College is both scary and exciting. It’s a new world with new people. I was terrified. There are questions you want to ask and you might not know how to ask or who to ask. I can be that person! I can’t answer every question keeping you up at night, but for now we can start with seven:
1. How will I meet people?
This is probably the most intimidating part of college life, but it also can be the most exciting. It’s your chance to meet new people and make forever friends. Schools know how intimidating new environments can be, so most colleges often set up an orientation/welcome week. Go to the events! Some might not interest you as much as others but don’t opt out. You’ll realize everyone on your hall is going too. Make the most of the camp-like schedule. Attend the events and mixers. It’s a week dedicated to helping you adjust, so take advantage.
2. What if I think I don’t like my roommate?
Meeting your roommate can many directions. Some people find their best man or long lost twin. Others meet their arch nemesis and forever enemy. I’m kidding, but really there’s a chance you won’t like your roommate. Schools might survey you to help you find your match, but I completed one of those surveys and ended up with a roommate who rose with the sun while I slept past twelve. Even crazier? My polar opposite and I became best friends, living together all four years. This is all to say that it’s unpredictable. Don’t panic if you don’t love your roommate. You’ve survived sharing a room with your sister for the last eighteen, so you will survive the year. Just wait it out, communicate boundaries, and pick someone else for the next year. Of course if things get really bad between you the school has options. Talk to the housing department if necessary. They’ll help guide you in how to proceed.
3. Can I change my major?
YES! Chances are you will change your major, you might add a minor, or you might just realize you were meant to tour in the circus. Don’t put pressure on yourself to stick with the career you thought you wanted when you were eighteen. Of course know that changing your major can cost you time and money. Use the first semesters to find out what you really love to study. Take the general education courses. You might surprise yourself. If you realize you love Shakespeare, don’t force yourself to study business. It’s okay to change your mind, just try and change it sooner rather than later.
4. Should I have a job while in school?
This is a tricky question, because for most people not working just isn’t an option. I was one of those people. While it would have been nice not to have a job, it just didn’t work out that way. That being said, it’s important to find balance. On-campus job opportunities are great because they often work around your schedule and changing availability. Off-campus jobs are less flexible. With either, it’s important to remember why you are in school. That degree is the end goal, and your part time job is just that—part time. Focus on your studies; drop a shift if you have to. It’s not going to be easy but you’ll figure it out, if only because you have to.
5. How should I pick my meal plan?
Speaking of jobs and money and college costs, the meal plan is actually pretty expensive. As someone who rarely woke up for breakfast, ordering 21 meals a week would have been kind of excessive. If you’re on the swim team, however, 21 meals might not be enough. Be realistic when choosing a meal plan. Trust me when I tell you that you will not want to eat every meal the cafeteria. Eventually you’re going to need a break. The first semester will be a learning period, and you can adjust for the semesters following.
6. How can I get scholarships?
If you take the time to search for scholarships, you’ll find them. Just applying makes a huge difference. Even for the small ones. $250 and $500 scholarships add up. Also ask the financial aid apartment what’s available. They’ll help you. The school has funds they might offer, and they also know where to tell you to look. Still, most of the work falls to you. Do your research. There are many websites dedicated to scholarships, even ones specific to you. Use these and keep applying. Even a few acceptances amongst a sea of rejections could make a difference.
7. Is it okay to be homesick?
Okay we can be honest with one another—I cried every night for the first week of college. Okay, maybe it was two weeks. Your bed is not the same. Your food is not the same. Your roommate isn’t your sister—yet. It’s okay to miss home. The best thing you can do is talk about it. Everyone’s putting on a brave face but it just takes one person taking off the mask to make a difference. Be that person. Then your group can get through it together. Call your mom when you’re sad. Eventually, you might not be so sad anymore.