to the faculty. By this I basically mean make the effort to get to know your professors and allow them to get to know you. Having a good relationship with professors can lead to internship opportunities, excellent letters of recommendation and an all around more enjoyable experience in class. At Augie we have exceptional professors who are passionate about their fields and their students. Get to know them and you’ll earn their respect and support.

6)      Don’t be an ass in class. Sorry to be blunt, it’s just that high school doesn’t leave some people when they come to college. By being disrespectful in class, you are wasting everybody’s time and your tuition dollars. Go to class. Pay attention. Respect your professors. If you don’t like a class then either get over it or drop it. Don’t give your professor a hard time and don’t ruin your classmates’ experience.

7)      Don’t be afraid to say hello. Now, I’m not the most outgoing person, but over my Orientation weekend I must have said hello to hundreds of people. Hello is a great word that isn’t intimidating to others…but it can lead to small talk, or long conversations, or even long-lasting friendships. College is a time to meet new people and all it takes is a simple hello.

8)      Busy-ness beats the homesickness blues. Luckily, Augustana keeps incoming freshman incredibly busy over Fall Connection (orientation) weekend. We do this for a reason. Being busy means you don’t have time to think about your home or family. It’s not that we don’t want you to think of your family, we just want you to enjoy the experience of being a freshman at college. Distracting yourself from home means distracting yourself from homesickness.

9)      It’s ok to change your mind. I came into Augustana believing I was going to major in art education. Over the course of my freshman year I changed my mind about 3 times and I ended up declaring a double major in Anthropology and French and a minor in Art…quite the detour from my original plan. You are going to change so much in this year and over the course of your college career. Change is definitely scary, but try to enjoy the ride. You’ll end up where you are meant to be.

10)   Ask questions. Orientation weekend is going to be incredibly busy and your questions, concerns and comments might get lost in the whirlwind of activities and events. Make sure to take some time to ask any questions you may have. This is especially valuable when it comes to academic questions: questions about which courses you are taking and why, questions about class material, questions about future registrations. Your community advisors, peer mentors, professors and the many kind upperclassmen on campus are always happy to help out. We don’t bite.

And with that I wish all of Augustana’s incoming freshmen the best of luck this year. I love this college and I’m excited for all of you to fall in love with it too. If you are in need of anything as you begin your first year at Augie, don’t hesitate to ask for it. Being part of the Augustana Community means welcoming and supporting one another, and we take this commitment seriously.

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