What I’ve Learned In Freshman Year Is …
Written by Jacquelyn Eubanks
Before arriving on campus for move-in day, I didn’t know much about Hillsdale daily life. I had no older siblings, friends, or cousins who’d gone before me. I was basically going in blind, hoping my Pinterest college board had prepared me sufficiently. I’m several weeks into freshman year now, and I think I’m finally starting to pick up on the cultural aspects of Hillsdale College life.
First, I was convinced that because most colleges don’t have dress codes, college students by and large wear sweatpants, hoodies, and probably even pajamas to class. Before coming to Hillsdale, I seriously considered bringing a blanket to class on cold winter days. (I mean, who wouldn’t want to be wrapped in something warm and fuzzy during a lecture?)
What I discovered is that while some students don athletic wear to class, a great many actually dress up on a daily basis. At any given time, you can see at least a dozen girls wearing skirts, blouses, and heels or men decked in button-downs and khakis. I think this speaks a lot about the students here: not only are they practicing business casual in preparation for future careers, but they are also showing the professor that their class isn’t naptime.
Another thing I learned is that each dorm has its own miniculture. If you’re a social butterfly determined to meet every single girl in your dorm, Olds is the place for you. If you prefer a quiet dorm that’s more conducive to studying and sleeping, McIntyre is your best fit. For guys who are all about pranks and shirtless barbecuing, Galloway is the place to be. But for the gentleman who’s passionate about winning (and winning A LOT): you’ll find success in Simpson.
BRING. FOOD. Yes, that was a seriously hard-hitting transition, but this cannot be overstated. You’ll be in the middle of writing a paper or studying for an exam at eleven-thirty at night, and that’s when it hits you. My recommendations? Popcorn, ramen noodles, Easy Mac, granola bars, protein bars, and instant oatmeal. #carbload
Get to know your RAs. Seriously. They are lifesavers. When it’s nearly midnight and you just now realize that you’ve run completely out of a necessary prescription medication, or you tripped in the cafeteria and rolled your ankle (lol, that would be me), your RAs can be a lifeline. They will drive you to the store in your moment of desperate need or scour their room for a gauze wrap to fix your injured leg. They’ve also been through this whole freshman-year thing before, so you can always go to them for honest advice.
Make friends. If you’re an extrovert, then you shouldn’t have any problem following all of your classmates on social media and joining every possible club you can squeeze into your schedule. But if you’re like me, then you have to kind of force yourself to get out there sometimes. It’s okay to take baby steps. Maybe pick one club that you think you’d really enjoy, and get to know people through that. Maybe knock on the doors of the other people in your dorm and introduce yourself. Remember that nothing breeds friendship like a smile, compliment, and invitation.
To my fellow workaholics: BREATHE. Take time to have fun, rest, and relax. Yes, I know how badly you want to change the world, but you can’t do that if your brain is on overload and you’re running on five or less hours of sleep. Find time to rejuvenate. This can be anything from watching Netflix between assignments to joining a spontaneous game of Ultimate Frisbee.
Find your favorite study spot. Seriously. This works. There is a place that for some magical reason will push you to be most productive, whether it be the library, AJ’s Café, a picnic bench on the quad, the Old Snack Bar, or your dorm room. Find it and stake your claim. Go to it whenever you find yourself procrastinating on an assignment. Give yourself a couple of hours, then marvel at how your To-Do List diminished.
Prioritize. Yes, you want to do everything, try everything, be everything—but you can’t. Pause to reflect on how much time you need to spend in class and studying, and you’ll get an estimate of how much extra time you’ll actually have. Then rather than filling every open moment with activities, recognize your limitations. If you love to sing but just can’t seem to find the time now, rest assured that the choir will still be there sophomore year.
College is a great time to try new things, explore new fields of learning, and make new friends. It’s also a time of self-discovery and character building. Take advantage of the opportunities presented to you—especially all of the small teachable moments along the way.
Probably one of the youngest people ever to win three national awards for her novels, teen author Jacquelyn Eubanks, class of ’20, can be spotted sipping tea, typing stories, and (someday) climbing mountains.