Senior year of high school can be either the happiest year of your life or an anxiety ridden nine months. It is much easier to stay on the happy side of the spectrum when your college plans solidify. Stress and responsibilities often diminish, you are surrounded by your friends, and you begin to dream of the possibilities for the next phase of your life. On the other hand, senior year can be a nine-month-span of worrying about what is going to happen next. Regardless of where you find yourself on that spectrum, there are a couple of things that I wish I knew before I started college that I would like to share with you.
When I was deciding on colleges, I knew that I wanted out of the north. The cold weather is not my thing and I have always been keen on experiencing new places and people, so when I decided that Belmont University in Nashville,Tennessee was the school for me, I was excited and incredibly nervous at the same time. I was in a long- distance relationship, I didn't know anyone, I had incredibly difficult nursing classes, and on top of that, I got sick. The combination of all of those pressures resulted in a difficult social adjustment. The entire first semester I wanted to go home. I missed my boyfriend and spent more time talking to him than meeting new people. In addition, moving from the north to the south was a bigger culture shock than I expected. People were so kind all the time and I immediately wrote it off as passive aggression, which made it hard to befriend anyone simply because I didn't trust that their kindness was genuine.
Come into this new stage of life with an open mind and an open heart. Often we are too quick to judge and as a result we can alienate ourselves from the possibility of new experiences and friends.
A part of my inability to make new friends during my first semester came from the fact that I had little free time. I still believe that I would have made a good nurse, but after that one semester, I came to the conclusion that my happiness wasn't worth a nursing degree. Once realized this, it seemed like everything fell into balance for me. I did some research and found an interest in public relations. I scheduled a meeting with a professor from the PR department and I immediately knew that I was in the right place. Second semester freshman year, I switched from a nursing major to a public relations major with a minor in education. I found that I excelled in these programs.The work seemed more intuitive and it was a lot easier for me to excel. As a result, I was able to have more free time to meet some new people and take better care of myself. These changes made my freshman year more in line with my expectations.
It is okay to be unsure of what you want to do. You are eighteen-years-old and know little more than being a student and maybe a part-time job. Just don't give up. If you are unhappy, do not get paralyzed by the steps and decisions that need to be taken... just get your work done. Freshman year is meant for exploring interests by taking diverse courses, utilizing faculty, and staying alert to opportunities.
If you are like me, this will be the first time that you are taking on the responsibility of managing your money, cleanliness, and health choices. With that being said, I was incredibly lucky to have my parents and grandparents pay for my college education; however, spending money was on me. I know that many people have to take out student loans or get a job and work through college, in which I say, hats off to you. Taking on either of those burdens is no joke and the fact that you put your education above all else is incredibly admirable.
Regardless of the size of your bank account, budgeting is a necessary life skill . At the beginning of the year look at your bank account and figure out your unavoidable costs. Once you deduct those, divide the remaining money into an emergency fund, a savings/investment fund and a daily budget.
As far as staying clean, this is often something that often gets overlooked and it really shouldn't. Not only is it dangerous to neglect your health, it can also be dangerous for your relationships. I cannot tell you the number of times (myself included) that friendships have been ruined over the cleanliness of your living space. If you have some living habits that people might not like, be upfront about it with your roommate(s) and work on being mindful of one another. For example, I had a roommate who was incredibly tidy, and as for me, I like to call myself, "messy but never gross". It was time to pick-up when my mess was stressing-out my roommate or affecting my ability to focus.
As far as healthy choices, it's fairly simple; don't eat junk all day, make sure to eat some fruits and vegetables, avoid late-night snacking, stay hydrated, and make time in your weekly schedule to exercise - at least twice a week. These are incredibly important habits for your long-term health and happiness. Not to mention, as your metabolism starts to slow in your early twenties, eating like a thirteen-year-old boy and laying around like many of us do, will only provide fodder for an unhappy and unhealthy lifestyle.
With freedom comes responsibility. Be mindful of others and yourself. Too many times freshman students lose track of their expenses, their workload, or how their actions might impact others, so check yourself before you wreck yourself.
Above all, try to enjoy every moment. These four (plus) years are supposed to be the best of your life, so make them count.
By Sarah McCarren, RN, MSN, CPNP
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