The first semester of college is undoubtedly a crazy time. You move from your hometown to a college dorm, have to navigate making new friends, and will probably experience a new level of academic intensity. I experienced all of the stress and excitement that comes with these things as a first-year, but my biggest source of uncertainty was definitely the lack of structure. Unlike in high school, there is no defined path to follow in college. I struggled to deal with the fact that there are infinitely more opportunities at Yale than I could ever take advantage of in four years.
The amount of freedom at Yale can feel overwhelming, but learning to manage it is one of the most important life skills you can learn here. It takes a lot of time, effort, and patience with yourself to figure things out. But trust me, you will!
As you look toward your first semester of college, here are a few tried-and-true tips for balancing it all.
1. Be curious. Take classes that sound interesting to you, regardless of whether you think you’ll major in that field of study. Don’t knock something just because you think you won’t be “good” at it. And tune in to your own emotions! The best thing you can do in your first semester is to pay attention to what makes you happy and what doesn’t.
2. Make friends with upperclassmen. Having older friends to talk to gave me a great sense of perspective on classes, figuring out my major, and envisioning various career paths. More often than not, older students will want to tell you what they wish they had known as first-years. A great way to make older friends is to join an extracurricular group.
3. Use your FroCos. First-year counselors, or FroCos, are seniors who live in suites among first-years. They are there to help guide you through the year and ease your transition into college. They’re super understanding and relatable–after all, they were in your shoes only a few years earlier. They are awesome, approachable people who will give you great advice and connect you to lots of other helpful resources.
4. Be kind to yourself. If you feel lost, if you get a bad grade, if a class didn’t quite live up to your expectations, you will be ok. Everything in college is about learning. You can’t expect yourself to be perfect and for everything to turn out just the way you’d hoped. So don’t be too harsh on yourself when things go wrong–you are still worthy and deserving.
5. Go with your gut. If something feels right, it probably is. I think many people often come to college expecting to do one thing, and then they don’t enjoy it as much as they thought. Yet, they continue on with it because they don’t want to disappoint their own vision. The reality is that things change, and your gut feeling is a great compass for navigating through the endless options at Yale. So use it wisely :)