This is probably a thought you’ve had in the past few weeks. Summer is slowly coming to an end. More and more boxes invade your bedroom as you pack up all of your belongings and head off to start your new life. Okay,so that was a bit dramatic but it’s probably how it feels to you. You’re leaving the place you’ve been for the past 17-18 years of your life. You’re leaving behind the familiar faces, smells, and places you’ve always known. But it’s cool. You’re going off to college and will be the first one in your family to do so! This is uncharted territory. Sounds good, right? Right. I know you’re a nervous wreck and you should be. As a first-genner myself, I wanted to offer you some advice that may be able to bring your stress level down to a 5.3 instead of being at a 10:

1. You’re a freshman and you won’t know anything. Be okay with that.: The college atmosphere is a new league for you. You’re a rookie and the upperclassmen are Derek Jeter. Once you step foot on campus, you may be a bit shocked. You will walk around campus for 20 minutes trying to find the building where your math class is held, only to realize it was behind you the entire time. You won’t know where to find the cafe. You won’t know where to buy your blue book for midterms and finals. Be okay with not knowing. Don’t be so hard on yourself for not being able to absorb everything into memory all at once. Always remember that the cool junior or senior you see was once a confused freshman, just like you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Others will be more than willing to help you navigate!

2. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Ever.: There’s this idea that as soon as you head off to college, you’ll have to trade in your “Keep Calm and Potter On” shirt for a suit and tie. Not the case at all. Of course, you’ll have to be independent and make sure you go to class, do homework and all of that good stuff. Taking responsibility for yourself is what growing up is all about. However, it doesn’t mean that you have to change who you are. So what if playing with Pokemon cards seems juvenile to to others. It’s what you’re into. Keep it up. College is about maturing, but it’s also about being true to yourself and having fun. Don’t ever feel like you need to change your identity to fit into the atmosphere around you. 9 times out 10, there are a ton of other students who love Harry Potter and Pokemon too and are more than willing to accept you as you are!

3. Expect pressure from family and friends. But know this journey is your own.: Your family and friends are probably super jazzed that you’re the first in the family to go to college. You’ve overcome a ton to get to where you are right now. Kudos to you! Your family and friends will have an idea of how they want you to turn out. Your Nana says you’re going to be a doctor. Your best friend Anthony says he can totally see you doing urban planning and development. But you’re really excited about pursuing a career in interior design. While you truly appreciate and value the opinions of those who love you, this is your own journey and you have all the right in the world to go at it in your own way. At the end of the day, semester or year, it’s you who has to put in the work and make the most memorable experience that you can. You don’t want to become a doctor and that’s okay. Do you. Just be sure to let your Nana down easy.

4. There are lessons in failing. Pay attention to them. : As mentioned before, college is in a completely different league than high school. You know how in high school you could study 1-2 hours per week for a class and still ace the exam? Or how you only had 3 hours of homework per week for your classes? Yeah, that’s not going to be the case in college at all. With the rigor of classes you’ll get in college, you’re going to have to up the ante on your studying and homework skills. So you used those study skills from high school to prepare for your first Intro to Sociology exam. You felt you had everything under control until you get your test score back. You got a D. You probably never receive anything lower than a B+ in high school and now you’re devastated. You begin to second guess your place in college and if you are really smart enough to be there. Breaking news: you are smart enough to be there. The college admitted you for a reason. You have to take this not so stellar grade or experience and learn from it. You’re a freshman. How were you supposed to know to dedicate 10+ hours studying a week for one class? Try not to freak out too much. Now you know what you have to do to get better. By semester’s end, you’ll be back to having grades no lower than a B+. Just like in high school.

College is going to be a remarkable time of your life. Try not to worry too much about the small stuff and focus on discovering who you are and what you want to do in the future. Yeah, you may seem a bit awkward and out of place once you step foot on campus as a freshman. But, look! See that girl across the hall from you? She’s a freshman too and is just as nervous and confused as you are. You’re not alone 🙂