The 21 Freshman Year Challenges You’re Most Likely To Face
Freshman year is a pivotal year in the life of a college student. For the first time, many are tasting absolute autonomy, and that can take some getting used to.
If in that position, one might feel excited and optimistic about the possibilities. That’s okay. You should feel that way. But do not assume that life will automatically be a bed of roses either.
In fact, we’ve pinpointed 21 freshman year challenges you will be most likely to face. These are hardly exhaustive, but they will give you a good idea of where all the tension might originate.
Freshman Year Challenge No. 1. Time management
When you first make it to college, it can seem like you have all the time in the world. Same thing if you ever have the joy of working for yourself or working from home. Since you don’t have to drag yourself to a specific place, you can just come and go as you please.
At least that’s how the thinking goes at first.
As the obligations mount, however, you realize there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done. You have to learn to create your own schedule for study, work (if applicable), and social life. It all has to work together, and it’s up to you to make it happen.
2. Financial aid
When you are not used to dealing with bills or paying for anything on your own that costs more than a couple hundred bucks, financial aid can be hard to figure out. The government hasn’t made it much easier with all the rules and regulations. And don’t get us started on filling out the blasted FAFSA.
Financial aid can be overwhelming for sure, and that’s why you need to make friends with your college’s or university’s finance department. They can help walk you through applying for funds as well as allocating the necessary amounts to each of your obligations. If you have any follow-up questions, they’ve got your back there as well.
And since they’re the keepers of the proverbial key, they can help you understand fine print in order to steer clear of any actions that might disqualify you from the aid you are receiving.
3. Being overwhelmed by the full cost of college
Again, coming out of high school, few have had experience paying for something that can cost $100,000 or more. Welcome to your college education, and it’s not getting any cheaper!
If it all seems like too much, that’s because it is. But don’t assume it will be too hard for you to pay back.
Interest rates on student loans are generally low, and you don’t have to borrow any more money than you need to pay for school, books, and room-and-board. It’s definitely okay to turn down funds, particularly if you have a job to help with the spending money.
Either way, though, you’ll be grateful for the feeling when you graduate and realize you don’t have to pay back as much money as you thought.
4. Large class sizes
In high school, you typically won’t have a class with any rigor that has more than 30-40 students in it. But once at the collegiate level, you can see those numbers double.
That can be disconcerting when you have to fight off your classmates just for one-on-one time with the professor.
Learn said professor’s schedule inside and out and do a little advanced planning if you need to speak with him or her outside of class hours. Also, embrace the fine art of rushing the professor immediately after class.
This gives you a chance to ask questions while the information is still fresh as well as the opportunity to more easily plan an appointment.
5. High volume of work
High school can be taxing, but it is not quite as demanding as what you will face in college, and that’s made doubly so because of challenge number six.
6. Difficult professors, stricter passing thresholds
Many high schools place more burden on the teacher than the student when it comes to securing a passing grade. While it may be a luxury in the short term to get a grade you didn’t necessarily earn, it’s an approach that will set you up for failure in college.
That’s because college instructors have freer reign and their efforts are respected more by those in charge. As a result, they will be harder on you and possess stricter passing thresholds. It’s up to you to meet their standards, not the other way around.
7. Increased personal responsibility
During freshman year, you have to get used to the fact that it’s you who is responsible for keeping up with payments, purchasing books, managing your budget, getting to class on time, and remembering which assignments are due when.
The increase in personal responsibility necessary will vary from student to student, but high school graduates who were coddled by their parents and made to feel they could do no wrong in regard to school will suffer worst.
However, the suffering is only short term as long as you are taking the right lessons from the experience. After “burning” yourself a couple of times on irresponsible behavior, you’ll start to adjust your approach to life.
8. Finding balance
There are two types of college extremists, and freshman year is a great time to figure out which end of the spectrum you will fit. It’s never a good idea to be at one end or the other, but you could very well find yourself favoring.
If you do have a clear preference, err on the side of the guy or girl who studies too much and less on the side of the ones who spend most nights partying.
To get the most out of the college experience, you’ll want to be an in-betweener — someone who finds time for entertainment while not forgetting the main reason for being there. Balance is everything. You don’t want to be the person who drops out, nor do you want to be the one who graduates with regrets.
9. Discovering where you fit in
Unlike lots of smaller and mid-sized high schools, college has something for everyone. You don’t have to be just a jock or a prep or a nerd or a band kid.
You have the opportunity to determine the group with which you will come into your own. Don’t fall back on old ways or give in to limiting mindsets.
For some of you, Greek life will be a welcoming option; for others, it will be a waste of time. The important thing is that your decision ends up being your decision.
10. Struggling to find time for fun (or having too much of it)
Fun is a necessary part of the college experience, but you need to have the right type of fun, so that means not crowding it out of your day-to-day schedule and not letting it overtake you. You will have a lot of obligations coming your way, so don’t get lost in the stress of it all. Make time. (But not too much.)
