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10 things you need to know before starting college

It is May 2023 and as I write this post, I am eight days away from graduation. I realized that in my four years of school, I have picked up a thing or two and I wanted to share. As a first generation college student, I had to learn a lot of it on my own and I know how much a short blog post would've helped me. During my time at CSULB, I double majored, maintained an overall GPA of 3.7, studied abroad, joined a sorority, and was part of PRSSA for two years. So as an incoming freshman, what do you need to know before you embark on this wonderful, stressful, beautiful journey? Well allow your digital big sister to tell you.

1. Listen to your heart

When picking your major, you may realize the one you picked on your application is no longer for you. That is normal. I started as a Biology major and was sure I wanted to work in healthcare. In reality, the thing I was passionate about and curious about was storytelling and relationships. So, with little knowledge of what Communication Studies actually consisted of, I switched. People told me it was marketing and mass communication, and in some ways it is. But if you asked me to define Communication Studies neither of those would come out of my mouth. By second semester freshman year, I decided to dip a toe in Public Relations. I took an intro class as an elective and fell in love.

Then, a pandemic shook the world and all I really had was my studies. Good thing I was in love with it all. I learned about the history of rhetoric and theory of communication in some classes, while I learned journalism basics and content creation in the others. I had found my place.

I excelled in my classes with little effort. I enjoyed my classes and felt good when I would perform well. School was no longer boring or draining. I loved it. Sure, there were assignments that challenged me and classes that I am thankful I never need to sit through again, but overall, I loved it all. All of this is to say, if you want to switch, do it. Did I disappoint people who thought I would become Dr. Boreski? Maybe. But it isn't their degree, it's mine.

2. Try things out

Say "yes." The easiest way to make friends and enjoy your college life is to say "yes." Obviously this has limits, you know what I mean. But, if a group of people are going to get ice cream and you want to stay in and watch your favorite TV show, GO WITH THEM. In order to build the connections you want, you have to make yourself available. This tip is pointed at my introverts. It is safe to stay in your dorm and watch your show, but keep in mind soon, people will stop asking you to tag along and it will feel harder to find your people. College is a period of growth and pushing your limits. Try your best to try new things, hang out with new people, and do the opposite of your M.O. If you hate it, then you know, but what if you love it?

3. Join a club or sorority/fraternity

Similar to my last point, you need to put yourself out there. Your campus will have hundreds of organizations that will give you a group of friends. Whether it is a religious or ethnic group or something based off your interests, it is there and your future besties are there. I did both and I will recommend it to anyone that will listen. I joined PRSSA and Delta Gamma and tried out Club Water Polo. I walked away from all with a network of friends. I literally did water polo for a month my freshman year and am still friends with one of the girls I met at practice.

Next, Delta Gamma. I know sororities are not for everyone. They are time consuming, expensive, and considered kind of silly by some. But I loved being a sorority girl and it gave me so many meaningful friendships and a whole little social network. It is the best way to meet the most people, if I am honest. And it's network is nationwide. I will always be a Delta Gamma and it is a great way to meet people even as I step into the professional realm.

4. Your grades are not everything

College is four years of intense growth. Growth can be painful. Sometimes growth in your personal life means cutting people off, sometimes that is a stressful situation to be in. Sometimes this stress will take some of your focus away from your studies. You are only human and if a C is your best, you should be very proud of that C. The semester will end, a new one will begin and you will start fresh. You will struggle balancing work, friends, and class. Sometimes you will not prioritize class, and sometimes, that is okay. Obviously, I want you to aim high. I want you to get A's. But sometimes, an A just is not worth it. Your happiness and mental health are a priority, never forget that.

5. Get to know your professors

Speak up in class and attend office hours. Your professors want to help you. They want to see you succeed. So, let them help you.

I can say I loved almost every professor I had at CSULB. Especially my Communication Studies professors. I got to know them! and I let them know me. They can't help you with what they do not know about. I thought about grad school, but was not sure. So, I had very candid conversations with them. They are such a fantastic resource if you let them be!! I am not going to grad school just yet, but I know what I need to do to go and that is thanks to my professors. Especially as a first-gen student, their guidance was so extremely valuable to me and it will be valuable to you too. You just need to seek it out.

6. You get out of it, what you put in

You will not enjoy your college years if you do not try. If you just go to class and go home, that is all college will be. You are in complete control of your experience. But remember, everyone is on the same boat. Everyone is looking for a new club to join and new people to befriend. Everyone is nervous and trying to adjust. Do not let any anxiety tell you any different. You are all in it together. So try new things, meet new people, and make college fun. If you're going to be spending all the money on it anyway, you might as well make it worth it.

7. You do not need everything they tell you you need for your dorm

You will see all these videos on YouTube and TikTok where people buy hundreds of dollars worth of things for their dorm room. You will see countless advertisements on social media for dorm room things, you do not need everything they are trying to sell you. You do want your room to be nice, it is your space, but you do not need to go over the top. I can create a whole list another post, but really jus think about what you NEED. You do not need an LED sign for your wall or five decorative pillows. You will collect things during the course of the semester and you are already tight on space. Keep it simple. You'll be happy you did.

8. Invest in good headphones

If you do not already own a pair that you love, find some. You will be using them all the time, more than you may realize. You share a room so to be be polite, wear your headphones when on your phone or computer. You may want to listen to music or a podcast on your walk to class. You will want them for the gym. You'll need them when talking on the phone or using Zoom. YOU NEED HEADPHONES. And you need a good pair.

9. Your friend group may be different every year, that is okay.

You'll often hear stories of people who made their lifelong friends their freshman year. I made one my freshman year and she is my best friend in the whole world. But my other close friends from freshman year? Our relationships have gone through ebbs and flows and for some, we are no longer friends. It happens. The pandemic changed this a bit for me, but in general, it really is okay if you have a different group every year. Or, if you bounce between groups. Everyone is growing up and its happening in different areas and at different rates. You are doing great, just don't force what isn't working anymore.

10. It goes by in a flash

You will hear this 1,000+ times. You will say you know. You just graduated high school and that went by fast. You get it. But you won't really. College is so much faster and harder than high school and it one hell of a ride. It will test you, push you, but it is amazing. And when you are 21/22 and getting ready to leave school, you will shake your head in amazement. 18-year-old you could never have imagined how strong and independent you will be. So, soak in every moment. Go to all the events you can. Treat it all like its the last time, because when it eventually is the last time, you do not want any regrets.

There it is! I could go on and on, but your big takeaway: Meet people and push yourself out of your comfort zone. You've got this!


Your big sister

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