School has begun. September is here and it’s a fact of life that all educational systems start up again with the fall of summer. For some of you that means you’re entering into a new (maybe even frightening) season. September was always a difficult month for me because of all the changes. However, without change there is no growth…and without growth, well… you might as well be dead.
The Freshman 15. Not the kind of change and “growth” we like to talk about, though these words too strike fear into the hearts of many new college freshman. Typically, the Freshman 15 refers to the pounds college newbies pack on during their first year of freedom from Mom’s meal supervision. However, we’d like to give you a different kind of “15” to chew on.
Listed below is OUR Freshman 15. That’s 15 great ways to invest yourself in the change of a new season and new school (in no particular ranking order). During a major life change it’s easy to feel like you’ve lost your identity. It’s easy to want to hide or wish for things as they once were. There isn’t a perfect formula to acclimate you to this new stage, but there ARE some tips to help you rebuild your life. So even if you aren’t a college freshman (or in college at all) these are still principles that can be tweaked and applied during life’s major transformations.
- Make new friends. Even if you’re scared. Put yourself out there. One of my best friends today is a girl who lived on my dorm hall. One day I walked by her room and her door was open so I just strolled in, sat down and said, “So…tell me about yourself.” Sounds awkward (and it was in hindsight), but I was her maid of honor this summer! People are often happy to have you make the first move of friendship.
- Join something you didn’t have in high school. I don’t care if it’s the debate club, water polo, or the university newspaper, try something new. If you don’t like it or get too busy for it later, that’s okay. But at first, force yourself to be open.
- Conversely, continue doing something that you’ve done all your life. If you wrote in high school and enjoyed it, write in college. You need some consistency in your life to help you cope with all the “newness”. Carrying something with you into the new season that you’ve always enjoyed is a great way to do it.
- Don’t neglect your prayer life. It’s easy to get caught up in business, stress, and excitement that you stop talking to God. He wants to go through this with you. He wants to hear about the ups and the downs. Take time to be honest with Him and hear what He has to say!
- Give everyone a chance. The stereotypes you learn in high school are not always right. Some of my best friends in college were members of the soccer team (I was not), majored in something different than I, were in sororities or fraternities, or were just totally different from me. THAT IS OKAY. Your best friends do not have to be a part of all the same activities as you. Don’t write people off without getting to know them, because often you will be the one who misses out.
- Cut the obligations. No, I’m not saying that you can stop going to class or doing homework. But the extracurriculars you didn’t enjoy in high school…don’t keep doing them. There are too many opportunities to get involved with new activities that you don’t HAVE to keep doing something just because you always have. Be honest with yourself and simplify. Trying to do too much in such an unfamiliar place will do nothing but create additional stress.
- Schedule time for just you. Minus the roommates, friends, practices, and homework. At least once a week do something or go somewhere by yourself to reflect, collect, and unwind. It will help with your mental health more than you can imagine.
- Decide what it is you’re looking for. If you’re looking for wild parties, you can find them. If you’re looking for a political activist group, you can find it. If you are looking for other Christians to build you up, then find a Bible study or a group that meets on campus. It’s a great place to meet like-minded and like-goaled individuals. Start looking for what you want to find.
- Do something crazy and silly every now and again. This time in your life is one of the most fun you’ll ever have. Some people can get swept away by that. The point is though, that it’s okay to go to Sheetz (only people from east coast will know what this is) or Denny’s at 3 a.m. with your friends. Will you be tired for class? Yup. Will you remember the fun you had with your friends above the classes you nearly slept through? Yup. Embrace the silliness of it and make memories. Trust me, there will be plenty of times you’ll be stressed out of your mind, so take the opportunities for fun. Sometimes they are what gets you through.
- Don’t be afraid to share your beliefs. We always see movies that show the “goody-goody” going to college and getting made fun of or corrupted. As a result, I think we can be hesitant to share our faith with new people in new environments. People respect people who stand for something, even if they don’t necessarily agree with it. What people DON’T respect are hypocrites. If someone asks why you don’t drink, have sex, or why you go to church, don’t be afraid to tell them! People welcome honesty. Authenticity is something that is attractive to everyone. Just by LIVING out your faith (most of the time you don’t even have to say anything) you will be shocked at the impact you can have on others.
- Don’t blow of class and homework. I procrastinate. Like a lot. But trust me, if you have the opportunity to get it done and over with, take it. Because when all of your friends are stressing, you’ll be done. Practice time management. Remember that EVERYTHING you do, you do for the Lord. And that includes stupid-seeming pre-requisites. Work as if you are working for the Lord.
- It’s okay to call home and old friends often. Nothing wrong with that. I’ve been out of college for awhile and I STILL call my mom like once a day. If it helps you process and brings a sense of familiarity, there’s nothing wrong with it. Plus, no doubt your parents will really appreciate it.
- Do something physical. You will never again have a free gym membership available to you in your life or a schedule quite this flexible. Take advantage of it. Plus it’s a really great way to clear your head, and you feel BETTER about yourself after. I WISH I still had a free university gym membership…
- Try not to go home every weekend. It’s okay to go home often and see your friends and your family. But it’s also great to start building a life where you are. Going home too often can restart your progress and make it harder to go back to school again. Yes, you can go home. But if you feel like going home EVERY weekend, make yourself stay once and DON’T just sit in your room. Find something to do or someone to hang out with. Sometimes you have to force yourself to do something for awhile before it can begin to feel like home or like it’s yours. Fully invest yourself where you are because you are there for a reason.
- Continue to be you. There’s a lot of new options and people. Be confident in who you are. Professors and new friends may even attempt to change your belief system, but stay true to who you are. You will be happier being yourself than attempting to impress people by changing who you are. Celebrate and be confident in the person God has made you. No, everyone in the world may not like you, but that’s okay! But by being kind and being yourself, you will always know who your TRUE friends are, not just your fans.