I am a college drop out. I say that with pride, I’ve done a lot of amazing things and grown immensely as a person since deciding not to go back to school. With that being said, the last couple of weeks I have found myself looking back at my short stint in college and thinking about what I could have done differently to make it a more positive experience for myself. I think it has been bouncing around my head because it’s that time of year when the kids I work with over the summer are getting ready to start college, working on their schedules and moving into their dorms.
Now I am going to be really blunt here. I did not do well in my freshman year of college because I was a mental mess. My go to answer when people ask why I dropped out is usually along the lines of “Oh, I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I didn’t want to waste money on school” or “Oh, I just didn’t love the school and I have never loved school in general so it didn’t quite work out. Plus, I just don’t think I was ready to really move that far away.” All of those things are super true and played into why I chose not to return for a sophomore year, but one of the biggest reasons was because mentally I was pretty sure I couldn’t handle another year. As a not super social person I found myself struggling to make friends, feeling incredibly lonely and homesick, and just reverting to staying in my dorm in bed with Netflix because I didn’t know what else to do. I can now see that there were plenty of things that I could have done to improve my situation and my experience and I’m sharing them today in hopes that I can maybe help some other incoming freshmen as they transition into college life because what they don’t tell you is that it is hard. It is uncomfortable. But, as cheesy as it sounds most of your peers are feeling the same way you are, they are doing their best to transition smoothly while trying to look like they’ve got it all figured out.
Use the free resources offered to you on campus:
Most college campuses offer two incredibly important free resources, a gym and counseling services. Looking back I could have greatly benefited from using both of those things. I didn’t realize yet how important and closely tied together working out and mental health are. Not only that, but when you gain 20 pounds (yes, I gained 20 pounds during my time in school even as a dance major) it can take a toll on your mental health. Had I gotten up and maybe put a little time in at the gym or taken a few of the offered yoga classes I may have felt a little bit (or a lot) better in my own skin. Let’s all be honest with ourselves, when we are moving our body consistently, even just for a little while, it makes us feel so much stronger and more confident in ourselves.
So the gym would have been a great way to help myself, but another way I could have helped myself would have been to ask for help. Colleges offer free counseling services for a reason, so that students can get help as they are transitioning into this new, big, scary, confusing time in life. I had family friends who urged me to use this resource, but for some reason I never went. Looking back I 100% should have. Counseling and therapy can be costly, so take advantage of it when it’s free!
I have no doubt in my mind that had I forced myself into the gym and maybe went to talk to someone whose job it was to help me sort through my own head space, I probably would have had a completely different college experience.
Just get up and get out of your dorm!
I now know that it is crazy important to just get up and go during the times that you want to do nothing but spend the day in bed with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Get up and go sit in the common room. Do your homework in the coffee shop on campus or in the library. Eat dinner in the cafeteria instead of in your dorm. All of these things A. Open you up to interaction from your peers and B. Get you out of the physical place where you were occupying while you were in your negative head space.
Say yes to everything.
When you first move in you are bombarded with different on campus events and while you may think they seem dumb or not your style go anyway. They may be awkward, but get out and use them to meet new people. The best way to meet new people and subsequently feel less alone is to go where the people are! That’s the whole point of your University putting on these events anyway! Your university wants you to succeed; they want your experience at the school to be positive. So get up and go to all the on campus events. (An added bonus is that these events usually have free food).
Most of these things seem so simple, and that’s because they are. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that the solutions to your problems don’t always have to be grand. Looking back I know that all of these things would have drastically made a difference in how I experienced college. With that being said, I want to reiterate that I haven’t ever regretted dropping out of college. It wasn’t the right path for me and while that was hard to accept at first, I am so incredibly happy with where I’ve been and where I’ve ended up.
So, my last bit of advice to incoming college freshman:
Your college experience is what you make of it. You get to decide what these 4 (or more) years are all about. But, it’s also okay if you realize that it’s not for you. We all have our own compass to follow, so get out there try everything and find out where your compass is pointing you.