20 Things I Wish I Knew Freshman Year

Dear Little sis,

So, it’s officially my summer! Before college, I went to a year round school and only had 7 weeks of summer. Most of those weeks were spent travelling or participating in summer camps. It feels so strange to have all this time on my hands! I hope to use it to share with all of you some of the best college advice I can. I will try my best to write some extra content for all of you.

This post really goes out to all incoming college freshmen. Freshman year was very different than I ever could have imagined. I learned a lot the first semester away from home, and even more second semester. It would have been really helpful to have someone preparing me for those first few months. So, let’s get on with a few of the things I wish I had known going into my freshman year.

1. These will not necessarily be the best four years of your life

I always had people telling me college is this wonderful time for meeting friends, and creating unique experiences. They were right, but not at first. First semester is really hard. You think it will be no problem, but I quickly learned classes were much harder than I ever could have imagined. On top of that, I didn’t have my usual support system, and making new friends and finding the right clubs is often more difficult than it sounds. Just know that things will get better, and college will be an amazing time, but it’s okay if it’s not at first.

2. Making friends takes time

You will meet tons of people the first few weeks of college, but not all of them will stay close friends. I was even friends with people in my classes first semester and then we lost touch second semester. So, give it time, you never know if your best friend isn’t in your class until second semester.

3. You don't have to do everything

There are a million opportunities in college and it can often feel overwhelming. I remember thinking I needed to do everything I could, so I wouldn’t miss out on amazing opportunities. I can promise you there will be endless things for you to do. Just wait until the ones you truly want to do roll around.

4. It's okay to have alone time

Eating alone in the dining hall is probably one of the hardest things to do at first, but I promise it’s not weird. In high school sitting alone seemed to say “I don’t have any friends”, but that is not the case for college. Most people only have a certain window of opportunity to grab food, so sitting alone is not frowned upon. On top of that, it’s okay to take a night off in your room sometimes. I always felt like I was supposed to be with friends in every spare moment, but if I didn’t take breaks for myself I would get super burned out.

5. Classes are hard

This is coming from someone who graduated high school third in their class. Ladies, it doesn’t matter if you were the best dang student in the world. College classes are just a whole other level of difficulty. The structure of the classes and the fact that classes are weighted pretty much only on exams makes it hard to get an A. That being said if you work hard it’s almost always possible to get a B.

6. Take your time getting textbooks/materials

Syllabus week was so overwhelming for me. I was running all over trying to collect all the books I needed for different classes, but I promise you it can wait. Just take your time collecting materials, most professors are super understanding.

7. Read the syllabus, but don't get overwhelmed

It is important to look over the syllabus, but don’t let all the due dates get to you. I was constantly working ahead on materials in every spare minute. That should never be you! Just take things one week at a time and I promise that is much more beneficial.

8. Try and meet people outside of your building

I made friends mostly with the people who live in my dorm, but I wish I had branched out a little. There are different kinds of people all over campus and the opportunity to meet friends is always growing. So, try and reach out to people who don’t live in the same area, they may even be able to introduce you to more friends in their building.

9. Eat in town sometimes

There are a lot of places to eat on Clemson’s campus, but it was so nice to go downtown to eat occasionally. Try and find one or two days a month to leave campus for a meal. Fast food never tasted so good when you’ve been eating in the dining hall for weeks!

10. Working in a quiet space helps

I worked in my room a lot, but that meant it was easy for my suitemates to interrupt me to talk about their days. Don’t get me wrong, I love talking to my girls, but sometimes I just needed to get things done. To avoid having to be rude to people, go find a quiet, secluded space to do work.

11. Avoid the library

I feel like not enough people do this. Anytime there’s a big exam or my friends want to do homework together it seems the library is the place of choice. The problem is it’s usually so crowded and hard to find a decent place to work. I found that going into academic buildings worked better. There are often quiet work spaces set up in hallways and entryways which make for great work spaces.

12. You can make healthy dining hall options

The dining hall seems like it is only full of unhealthy options at first, but I promise you can get creative. I’ll try and share some of my dining hall hacks later this year!

13. Gyms have free classes

Having a free gym is awesome, but did you know many gyms offer free workout classes! I found boxilates, kickboxing, HIIT, and Cycling classes were so fun! Definitely look to see if your university offers classes like this, and don’t be afraid to try new ones.

14. Go to office hours

Even if you don’t need help with a class it’s so important to get to know professors. These are the people that will one day make recommendations for you to go to grad school or get a job, so be nice! Many professors also have interesting backgrounds so don’t be afraid to get to know them.

15. Take classes you want to

The first semester of college I only took classes that were specific to my major and it literally killed me. Try and add one class a semester that just sounds fun, or interesting to you. It will make doing other classes way more enjoyable.

16. Don't be afraid to start new things

If the school doesn’t have something you like, then create it. College is a time to truly explore and create opportunities for yourself. Don’t wait around for the right thing to magically appear, go and make it happen.

17. Homesickness is real

I truly only experienced this my first semester of college. When I didn’t have an established group of friends being away from home was hard. I had a few bad days or times when I felt super overwhelmed, and I wished I had my family by my side. I will admit I did cry a few times, but it also doesn’t last forever.

18. Have an acquaintance in every class

I tried to have at least one somewhat friend in each of my classes. This way if you have questions, miss a day of class, or need help with an assignment you have at least one person you can talk to.

19. Everyone is in the same boat

I seriously went an entire semester thinking I was the only person struggling to do well in class, or missing home. Take time to talk to the people around you. Don’t pretend like everything’s okay because it only makes people feel worse. Be open about your experiences and maybe it will encourage them to do the same.

20. It does get better

This is probably the thing I wish I had known the most. I honestly was starting to think college wasn’t for me, but it does get better. It might take a year or only a few months, but eventually you forget all about those bad days. By second semester I was loving time with my friends and felt so much better about classes as well! If you ever need someone to talk to about those first semester blues, I am always here!

With love,

ashley ardele



    • ashleyardele@gmail.com
      December 3, 2020 / 2:28 am

      Means a lot! Glad you enjoyed it!

    • ashleyardele@gmail.com
      December 3, 2020 / 2:28 am

      Thank you!

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