We are terrified of our freshman year of college.
It’s not something we like to admit, even to ourselves. After all, aren’t our college years supposed to be the most exciting and fun-filled years of our life? We’ve all seen it in TV shows and in the movies: the wild adventures, the crazy parties (come on, be honest, who can’t wait to be able to shout “TOGA! TOGA!” at a social gathering?), and the sweet freedom to do whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want that comes with moving out of your parents’ house. Not to mention that college finally gives us a chance to study something we actually want to study, instead of the mandated, dull courses we’ve put up with in high school.
So why are we terrified?
The truth is, we are scared of firsts. The first time you ever drove a car? Pretty scary. Your first date? Really scary. The first time visiting potential colleges (especially if there was an interview)? Absolutely nerve-wracking. This is because the first time doing anything puts us in unknown territory. We don’t have any experience to draw upon, and we have no idea how we’ll perform. We worry that we might screw up. We worry that we will hate it. Every first is a leap of faith–with an unpredictable landing.
Firsts terrify us, but usually they come one at a time. Sure, the first day of high school is scary, but generally you’re still living in the same house, and you still have the same friends. But the first day of college is a totally different animal. On that day, you’re hit with a brick wall of firsts: first time living on your own, first time making a whole new set of friends out of complete strangers, first time sharing a room with somebody you don’t know, first time walking across an unknown campus, first time taking college courses. It’s this unprecedented concentration of firsts that comes with college that terrifies us.
Inside we’re at least vaguely aware of the fact that once we’re settled in, college won’t be so scary anymore. And I bet most incoming freshman wish they could just skip the few months and wake up with a daily routine with now-familiar new friends, taking courses they’ve already felt out, in a campus that already feels like home.
But that’d be missing the point. It’s all those firsts that make freshman year great.
This year, I’ll be a sophomore. I’ve got friends, an established routine, and about half a dozen groups I’m already involved in. There will certainly be firsts for me this year, but not nearly on the same scale as my freshman year. I already know how it feels to live away from home. I already know which café meals to avoid on a given day and I already know what time I have to leave the 2nd floor of Swem if I’ve got a 3:00pm class in Washington Hall and I want to make a stop at the Sadler Center first. I know that there are people I really like. I know that I can take Statistics or Chinese and not flunk. I’ve survived all those firsts.
And you know what? Truth be told, I’m jealous of the incoming freshmen.
Because you may not realize it now, but the firsts that terrify you now will be the very same firsts that you will wish you had more of when you’re established here. And the reason behind this is simple: firsts are fun. Yes, a first means you’ve never done something before, but why should that be a bad thing? With firsts, you don’t have standards to live up to. With firsts, there isn’t such a thing as failure because you have nothing to measure it against. With firsts, everything is an adventure. With firsts, you can be and do anything you want; there are no limits. Soon, like me, you’ll hunger for them and the chances they bring.
So if I had just one message for the incoming freshmen, it’d be this: the thing that’s terrifying you the most about freshman year is going to turn out to be the best part. With every first you encounter, just do it.