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Graduation Day (May 9, 2015).

You’re nineteen.

You have moved away from home. Sure, you live in a dorm so it’s not like you have to worry about “adult things” like utility bills. You jokingly consider yourself “an adult in-training” as you attend classes and try to do everything… and I do mean everything. Why not, right? You know pretty much everything by now. You just need to find ‘your’ group. And you’re tough, too, right? You don’t need anyone’s help and you can just ignore those horrible roommates the school stuck you with. No problem.

Problem!

First of all, if your living situation is less than acceptable, talk to your RA (residential assistant). Your home is your castle. You should feel at the most ease in your dorm room and if you can’t work things out with your roommates, don’t stick it out. Talk with you RA and/or the resident hall director. They can get a new room for you. It won’t be an issue. You won’t be the first who got the roommate from hell (or Sweet Christmas, three of those).

So listen, kid… getting that high school diploma didn’t give you superpowers. You’re still the shy, eager-to-please, gullible nerd you were before. Finding yourself and your path won’t happen overnight. Most of your classmates have no clue either. Really, they got no idea what they’re doing. Why do you think they’re partying so much? It’s not just for good fun. They’re killing time and avoiding the hard decisions they have to make.

You also shouldn’t feel like you need to re-enact everything you’ve seen in the movies. Hollywood exaggerates. The idea that every college student drinks, smokes weed and gets laid on a weekly basis isn’t true for everyone, and doing all those things (or attempting to do them) won’t make you cool. Doing them doesn’t make you uncool either. That is another thing someone should have told you: In real life, there is no cool table, just tables with various people.

Find people who you can truly call friends, people who embrace you for who you are, people who love you, people you can trust, people who will have your back through the good times and the bad ones. I can’t stress enough how important that is, especially if you moved someplace new. Once you’ve found those friends, hold on with both hands. Their friendship will mean the world to you after you go your separate ways and pursue different careers.

As cheesy as it sounds, stay true to who you are. College is the time to meet people, try new things and find what you care about. Nevertheless, don’t change for anyone. Don’t change to fit in. If it doesn’t feel right, maybe it’s not meant to be. Plus, it’s okay to feel scared while you explore; that comes with leaving your comfort zone. Whatever personal growth occurs, will happen naturally. That shyness and eager-to-please notion, for instance, they will melt away. Experience will replace gullibility with skepticism. One day you will feel great standing in the spotlight and you won’t care what other people think of you.

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Don’t over-schedule. Reserve some time for yourself.

That said, don’t stress about the milestones (declaring a major, internships, et cetera), or about finding the perfect college experience. Yes, there are deadlines for some things, but don’t panic. Run things according to your own clock.

Which brings me to my next point: Stop comparing yourself to everyone else. Some people know early on who they are and what they want to be. Some people know exactly where they belong. Some people get married early. Some have a path laid out for them, by fate or other factors. Some people discovered their passions before you and use their time at college to express them.

Whatever choices you make during your time at college, take responsibility for them.

It’s perfectly normal to feel homesick. No one will blame you for calling Mom once a day. No one will blame you for talking with a success coach or counselor. It can be difficult to acclimate to a new, exciting setting and there’s no shame in asking for help. Considering a college campus is essentially a hub of all walks of life, it can feel pretty chaotic, maybe even archaic.

This ties in with the likely academic troubles you might run into as well: Never turn down help. Talk with your professor or instructor. Don’t be afraid to get a tutor. Most colleges have a math center and a writing center, so utilize them when you can.

As for money, let me tell you this: Keep an eye on your green. Or you might have less than $200 by the end your freshman year from splurging on so much nonsense. You probably won’t even know where it all went. And for the love of god, get a job, I don’t care you’re a freshman. You’ll need the cash. Writing articles for the college paper doesn’t count.

If you want a job on campus, apply as soon as possible. They tend to be more forgiving towards your class schedule, but the positions are really competitive.

And try to have fun. Your kind of fun, not the Hollywood-type of fun if that isn’t you. You do you. Don’t make college more stressful than it needs to be.

 

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