Lessons I Learned During My First Semester of College

A little less than a week ago, I finished my first semester of college! These past three and a half months have been incredibly transformative for me. I’ve learned so much about myself and the world around me, and I want to share this with all of you.


Basic manners can make all the difference in someone’s day.

There is a server in the dining hall that has a reputation among the students for being grumpy. There were many days that I would go straight to the salad bar or deli bar and not eat the hot food (also to avoid the long lines). My mom suggested that I “make nice” by using simple pleasantries. Short exchanges like “hi”, “how are you”, “how’s your day”, “please”, and “thank you” can make a big difference. You never know what somebody is going through, so treating them with the respect that they are often denied can brighten their day more than you can imagine.

People will say or do anything to get attention.

Some people constantly crave attention from others. If the focus is diverted away from them for whatever reason, they will say or do whatever shocking thing they can think of to make themselves the center of attention once again. They don’t care if it’s negative attention as long as your focus is on them. It’s important to recognize this quality in people early on so you don’t unintentionally encourage this behavior to continue or get caught up in its chaos.

Relationships change over time, and that is okay.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that the way I relate with other people has changed. The way I interact with my parents is different. I’ve grown much closer to some of my friends from high school while I’ve drifted away from others. As people change, they may grow apart. That’s just a normal part of life. I also notice that I’m no longer satisfied with small-talk and surface-level relationships.

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t meet your best friend right away.

Even though my college is small, orientation was a bit overwhelming because there were so many unfamiliar faces. One of my roommates was making friends right off the bat, and I felt kind of discouraged because I hadn’t found “my people” yet. A couple weeks later, I found myself having to choose between which group of people I would sit with at lunch or dinner. I had finally found people I enjoyed spending time with. You may not find the people you click with right away, so be patient and continue to put yourself out there.

Parties are not my thing.

Early in the semester, I went to a party with my roommates just to see what all of the hype was about. I wasn’t interested in drinking or smoking, so the party had nothing to offer me. I didn’t want to play beer pong or do keg stands. I couldn’t really talk to anybody because the music was so loud and most people were too intoxicated to have a coherent conversation, so I spent most of the night looking at my phone. I would have preferred sharing a meal with my closest friends, catching up on shows, or even doing my homework. Considering I’m an extrovert, parties seem like a setting I would thrive in, but it’s just not my thing.

Avoid procrastination at all costs.

I thought I learned this lesson in high school, but I re-learned it this semester. College assignments are typically more complex and time-consuming, so it’s really important to plan out in advance how you want to tackle a big assignment. If you don’t, you’ll be super stressed out, and that’s not healthy.

Animal companions are essential.

Since I live in a dorm, I don’t have my cat or dogs with me like I do at home. They bring so much joy to my life, and I appreciate their company more now that I’m not with them as often. Thankfully, a lot of people from the community bring their dogs to my campus to run around and play, so I always find a dog to pet. My favorites are the three-legged golden retriever and the lab mix named Mr. Herschel.

I really enjoy volunteering.

During this past semester, I got involved in a group called Food Recovery Network that takes extra food from the dining hall that would otherwise be thrown away and donate it to a local soup kitchen. After dropping the food off, we would stay to serve in the soup kitchen. My eyes were opened to how big of an issue food insecurity really is. So many people have no idea where their next meal is coming from, and that’s not right. I have so much to give, and I look forward to finding more ways to serve my community.

Get involved on campus as soon as possible.

It is so important to find a community of people that you can relate to. Find clubs on campus that align with your interests, whether it’s a religious group, a club associated with your major, a sorority/fraternity, or an intramural sport. Without a sense of community, you’ll find yourself stuck in a cycle of eating, going to class, doing homework, and sleeping, which is difficult to break once you start it. Find something you enjoy, and pursue it!