Your first semester at college is going to be full of surprises and lessons. Things are going to happen that you never would have expected, and you are going to learn more about yourself and adapt, change and grow in the process.
But don’t get scared! Your first semester is also going to be one of the most fun times of your life. Plus, it will be much less intimidating if you know what to expect. So to help you prepare, here are the 15 things you are sure to learn during your first semester—and what you should take away from them!
1. You won't wear a fraction of the cute clothes you brought to college
Most college girls give this piece of advice to their friends, siblings and classmates, but few actually take it seriously. Read our lips: You will not wear all the clothes you are trying so hard to stuff in a single suitcase.
“I literally packed my entire closet, and by fall break I had already taken a huge portion of it back home,” says Kate Lowes, a sophomore at the University of Dayton. “From all the college apparel they give away to the fact that people basically live 24/7 in sweatpants, there was no need for the majority of the stuff I brought. I realized that I should have packed more of the basics—like tennis shoes, yoga pants and sweatshirts—rather than all dressy outfits.”
What should you take away from this? Quality over quantity. For example, with how much you’ll likely be wearing leggings, it may not be a bad idea to invest in a durable pair.
2. The laundry room is a dog-eat-dog world
No matter how nice your dorm-mates may seem, the kindheartedness and pleasantries all end in one place: the laundry room. If you’re not on top of your game in the laundry room, you’ll probably experience what many a collegiette before you had to go through. From stolen clothes to your laundry getting dumped on top of a machine because you were just a minute late getting it out of the dryer, it’s best to follow a strict schedule in the laundry room. Be timely, be quick and, of course, be courteous to others.
3. There is great beauty in a free and reliable ride
For most collegiettes, freshman year means saying goodbye to your beloved car from high school as well as your parents driving you everywhere free of charge. You’re either going to have to put your faith in the campus shuttle system to actually run on schedule or you’re going to have to keep your car on campus and become the honorary campus driver for everyone and their brother. And that means watching your shopping money get eaten up as you keep refilling the gas. Either way, you’re going to realize how good you had it being able to borrow your parents’ car on a full tank and bring it back on empty like it was no big deal.
Bringing your car to campus, however, is not always a bad idea. In fact, “I think it will be one of the best decisions I make for this upcoming school year!” Kate says. Having a car on campus gives you an easy way to get groceries or go to work, and it’s also a great way to escape whenever you need a breath of fresh air. If bringing a car to campus works for you, then go for it!
4. Shower shoes are not a suggestion—they're a requirement
College showers are breeding grounds for bacteria. You’ll learn soon enough that shower shoes are an absolute must if you’re living in a dorm, especially if your campus cleanliness leaves something to be desired. Wearing flip-flops in the shower will keep your feet and your floormates’ feet safe, which will add to the overall health of your floor. Not to mention that you will soon become “that girl” if you’re the only one going barefoot down the hall in your towel. Bottom line? Wear those flip flops!
5. Your first home-cooked meal of your first college break will probably make you cry
Coming home for your first break from college will make you realize that there is nothing better than a home-cooked meal. “Thanksgiving really did it for me,” Kate says. “Just being with my family and having my parents make dinner like they used to every night was so comforting. It was a way for me to feel so at home...and escape from the same cafeteria salad I had been eating for weeks!”
As heartwarming as it is to come home to a familiar meal, college is a great time to work on providing for yourself and getting creative with what’s available in your campus cafeteria. If your school doesn’t have the healthiest choices to pick from, then get creative in your dorm! See what kind of appliances are allowed in your room and rack up a great list of dorm recipes to use on a daily basis.
6. You won't stay besties with the girl you attached yourself to during orientation week
The girls in your Facebook albums and Instas are going to be way different in December than they were in August—and that’s okay. You shouldn’t feel like the girl you instantly became best friends with because you both were paired up for some orientation week activity (and were also both in a mad rush to find someone to sit with at lunch) has to be your best friend for the next four years—or even the next four months.
True friendships grow organically and can’t be forced because you room with or have the same class as someone. Marie Mikhail, a sophomore at John Carroll University, has some great advice. “Start making new friends right away,” she says. Although it’s somewhat scary to think about, it really is as easy as just introducing yourself to people on your floor or in your dorm and figuring out whom you really click with. Some of the best relationships are created with your roommates and neighbors. Don’t underestimate the comfort they can bring to your life. Get to know and love them, even if they aren’t your BFFs!
7. Not everyone's standards for personal hygiene are the same
You probably haven’t lived in such a confined living space with so many people until your first year of college. Unfortunately, the people who live on your floor won’t all have the same definition of the word “clean,” and without awkwardly pointing out to them that they ought to be more hygienic (which you really shouldn’t do), there’s not much you can do.
There’s nothing more disgusting than watching someone leave the bathroom without washing her hands, cough without covering her mouth or not wash her hair for weeks on end. It’s even worse if that person is your roommate. But you will learn to live with it. Buy some hand sanitizer and suck it up, ladies.
8. College isn’t always exciting
It really only takes until the second or third day for you to realize that college is nothing at all like how it is in the movies. College is not a constant state of partying or perfectly sunny days on the quad.
