You Are Not Finished: The Freshman Year Bounce Back

You are not finished. 

The above sentence is the best way to summarize the advice that I have for you. A bad first year does not translate into a terrible college career. Often, we as college students come in from killing the game in high school. Honor roll was a piece of cake. Making A’s on tests was a weekly affair and group projects were barely a thing. What sucks about college is that there really isn’t much of a structured transition. People will tell you up and down how different it is and how prepared you have to force yourself to be, but until you actually GET here, you never really know. 

I had a terrible first year. On the lowest of keys, I’ve had a terrible two years. Granted, in my situation, life hit hard and out of no where in areas beyond my control, but there was a time where I simply had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to properly study. Office hours scared the living daylight out of me. I would attend classes, yet couldn’t keep myself together enough to be engaged and attentive to the material. And to top all of it off, because I was convinced that I was supposed to have it all together, my pride prevented me from asking for help when everything fell apart. 

I am still in repair mode. I am still putting together broken pieces. But the blessing in this, is that I am still here and I have learned how not to make the same mistakes again. Don’t look at a bad first year as a burden; make it your motivation. Take a hard look at what went wrong and strategically figure out how to make it right. Were you partying too much? Were you trying too hard to be everywhere, all the time? Did the “group study sessions” turn into tea time too often? Be honest with yourself. Write out a success plan and FOLLOW it. It will take sacrifice. It will take adjustment. But the growth will be so much more worth it. 

Another way to bounce back is to take full advantage of your campus resources. If the problem lies within uncertainty in your major, you may want to sit down with an advisor and throughly discuss options. If you need help with studying and material, most campuses offer tutoring and information on study methods. Sometimes learning disabilities and mental health issues aren’t discovered until college, as was the case with me. If you feel this is you, immediately visit a counseling center or doctor for an assessment. It is nothing to feel shame about, but something that you should take seriously. Do not wait. 

One thing I will advise you NOT to do, which I did for entirely too long, is blame yourself and become too hard on yourself. I beat myself up for an entire year about my mistakes from my freshman year. I made myself feel terrible and guilty for letting myself and, from what I thought, everyone down. The time I spent putting myself down for what went wrong was time I should’ve used encouraging myself to do right. Wallowing in mistakes will never allow you to see light at the end of the tunnel. Do not allow this to happen to you. Acknowledge it, and push forward. 

This is not the end of you. This is not something that will kill you. You’ve got it, and you will have it. Do not think that you are the only person who is struggling; you never know what people do not talk about. Do not think you should have it together because the person sitting next to you makes it seem like they do. Your success won’t look like the person who’s success you are envying. Freshman year is harder for some than others, but with strength, it can be a thurn around. Trust the process. 

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