Dear First Years,
It’s your conscience. We haven’t talked in a while, what’s up with that? Just kidding.
As someone who was once in your shoes all of four or so months ago (eons, really, when you think about it), I feel that this makes me more than qualified to bestow some wisdom upon you so that you might hopefully avoid some of the many mistakes that I made. True, mistakes are a part of life and you learn from them, but there are some that you are better off NOT making.
For starters, alcohol! Hey, I get it, it’s fun. I too enjoy letting loose on the weekends with 100 of my closest acquaintances at Dixon or whatever townhouse has opened its doors. But you really need to be careful. (No, this article is not sponsored by SHAC.) For a lot of you, college is probably the first time you’re drinking more than the occasional beer your older cousins managed to slip you at your family Fourth of July barbeque, which means you are still learning your limits! My rule of thumb is stop after two drinks and assess how I feel, and then make the decision to either stop or have another. Keeping track is really important; I usually use my notes app, but you can’t go wrong with the good old fashioned sharpie tally marks on your arm. If the potential embarrassment of drunk texting your sneaky link, the guy you met during New Student Week you haven’t spoken to since or your grandma (yes, I have texted all of these people while drunk!) won’t convince you, consider the large hospital bill and lecture from your parents that will await you if you overdo it and end up getting transported. Be warned!
Second things second: Seniors. Yes, we’re all in college, and age doesn’t matter nearly as much now as it did in high school. But what really matters is different maturity levels. I don’t care how old you are as a first year and how old that senior is; they still have spent 3-going-on-4 years in college compared to your five or so weeks, and that results in what we call a power imbalance! Hey, I get it. I see the appeal of an older guy or gal, but wait until AT LEAST after your first term is over and you have become a lot more familiar with college life. For some of you, this might be your first experience with dating/hookup culture, and it can get confusing. While it is nice to assume the best in others, there are people who will take advantage of you and your naivety. Just ask yourself, “why can’t they find someone in their own year to date?” and look out for yourself and your friends.
Balancing your social and academic life can be extremely difficult, especially for those of you who may not be the best at time management. Even as someone who is pretty good at time management, I find myself getting extremely overwhelmed on an almost daily basis, and it can be hard to decide what to prioritize. Yes, Carleton is all “work hard, play hard,” but you are here to receive an education first and foremost. No, it will not be the end of your academic career if you fail one midterm, scrunch that class, or sleep through your alarm accidentally, but you can’t let your grades slide for the sake of maintaining the “perfect” social life. As someone who suffers from some serious FOMO, I get it! If your friends are going out, you want to join them. But looking back, there were a lot of nights where I would have been better off staying in instead of going to another party. Now that you’re away from your parents, this is most likely the first time in your life that you have a lot of control over your time, and that power can go to your head if you let it. Deciding what your priorities are can be difficult, and you may also struggle with this because you don’t want to disappoint someone. Trust me, if that person is really your friend, they won’t take it personally if you have to miss out every once in a while for your own mental health. Do what makes you HAPPY and what will allow you to be the most productive you you can be.
Lastly, roommates. As someone who has shared a room for all of my 20-something years of existence, I was more so worried about the PERSON I’d be sharing the room with rather than actually sharing the room. A simple truth is that you don’t have to be, and most likely won’t be, best friends with your roommate, and that’s ok! What really matters is are you capable of coexisting in the same space, and communicating with one another if something upsets you. My freshman year roommate was someone I would have never thought I would get along with, since we ran in different social circles and had different interests, but according to ResLife, we would be able to live together comfortably. And we did! We became slow friends throughout the year, but we didn’t really see much of each other: she’d be gone when I got up in the morning and I’d come back when she was already asleep at night. Honestly, I think it was a great roommate arrangement. Her side of the room was her problem, mine was mine, and we shared many laughs whenever we got a moment to catch up on the weekends. I had friends who became fast friends with their roommate, and I also had friends who couldn’t stand to share the same air as theirs. So if you’re worried that you don’t think yours is best man/maid of honor material, that is ABSOLUTELY OK! It’s only 30 weeks of your life, you got this!
My last piece of sage advice is to cherish your first year, honestly. People may give you crap sometimes for being a first year, but newsflash, they were once a first year, too! I knew a senior last year who took every opportunity he had whenever we saw one another to just complain about how awful being a first year is and how he wished he didn’t have to share the same campus as them, and that honestly affected me because it made me wish a lot of the year away. When I look back on last year, I had my share of difficult moments, but it was really such a beautiful learning experience, both academically and personally, and while I wouldn’t want to be a first year again, it was a special year. You don’t have to have everything figured out. You are still growing as a person, and take advantage of every opportunity you can. College will go by fast, just think about how fast this term has gone by already! You will get through this, and have a lot of fun memories to look back on once you’re on the other side. And if you ever doubt yourself, just remember, you were accepted to Carleton for a reason; you’re more capable than you might think.
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