“We all hear about the fun parties and activities … but ask any established college student and they will tell you about the immense amount of studying that must be incorporated daily,” Marie says.
While you can definitely push yourself to stay busy (and free yourself from the library) by joining organizations and clubs or even going Greek, you should also be prepared for the somewhat repetitive daily routine you will grow to have. Included in this is a lot of Netflix and, yes, sadly, studying.
9. You will realize you took having your own room for granted
Except for the maybe the quad, a college campus is typically not full of wide-open spaces and private rooms for your leisurely use. Rather, it is full of cramped dorms, busy common rooms and jam-packed libraries. You will never appreciate your childhood room more than when you enter your first midterm week and find yourself fighting for a study spot not populated by half the student body. Should that ruin your college experience? Absolutely not!
From cute DIY projects to color-coordinating decor with your roomie, there are so many ways to make the most out of your dorm room. Marie decided to take the opportunity to turn her cramped dorm room into a festive home away from home. “My roommate and I used every holiday as the perfect excuse to spice up our room with decorations,” she says. “For Christmas, we decked out our room with hanging ornaments around the room, lining the walls with lights and wrapping our door with holiday wrapping paper.” What better way to bond with your roomie and make your living space a little more fun?
10. There are good professors and there are very, very bad professors
You should always firmly believe that you are the greatest influence on your grades, but by the end of your first semester, you’re going to learn that there are some professors who aren’t making things easy for you. While no professor would purposefully tank your grade or have a vendetta against you making it on the dean’s list, many have higher expectations than your high school teachers had. This makes it quite hard to attain the straight A's you’ve always been used to receiving.
The best thing to do is to take advantage of (accurate) professor review websites and figure out what type of learning environment and professor works best for you. “Don’t just blindly sign up for your classes based on the times you want,” Kate says. “Be sure to actually check which professor teaches the class and whether or not his or her teaching style will be beneficial to you.”
11. Everyone comes from different backgrounds
You aren’t going to college with all the same people you went to high school with—and you shouldn’t expect the same types of people to be there. Not everyone is the same, comes from the same background or will be interested in the same things as you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be friends. In fact, some of the best friendships can come from people who have had very different experiences from each other. Take advantage of all the new experiences you’re going to have and don’t limit yourself—try to meet as many people as possible.
12. Work piles up quickly if you don’t prioritize
You’ll realize during your first semester that you really cannot push things off or procrastinate in college. The time between the beginning and the end of the semester is broken up by midterms, tests, quizzes, projects and your social life. That basically means that if you’re not on top of homework, studying and outside reading, you’ll find yourself scrambling to catch up.
“Without planning and organizing in college, life is practically chaos,” Marie says. “If you don't plan ahead and organize your work, it is easy to find yourself missing deadlines and not being as successful as you had planned.”
So what does all this mean? College is obviously a time for fun, friends and Friday nights, but it’s also a time that will shape the rest of your life. Basically, you need to figure out what the best balance of school life and social life is for you. Oh, and it would probably be a good idea to invest in a planner.
13. Finding the friend who will house you when you’re sexiled or let you cry on her shoulder will make all the difference
At some point or another you’re going to have an “I miss my parents” breakdown, an “I shouldn’t have hooked up with that guy” breakdown, an “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life” breakdown or an “I’m drowning in homework and my roommate always snores and I've been living in sweatpants and I need my dog” breakdown. It’s only natural. While the first few breakdowns will probably entail you trying to hide your sobbing from your roommate, life gets a whole lot better when you find that one girl or that group of friends who will be there to support you and will always help you eat your feelings by scarfing down a pizza with you on a weekday at midnight. But just remember, getting frustrated, having breakdowns and getting stressed out is totally normal in college. And that’s what your friends are there for.
“College is such a transitional period for everyone, and with this period comes many new adjustments,” Marie says. “It is very important to have a friend that you can vent to and confide in. At the end of the day, it is comforting to know that there is someone there for you who will listen and understand you.”
14. Social media will make you believe that everyone else is having a better college experience than you
It’s really unavoidable: you're eventually going to become envious of how great of a time it looks like your peers are having. This primarily comes from what you see on social media; pictures can deceive you into thinking that everyone else has more friends than you, is more popular than you or is making more of their college experiences than you are. Social media can make you feel left out and can even make you question if you picked the right school.
So, what should you do? If you find that Instagram and Facebook are making you feel down, try a social media detox. Try to remember that likes, favorites and retweets don't dictate your social standing, and, most importantly, realize that you cannot allow envy or worry to lessen your college experience. Put down your phone and go make some memories of your own!
15. College flies by
No matter how painful finals week is or how slow some days seem to go, your first semester flies by at a crazy speed. You’re only a freshman for a short period of time, and in just a few more short years, you’re going to be a graduating senior wondering where all the time went.
“Before you know it, all of the activities, the seemingly never-ending work and all of the fun memories will be over,” Marie says. “So make sure you enjoy the ride while it lasts!” We couldn’t agree more!