I remember standing up at the end of my high school graduation, moving my tassel to the left, and dreaming about my first day as a college freshman. Like many high school seniors, I was ready for this next adventure. So, when people asked me how I was feeling about moving six hours from home to pursue a nursing degree, my answer was always the same: “I’m so excited!”
That summer flew by, and before I knew it, I had moved into my dorm. My college freshman orientation was complete, my books were purchased, and I was ready to start.
My expectations for that first day looked like this: I would connect instantly with my roommate, getting to my classes would be seamless, and I would make great friends.
But then the actual first day happened—and reality was far from what I had dreamed. My roommate never moved in, I got lost on campus multiple times, and I was really missing home.
College had definitely not met my expectations. At one point, I remember waking up in my empty dorm room feeling incredibly lonely and wanting nothing more than to drop out.
Thankfully, I began to find my footing. But it was only by learning a few things the hard way. So, my college freshmen friends, let’s talk about what I wish I had known then.
1. Friendships take intentionality. It can be difficult to make friends, especially when you have close friends from high school. But there’s value in having people to walk through your day-to-day life with. Whether you’re extraverted or introverted, it’s possible to forge new friendships—and it can be pretty simple.
Besides, it’s more fun to endure finals week with people who won’t judge you for crying into your ice cream. So, when you start making these friends as a college freshman, you’re creating more than just a 4-year friendship—you’ll be creating lifelong friends, too.
Go ahead and decide now that you’ll walk up to someone and start a conversation. You never know—they could become your best friend.
2. Take care of your whole self. Prioritizing your well-being is more important than you might think. When you take care of your physical and emotional wellness, you’ll find that you’re able to focus better in class and invest more energy into your relationships.
So on days when you’re overwhelmed by the stress of your workload, take a walk or grab coffee with a friend. Choose the healthier options in the dining hall, and take advantage of the gym on campus. Take care of your mental health by declaring words of truth over yourself daily. And please, don’t make all-nighters a habit to achieve a “true” college experience. Burnout is not something to brag about.
3. There’s more to college than just your classes, but they still matter. When you start college, you’re given a new taste of freedom. Some professors don’t take attendance, so skipping class would be easy. But they also aren’t reminding you of deadlines, so your syllabus becomes your greatest tool. And it really only takes one semester with an 8:00am class before you realize that it’s difficult to be moving—let alone learning—that early in the day.
But don’t lose hope! Staying on top of your homework and exams can be overwhelming, but it’s not impossible. Try different study methods and stay organized with a planner—whether that’s a digital calendar or physical to-do list.
4. Don’t forget about Jesus. College made me feel like my entire world—including my relationship with Jesus—was flipped upside-down. I can’t tell you how many days I went without opening my Bible App or talking to God in prayer. And my life reflected it. I was anxious, uncertain, and lacking the faith to believe that I had a purpose in being in college.
But that changed when I decided to make my relationship with Jesus a priority again. In high school, I had been part of a weekly youth group. It was harder to find a consistent and accountable community like that in college. Thankfully, I found a LifeGroup at my local Life.Church location to join. (And if you don’t live near one, we even have Life.Church Online LifeGroups!) It was different from my youth group, but exactly what I needed as a college freshman.
It was in prioritizing my relationship with Jesus that everything else in college started to get easier. I found friends I could build deep connections with, my mental health and spiritual well-being improved, and I started doing better in my classes. I found the truth in Romans 8:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 NIV
Like every other season of life, you’re going to have days when you love college, and days when it takes a huge effort just to get out of bed. Embrace the late nights studying with friends. Find like-minded friends who encourage you on hard days. Remember that your identity is rooted in Jesus—not your grades. Call home, ask for help, and be honest with how you’re doing.
You get four years in this season—please soak it up and embrace it for all it is.