Change is hard, and despite being scared to leave my small town, I was also immensely excited to leave the worst parts of myself back home and focus on the best parts. To me, college was a new beginning to be taken advantage of. I’ve been here for almost four months now (Finals are next week! YIKES), and while I definitely think I was better than I was when I got here, there is also a lot that I could have done better, or that I even did flat out wrong. So, here’s a list of my biggest mistakes I made during my first semester of college, and how I could have avoided them:
1. Not Utilizing My Meal Plan
At my particular university, every first-year student is required to have an unlimited meal plan. That means unlimited swipes at any of our four “award-winning” dining halls and $250 dining dollars to spend at one campus cafés and restaurants. My issue was that it is about a five-minute walk to a dining hall, but only a 10-second walk to an on-campus coffee shop that also happened to have amazing quesadillas. I quickly became addicted to their iced mochas, and within the first month, I had blown through half of my dining dollars, mostly on just coffee which, A) I could have made in my own dorm or B) I could have swiped into on the dining halls to get.
I was so afraid of running out of dining dollars that I transferred money from my checking account to my on-campus debit account to pay for iced mochas. Yes, I used my ACTUAL MONEY. And I kept doing it. I definitely curbed my spending in the last month or so, but I wish I didn’t set up a nasty habit of on-demand expensive coffee from the start.
2. Not Making Friends From Outside My Building
I basically hit the dorm room lottery. My roommate is absolutely amazing, and everyone on my floor is great friends with one another. I found a little home here, which is fantastic. But there’s a reason that common advice for working adults is to not let work take over your life by only having friends from your job. And I didn’t follow it.
Just like it’s hard to be around people from work all the time, it’s hard to be around people from school all the time. When you are eating, sleeping, going to classes, and breathing the same air alongside your friends for 24 hours a day, it can be really easy to let emotions bubble up to the surface. I often fear that I’m not having quality time with my friends just because of the sheer quantity of time. I do other activities, so I wish that I had diversified my friend circles so I could get a little bit of a break. “Too much of a good thing” is a real thing.
3. Not Talking Advantage of All The Free Shit Everywhere
It’s the business model of colleges to make you want to go there, so it’s in their best interest to provide as many services and benefits as they can. I have a really nice gym membership built into my tuition. Do I use it? No, but I definitely should be.
There are also constantly craft nights and open mics and free cupcakes and pizza at club meetings, and I rarely take advantage of any of it. I feel guilty having paid for all of these amazing events and amenities and then just not using them. I also recently found out that I have four free one-on-one sessions with a therapist per semester. I didn’t even know about that, and now here’s a semester gone. I vow to use all I pay for next semester. I will hold myself to that.
I’m glad that college has given me the opportunity to come out of my shell, making amazing friends, and learn about topics I’m actually passionate about. But it’s also important to not paint experiences with broad strokes. You should audit your life at important junctures, like the New Year or the end of a semester, so you can get the most out of the resources you have. I will definitely go into my next semester with new, tangible goals, as well as a new perspective about my own habits. College is about learning and growing, so use it to actually do those things.
Julia Carino is a freshman at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the Commonwealth Honors College, pursuing a degree in political science and history while also trying to learn how to be a “little adult.” Her Twitter is mostly politics and Harry Potter, but she swears there’s more to her personality than that. She hopes to keep writing and even enter the political sphere.
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