Welcome to college. Please leave any sanity in the overhead bin or underneath the seat in front of you. Thank you.
Having just graduated from college and thinking back on all the sleepless nights, I am having a hard time remembering what my first week of school was like, so bear with me. What I do remember vividly is even before the first day, the biggest, most impactful event happens. Your parents bring you to a place, and they never come to pick you up ever again. It’s kind of like a tweet that said: “At some point in your childhood, you and your friends went outside to play one last time, but you never knew it.” It’s something that goes unnoticed at first but eventually creeps up on you. You are now in charge of everything you do. Which, if I am honest, is both freeing and terrifying. The first taste of unadulterated independence. It is truly a sink or swim moment.
You wake up and are both excited and, maybe, a little nervous. I remember I had scouted out what classrooms I needed to go to the day before classes started, so I wasn’t wandering around campus. Nobody wants to be the person who walks into class late on the first day. Growing up, my mom would always say, “being on time is late,” so thanks to her, I have a crippling fear of being late. I will show up 20 minutes early to wherever I need to be; otherwise, my blood pressure will spike.
You made it through your first day. Congrats! It only gets harder. The key to making it through your first semester without drowning in work is to get organized. Plan out your homework. Organizing is always the easiest to do right when school starts, and you are still lying to yourself about being the best student in the world. (I may have skipped way more classes than I should have been allowed.
Also, mom, if you’re reading this, I attended every class. Me skipping class was just a joke.) During my first few days, I planned out my whole semester. The professors give you all the work you will do, so I just put it all into my calendar and prayed to God Almighty that Lazy Jose would stick to the schedule that Responsible Jose made. It was a long shot that never panned out. I tried.
It’s only been three days, so how in the world did your sleep schedule get messed up already? Keeping regular sleeping hours was the hardest part of college. Living with friends was both the coolest thing but was also super detrimental to my sleep. We would have 3 AM conversations about anything and everything. I had a guitar amp in the living room of our apartment where we would listen to some music and talk about what superpowers we wanted and why what the others chose was wrong and stupid. (P.S. teleportation is the most useful power ever. Trust me; we spent more time on this than I’d like to admit.)
Has the hunger finally hit? Or have you been overeating? Either way, food was probably the second biggest struggle when I moved out. You either forget to eat because you get so caught up in forming a social life and all the events happening on campus, OR you don’t know how to eat normally. If you have a meal plan, it can help take away the stress of making time to cook, but it also is usually all-you-can-eat, so…control yourself. I never had a meal plan. I’d rather just “intermittently fast” than eat dining hall food. Plus, I lived off-campus, so I had a kitchen where I could cook my meals. Lesson 1 and the most crucial lesson of cooking for one person: Whatever amount of food you think you need to prepare, cut it in half.
Making friends is key to surviving college. Now, I am not the best expert on this as I only really made one new friend in college. Everyone else I knew from high school. So I was one of the lucky ones who didn’t have to try and make new friends. (If you can’t tell, I’m an introvert.) But you don’t need 1,000 friends; you only need five really good ones. Friends who will be there when your car breaks down or will help you figure out why your printer isn’t working. A true friend is willing to wait until 10 PM to go to Ale House with you for $5 Appetizers. You’re going to need those friends to help keep you sane when you’re up at 2 AM studying for a test you’ve known about for weeks but were too lazy to do anything about it. (I made it a whole three days before Lazy Jose decided to show up).
The existential dread of mommy and daddy not being there finally hits. You’re tired. You’re broke. And most of all, you’re hungry for a home-cooked meal. So what do you do? You lie to yourself and say everything is okay. You try to distract yourself by doing your homework, but you don’t want to do it, so you put it off for tomorrow. You eat cereal out of an old butter container with a spork because it is the only thing you own resembling silverware. All while you binge the Work-Place Sitcom Trifecta of Brooklyn 99, Parks and Rec, and The Office. You tell yourself that you’ll be in bed for an hour or 2. You earned it, right? Welp, next thing you know, you wake up at 1 AM from a nap you don’t remember taking.
The seventh day is legendary for being known as the day of rest. But you slacked off all day yesterday, and now you have three papers, one quiz, and five homework assignments due at midnight. Oh, you also have a test tomorrow so better get studying. Welcome to the trenches, soldier. Hopefully, you made a friend or two so you can suffer together. A Band of Brothers (or sisters, it’s 2019) in the trenches fighting the good fight.
The first week is always the easiest. It’s easy to get lazy. It’s easy to stay up late. It’s easy to let freedom go to your head. The first week is easy, but it’s the week that you need to buckle down and form good healthy habits that will last long into the future. Otherwise, you will make college way harder than it has to be. Lord knows I did. Keep your head up, let the punches roll off you, and keep grinding away. Whatever work you put in will be rewarded later down. Look at me, my first job out of college, and I get paid to write.