(Based on an interview with a college senior girl at NACCAP member school Anderson University in South Carolina.)

Freshman year at any college can be a huge struggle for students, but a few words of advice can help.

  • Don’t expect it to be easy.  Many students are away from home for the first time, and creating a new life is a ton of work.  I didn’t expect it to be easy necessarily, but what made things difficult was surprising.  You are actually beginning to create the adult life you are going to college to create, so a little effort in creating that life will go a long way. Whining is for babies, seriously.
  • Less is more. Dorm rooms are really small!  At Anderson, the furniture the school provides can be moved around, but it has to stay in your room. In the traditional dorm room I could fit a refrigerator, a microwave, and a couple of small shelves to organize things, but trying to fit a futon was complicated and required lofting my bed.  Since I served as a visit host (someone who allowed prospective students to stay the night on their visit) it was nice to have a place for them to sleep, but boy it made the room cozy!
  • Living with someone is hard work. I have a brother, but had never had to share a room before, so in my first semester I learned an enormous amount about myself.  It wasn’t pretty.  Here are my suggestions:
    • Assume you will have to be intentionally kind. Trust me, very few people are naturally kind.  You will need supernatural kindness to live with someone and still be friends in the end.  You never know what baggage your roommate is bringing with her (both literally and figuratively!) and you will probably have to deal with most of it.  You bring baggage too, so if your roommate is also intentionally kind, your room will be a safe haven.  Kindnesses like taking a short shower, cleaning up after yourself, and not taking anything without permission are simple and practical ways to start off right.
    • Be very clear about boundaries.  Many schools require roommates to create agreements (think Sheldon and Leonard in the Big Bang Theory, only hopefully a little more reasonable!) A strong agreement allows you to create boundaries before conflict arises.
    • Don’t be afraid to involve your RA.  Resident Assistants live there for just this reason.  It is their job to help you navigate living with someone and if you wait to long to involve them, there will be more drama than you bargained for.
    • Follow the rules.  I know this doesn’t sound exciting, but if you follow the rules you don’t have to explain things afterward.
    • Put in a work request as soon as something breaks.  If you have water running in your bathroom for a day and a half (true story) you might be contributing to higher tuition.
  • There might be criminals on campus?  That wasn’t in the paperwork!  Anderson University is Christian college, but as a musical theatre major I am at rehearsals and performances late at night.  Being aware of my surroundings, especially at night, is important.
    • Park under a light or close to the door if you know you will be leaving late.  Just because it is a Christian college doesn’t mean it is 100% safe.
    • Don’t be so involved with thinking or listening to music that you miss what is going on around you.
    • Arrange to walk with others; avoid being alone at night in dark places.
    • Have campus safety’s number in your phone.  They want to keep you safe, let them!
    • Spend time with people in groups before you agree to go somewhere alone with them.  Judge peoples’ character. Yep.  Trust that little voice that causes you to pause, if you don’t feel safe, don’t go.
  • What? You have to go to class? Yes, you do. I really don’t understand people who go to college and then resent having to go to class.  What are you here for anyway?
    • Be that nerd that finds the classrooms the day before classes start. There is no telling what tomorrow will bring, be prepared.
    • Be engaged.  Seriously, even if you are usually quiet in class, the professor will grade your work more favorably if you participate when appropriate.  You don’t have to act like Hermione to be engaged!
    • If you really hate your classes you might be in the wrong major.  See your advisor. now. really.
    • Enjoy learning new things.  College is a great adventure. Risk is part of adventure.  Take calculated risks. The rewards are worth it.
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