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What one wishes they had known as a freshman

September 3, 2015 Leave a comment

I caught myself reading an article found in CNN called, What I wish I’d known before going to college (http://www.cnn.com/2015/09/01/living/advice-for-college-freshmen-feat/index.html). What I discovered was a one-sided version of a junior year student at University of Maryland thinking she understands the college experience. As a former college student myself, I think Taylor Swaak needs to complete school first, but she does cover some important points.

Her first point is, You’re not going to miss home as much as you think you will. She is partly correct but possibly damaging to first year college students. I can recall a number of students that dropped out of school which is comparable to Maryland. They did miss home… A LOT. Most of these students couldn’t cope being away from home and needed support.  For Taylor, she was likely better adjusted psychologically and support-wise than many students. Homesickness is a big deal for those without friends nearby. The fear she mentions is homesickness and the beginning of being alone. This doesn’t go away immediately for most students. For some, it takes weeks before they are comfortable. That doubt of being able to do the work needs to go away, and it takes time.

No one else has friends, either. For the large part, this is mostly true. I had many friends attending the same university as me. My own son also has friends at the university he is at. Still, there are students without friends. Making friends is one of the big anxieties. This stresses the first point about missing home especially when you are making friends. The more outgoing you are, I think Taylor fits this, the easier it is to meet new friends. I can tell you that I had only one friend within my major while maintaining five close friends my entire college career. We are different and even a roommate may not be the friend. This is where new students need to get involved in activities they like. They’ll meet like-minded people. Believe it or not, playing computer games and working was where I met my long lasting friends other than my roommate. I didn’t do these things to meet friends.

DON’T bring your entire wardrobe. For years I thought this applied to females only. I recall all of my male friends as having very little in wardrobe except for underwear.  This was until moving my son in his dorm, I saw a family with a pickup truck filled with their son’s items. I am certain the bulk of it went home and another trip will be needed as the semester progresses. The truth is, students need a few of everything. My son didn’t take a winter coat. He can get by without one. I did tell him to take one set of “good clothes” for any event he may need to dress up. Now Taylor is at UofMD, and it doesn’t get cold. For others, a winter coat may be a must if you don’t expect to go home until Thanksgiving. I have had winter weather in October and November while in college. If you walk long distances, you do appreciate the coat. As for shoes, bring little. You need sneakers, dress shoes, and flip flops. You can get by with these. While we are on it, sweatshirts with hoods are better than coats. You want the front pockets, too, if you don’t have gloves.

Don’t drink? That’s OK. This is true for the most part. The problem comes from freshmen thinking you just drink and have sex all of the time. College students typically do not judge. Well, they do based on the propaganda they are fed. Alcohol and sex are not judged but your personal beliefs can be and are often judged. I would comment on drugs but times have changed, though we many of us thought ill of drug users, we really didn’t say anything. The biggest issue is the feelings of peer pressure the first year student brings with them. They have yet to mature and develop the ability to think on their own. I believe we don’t hit that until our late twenties.

Think it’s OK to borrow? Think again. This one is a little strange to me. We never thought of borrowing without asking, and my son does the same with his roommate. I wonder if this is a female issue with borrowing. I don’t think so. Like any friendship, you learn the limits. I borrowed my roommates contact solution many times when I needed it and vice versa. This issue really comes from your upbringing. I can assure you the biggest issue I had with my roommate was eating the other’s food, and this was done to annoy the other.

That sandwich you really like? Stop eating it. My first thought is, “huh?” I wonder if Taylor is grasping for content. I love mint chocolate chip ice cream and never stopped eating it, so I wonder if it has to be a main meal. I was stuck with variety in my dining hall, and looking at my son’s menu for his dining hall, there is quite a bit of variety (Yes, I am able to find it online). I think this is a stretch, but there is a point to be made about expanding what you try. It is just that dining halls wouldn’t be where I would consider expanding. Some items would cause me to never try that food again. Pizza when I went was horrible! The chicken sandwiches were to die for, but they didn’t always appear on the menu. I ate a salad every day and had the same items in my salad. Even to this day I eat salad a particular way. I hate croutons and don’t fancy fruit in my salad. A student eats what they want and like. Yes, we get sick of certain items, but that is normal. In the end, I would agree that students should expand their cuisine but be selective of where you do it.

Befriend early and often. I am not sure I agree with Taylor on this one. My first year at the university, I gained three friends that I have had for life. The rest fell away as I went into my major. I developed a few more and kept one until we graduated. I worked with a few other friends that I met over the years. Is it difficult to make friends by sophomore year? That depends on the student. If you are shy then early and often may be the best. You develop several types of relationships. There are those where your interests in non-academic areas and the other is for the academic areas. The more active you are the more you open opportunities for friends.

I wouldn’t consider most of this to be very important. Friendship is the most important of all of these. I would think organization and developing friends within classes to study with more important. If you are in engineering and science, friendships within the classes is very important. Is journalism different, I don’t know? Learning how to study is another big issue. Time and time again, former students state that it was in their junior year when they finally got it. The faster you learn study skills and time management, the better. Missing home is another big issue. This is why the RA, Residence Assistants, have activities to engage students. The wardrobe is a one-time mistake corrected the first trip home. Eating is not that big of a deal other than the freshman 15. The drinking is really a maturity issue that gets freshmen into trouble.

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