Like so many other people, I’m a worrier. What if someone thinks I look weird? What if someone thinks I walk weird? What if someone thinks I am weird? Every time I’m out in public, I’m a little nervous about all of it. If you’re an incoming college freshman – or just a generally anxious college student – you can relax. Even for high-strung people like me, there is hope to be confident and comfortable in college, but it took me a while to get there. With a little help from friends and family, I figured it out though. So, in the interest of helping all of us calm down:
6 Freshman Tips for the Self Conscious Student
Know (and possibly avoid) the “freshman look”.
I was worried that people wouldn’t take me seriously as a freshman. And nothing says freshman like the ID/keys/lanyard combo over a free freshman t shirt. If you’re more comfortable with people thinking you’re older, avoid these cliches and fly under the radar. Lanyards, as a general rule, aren’t awful, but wearing them around your neck is a freshman hallmark. As soon as I ditched carrying everything I owned around my neck over a welcome week shirt, people started assuming I was a sophomore, and I felt a lot less judged.
Try lots of new things early, when it’s easy to get involved.
At my university we have Quad Day, where many of our hundreds of RSOs (that’s Registered Student Organizations) set up shop on the quad and try to recruit new members – most of whom are freshmen. If it sounds even a little interesting to you, get more information! And as tired and busy as you’ll be those first few weeks, try to go to some of the meetings. Meeting people in college is very different than in high school, and student groups are a great place to start.
Don’t give up your passions.
Do you love music? Stay involved with music, no matter what your major is. Whatever your extracurricular passions were in high school, or even before that), they’re still important in college. Maybe even moreso, since they’ll be a great way to get over the stress college tends to bring. Don’t feel obligated to give up the things you love just because they aren’t part of your career or academic goals right now. I actually have a complete guide on doing what you love in college if you need some pointers.
Follow up on all those dinner plans.
You’re going to meet a million people those first few days. You’ll exchange cell numbers and friend requests like crazy. And about half of those people will suggest that you both should get dinner together sometime. Don’t wait for them to text you. I promise you, they’re waiting for you to text them. “But Megan, what if they think I’m being weird and clingy?” They won’t. If you’d be happy to go get dinner with someone, they’d probably be happy to get it with you, too. And if you don’t act fast, you’ll feel awkward that it’s two weeks since you talked to them, and probably never talk to them again.
Talk to your instructors – especially the ones whose classes you hate.
College classes aren’t like high school ones. In a lot of cases, the professor might never know your name. But establishing a relationship with the people teaching you can make or break your grades. If you know a professor or TA already, it’s that much easier to go to them for help if you’re struggling. And, if you happen to make a mistake, an instructor will be much more willing to work with a student they know to find a solution, since they know you’re dedicated to doing well.
Realize that high school is in the past.
No one really cares that you were captain of whatever or got a 9.6 billion on the ACT. What they care about is whether you’re a fun, interesting, good person to be around – and listening to you brag isn’t fun or interesting. High school, and the people you met there, can still be important to you. And if you have a really funny high school story to tell, by all means, make everyone laugh. But if all you ever talk about are your absent friends and bygone glory days, you’re probably not going to have much luck making new friends and memories. It’s okay to let go.
Bonus tip – take a deep breath, let go of fear.
College is weird. Like, really, really weird. People wear their pajamas to class and decide to become socialists and sleep on all available horizontal surfaces. No matter what your natural, personal level of weirdness is, the campus will collectively surpass it. So don’t sweat the little stuff, and take this opportunity to be really true to your personal interests. So wear the shirt that’s not quite your style, admit you liked that one thing you pretended to hate. Remove yourself from the comfort zone people have built for you and actually embrace your individuality. This is probably the first time in your life it will be genuinely celebrated.
If you’re not in college yet, what are your biggest worries? What are you most excited about? If you’ve already been there, what’s the biggest lesson you learned – or wish you had?