Dear nervous little Freshman on move-in day,
I know that life seems scary today. It is not scary because you are moving into a new place, you have moved six times before. It is not scary because you regret coming to college, higher education has been your dream since you were a little girl. Today is scary because it is a new adventure, and adventures are a healthy mixture of titillating and terrifying. I am writing to you, nervous little Freshman, because I know how you feel. I have been through this before, and I want you to know some things about your first year at school. I hope you are encouraged by my words; I know this year will be the most exciting year of your life (at least thus far).
The first thing I want to you to know is that your classes are going to be awesome. This is not to say that you will like all of your professors – in fact, you are going to hate one – but you will take something out of every class you attend. I know that you think the required “university” class is pointless and should only be required for stupid people, but I encourage you to learn the value of an easy A. An easy class here and there, even if you think they are the most boring thing you have ever been required to sit thought, will give you the time you need to focus on your harder classes. Required classes can not only give you an easy A here and there, but will also round out your education and give you a broad foundation for your major coursework; they are required for a reason. No matter what class it is, put forth the effort that has always been demanded of you. Even though you are in college now (no, no one will call your mom if you do not show up to class), it is time to hold yourself to your own high standards. While your GPA does not define your worth, it can determine portions of your future. Do not be discouraged by a few poor grades, but do not slack off either. If you stick to the goals and plans you have for this year, you will not have anything to worry about at the end of the semester. However, you will learn the hard way that if you do not begin to study for midterms and finals throughout the semester, the night before your exams are going to be long and arduous. You will drink a lot of coffee on these nights, which has the strong potential to turn into a caffeine dependency; be wary of this. One last note about classes: get to know your professors. It is intimidating to go to office hours and send emails asking for help. Go anyway. Send the emails. Trust me, professors would much rather have you stay after class to ask questions than give you a bad grade on a project you did not understand how to complete. Professors should be your number one source of information about your classes, not your fellow students. If you are confused, chances are your classmates are also confused. Pour yourself into your classes, work hard on homework and projects (yes, even group projects in which you end up doing all the work), and get to know your professors, and the academics of your first year of college will be a piece of cake.
I know you think that what you learn in class is the most important part of college, and it is definitely what you pay tuition for, but you will spend this next year learning that the college experience is about so much more than classes and grades. I know it is awkward, but say hello to the people around you. You are an extrovert, as much as you would like to pretend you are not. Some of the people on this floor will end up being your best friends at the end of the year; it is worth the original awkwardness to spend time with them now. Treasure the late night talks with your roommate and floormates, because these will be the basis of the deep friendships that will develop between you. Your roommate will be your lifeline, and you will be hers, so start getting to know her now. I know that one of your deepest fears is that she will not like you, and that fear can be overwhelming, but know that it has no basis in truth. The two of you will be practically inseparable by the end of the year, so stop stressing about it. Put the necessary effort into friendships with those around you. There will come a time this year when you feel like giving up on a relationship you have been building all semester. I know it is hard, and the rejection hurts, but this friendship is worth saving. Work through your differences with her; try your best to model Christ-like love; pray for her and with her. Not only will the two of you be closer than ever after working through this dispute, but the experience will make you a stronger person.
The friendships you develop over this year will not only come from the people you live with, but you will also meet incredible people by getting involved in campus activities. I know it is hard to go to random club meetings alone, but force yourself to go to at least a couple. Take my word for it: going to FOCUS will be worthwhile. Even though you have to go alone, that first meeting will be the start of amazing relationships with several godly, beautiful women. It is important to remember that you do not have to completely agree with someone to love and appreciate them. The experiences you have with these girls will not always be pleasant, but they will be growing moments every time. You will go to events that you are not comfortable with, and you will consider leaving the group. Please, please stay with them. Humble yourself; you are not always right. However, you must remember to stay true to your beliefs and values. This might sound contradictory, but it is possible to hold fast to your own morals while opening your mind to the ideas of others. Do not feel pressured to agree with them, but be careful not to judge. Do not close yourself off to everything, just because there are a couple things you do not agree with. The girls in FOCUS will bring you through some of the hardest points of this year, and it is tremendously worth it, both for your mental maturity and your emotional stability, to develop these relationships.
In addition to being involved on campus, seek out experiences outside of TWU. There are hundreds of things to do in the North Texas area; go find some of them and get involved. The first thing you will want to do is find a church family. Going to church by yourself is scary, but you are doing a lot of scary things this semester; you will be okay. Immersing yourself in an environment that is not full of people in the exact same place/position/life experience as you will be refreshing and necessary for your sanity. Find things that will expand your horizons. The culture in the Dallas/Ft Worth area is rich with history and art, and there are many opportunities to participate. Take the train to Dallas and walk through the arts district; the museums are free and the experience is priceless. The director of the DMA has made the museum free to everyone in hopes that Dallas will become “a cultural ecosystem unlike any other city;” go help him make that goal a reality. Go to musicals, concerts, festivals, and parades; there are so many events that fit into a college student’s budget that will also bring you out of your dorm and into the real world. Do not fall into the trap of believing that the only things that matter are those that happen on campus. The experiences you have outside of class are what are going to stick with you throughout the year. Venture into the unknown world of living in a new place. Explore the cities around you with the people around you. Build and expand your community; this is the true college experience.
You might be thinking that all these things I am telling you to do are going to get expensive, especially when you add the expense of what you came here for: an education. This is true, and eventually you are going to want to apply for a job. I encourage you to at least enjoy your first semester without the added stress of working. Get used to the demands of your classes and living on your own before you attempt to add a job to your schedule. But when you decide to look for a job, do not be discouraged by the amount of applications you fill out and the lack of response. Remember that you are in a university town full of eligible applicants, and do not think that a job you hate is better than no job at all. Do not worry; everything will work out for the best. Weigh the pros and cons of working on and off campus, and make decisions about where to apply from there. Working on campus can provide connections to faculty and staff on campus, more flexibility in class schedules, and coworkers you will see around campus. Working off campus might pay more, gives you a chance to get off campus, and allow you a chance to work in your field. Sometimes crazy opportunities to work in both areas come up; do not be afraid to take them by the horns and embrace the changes they will implement in your life. Believe in yourself and your abilities. You can do whatever you set your mind to, including balancing work, school, and a social life.
Finally, little nervous Freshman, have fun. College is a grand new adventure to be had, and you will have a blast exploring this new chapter of your life. Sometimes, it is going to suck. Sometimes, you are going to want to give up and fly home to your momma. Please, I implore you, stick with it. You have come too far, worked too hard, and made such strides towards continuing your education to give up now. If pursuing higher education and the betterment of your future was easy, it would not be a valuable endeavor. It is the challenge that the higher education experience brings that will improve your mind and morals. Work hard, invest in those around you, get involved on and off campus, but most important: embrace every life lesson that this thing called college brings. Some people say that the college years are the best years of your life. Whether or not that is true, they must not be wasted. Be amazing, be confident, be yourself; I am rooting for you, nervous little Freshman.