Since I’m about to be a wizened junior in college…

I thought I would take a page out of Maggie’s book and write about the five things I wish someone had told me before I started college. I came to Mizzou not really knowing what to expect. I am the oldest of my siblings, and I was going to an out-of-state school where I knew absolutely no one. I literally packed my bags, drove 14 hours north and hoped for the best.

Warning: this is all nostalgia and 20/20 hindsight.

  1. Everybody is trying to make friends. You are not the only freshman looking for new relationships – no one comes to college with every friend from their high school and doesn’t have to worry about awkwardly shaking hands with everyone and trying desperately to remember names. Be your usual spunky self, but don’t be afraid to talk to people. If someone is wearing a shirt from the dorm (ahem residence hall) that you also live in, don’t be too afraid to go up and ask them about it. I did that and it turned out just fine – I’m still friends with that kid today (hi, Jack).
  2. Everyone is confused. Even those kids who seem so suave and calm because “oh, my big brother told me blah blah blah” don’t actually know what’s going on. Campus, for all its tradition and classis beauty, is evolving every day. Things change from semester to semester, so advice from older siblings is usually outdated anyways. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It is better to look like a total freshman and know what’s going on rather than be super confused and lost.

    This is how I did my reading today. If you can study outside, always say yes.
    This is how I did my reading today. If you can study outside, always say yes.
  3. Get involved right away. Getting involved is the real key to making friends. Find something that you’re passionate about and find the group on campus that makes that happen. I promise there is a club for it. Write for the paper. Look into internships within the sports media department or art advertising. Even better, find an philanthropy to thrown yourself into and stick with it. Mizzou Dance Marathon (surprise!) benefits the University Children’s Hospital and various therapy programs. Relay for Life benefits the American Cancer Society. Habitat for Humanity builds low-cost houses for those who might not be able to afford them otherwise. Help someone who will never be able to repay you with anything more that a hug and you will become a better person for it. Note: I did this. I got involved right away and I’m eternally grateful that I did. I do, however, wish someone had told me this, because if I hadn’t gotten involved of my own accord, I know I would be a radically different person. 
  4. Explore your town. Don’t live in the bubble that is campus. Go out and hike. Find lookout points. Go to (free) museums. Take a road trip and go window shopping in a super swanky city close-by. If you stay on campus too much, you’ll lose the perspective that comes with seeing how non-college students function. It’s a lot more different than you would think. And there are a lot more real pants.
  5. Savor it. It flies by (especially spring semesters…what’s up with that). So relish it. Relish it all. All those late, coffee-fueled study sessions in the library. All those slightly awkward, heart-to-heart, let-me-make-myself-totally-vulnerable conversations with friends. All those football games, screaming your school’s cheers and chants. All those peanut butter sandwiches and weeks (or months…) of something dangerously close to abject poverty. All those teary phone calls home. All those wonderful, wonderful, wonderful college boys (hi, darlings). All those time when you get to tell your friends how proud of them you are. You are going to have bad times. You are going to have amazing times. Don’t wish any time away, because when it’s all said and done, you’ll want every last minute.

So, future collegiates…I hope this helps. Even a little.

A list of five things could never cover all of the advice I have to give incoming freshman. Ask me a specific question, and I’ll help. But it’s also up to you to make the most of your experience and your journey. College is amazing and stressful and so much work and so much fun. If you are lucky enough to get to go, make sure you make the most of it. Make sure you make it yours.

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