11. Managing stress
If you think that college can’t be stressful, just wait until the first time a big due date slips your mind or you have to drop a class to keep from failing it. Just wait until you have to make $10 last for ten days. Just wait until your first serious relationship takes a bad turn. All these things happen to millions of college students like you each day, and when they happen in freshman year, you run the likelihood of not having enough training to deal in a healthy manner.
Learn to hone in on relaxation techniques. Take power naps when you are stressed. Breathe. Meditate. Find little ways to escape whenever time allows.
12. Meeting the expectations of others
Most college students are still tethered to the expectations of their parents because, quite frankly, a lot of parents are still footing at least some of the bill for college. And beyond that, parents want their children to succeed by-and-large, so they’re going to expect their child to go out there and do just that.
Furthermore, professors and departments have more stringent expectations from you than what your high school probably did. You have to learn to do all of that while also dealing with the expectations you have for yourself. That does not make freshman year an easy time, because many of you will still be trying to figure things out.
13. Adjusting to roommates
Roommates can either make college completely worthwhile or drive you crazy and make life untenable. Sometimes they can do both. Either way, the roommate experience is going to be a challenging one to adjust to, particularly if you are rooming with a total stranger and you have to learn how to adjust to one another.
But here’s a little secret.
Roommates with whom you are well familiar are not much easier. That’s because you will find during freshman year that people you’ve known and loved your whole life can make for horrible roommates if they bring their disgusting or annoying habits into your living space.
Don’t assume because you know them that they will be a joy.
14. Overcoming the ‘Freshman 15’
In high school, you have plenty of things to do to stay active. Furthermore, your coaches and sponsors and instructors and parents are there to drive you and keep you from blowing whole weekends in front of your favorite video game.
Those pressures ease up when you get to your freshman year, and there is no weaning process. Suddenly your time is yours to do with as you wish. And you may wish to retreat into sedentary activities. When that happens, your metabolism will start to slow down, and the things you could once eat without gaining any weight will stay with you for much longer than you could ever imagine.
Make sure that fitness and working out stays a part of your routine, and don’t let being young serve as an excuse to not eat right.
Most states strictly forbid drinking for the typical freshman year student. (Drinking ages don’t start until 21, while a college freshman is anywhere from 17-19.) That said, you’re probably going to run with crowds who make it extremely easy to gain access.
While we’re not going to pretend that you will listen to advice begging you to abstain from alcohol, it’s not a half-bad idea. But if you do find yourself partaking, don’t leave your sense of personal responsibility at the door. At least be willing to limit yourself to moderate amounts, and if alcoholism runs in your family, stay far far away.
16. Getting enough sleep
Sleep is an important factor to success and productivity. If you want to achieve your goals, start by getting at least eight hours of sleep per night. While that may be unrealistic for some, it is doable provided you make it a priority.
We also continue to swear by sleep calculators that tell you the best time to wake up in relation to your bedtime and vice versa. These are useful because they calculate when your REM cycle is over. Waking up at the end prevents you from being foggy-headed throughout the rest of the day.
17. Feeling homesick
Feelings of homesickness can go two ways. For the average family, it is a foregone conclusion that parents will miss you terribly and their house will not feel like home without you. This “empty nest” is a form of homesickness in reverse.
And if your parents, or parent, are solid people, you will likely miss them, too. At the very least, you will miss your room and all the conveniences that home afforded you day-in and day-out. You will miss the ability to lean on others to help shoulder your responsibilities.
All of this will make you miss what once was, and that leads to the type of homesickness that is only able to be remedied through new experiences.
Freshman year is a time when you have to really start buckling down and figuring out which way you are going to go with your life. It’s understandable if you are not ready to declare a major just yet, but you do need to be ready by the end of year one.
Why so soon?
Because it’s something you should already be thinking about and considering in relation to your high school experience. What are you good at? What do you enjoy? Where do the answers to those two questions intersect? Is there money in it? If not, what will you do to make money so that you can (perhaps) one day support that dream?
19. Disconnecting from your old life
High school creates a life of convenience, and while you will bring some people and experiences with you into the new world of freshman year, you need to make sure those people and experiences align with the road ahead. Everything else not only is forgettable, but you should forget it. It will only hold you back and keep you from reaching the apex of your full potential.
Disconnections do not have to be confrontational. Time and geography take care of much of it for us. Let new experiences crowd out the rest.
20. Family structure changes
The family structure you are probably used to is Mom and/or Dad in the dominant role, you in the obedient. That shakes up a bit as you go off to college and start claiming adulthood piece by piece. Be patient with your parents, but don’t be afraid to assert your will. It could lead to conflict, but it is necessary to the healthy and successful development of your psyche.
And while Mom and Dad may not admit it, they will be proud of you for being your own person.
21. Coming to terms with major life decisions
When you enter college for freshman year, every decision that you make will have ramifications that follow you the rest of your life. That is not always true for high school, at least it shouldn’t be. But with college, it is inescapable.
Freshman year has a lot of pressure and stresses that you will have to confront, but knowing what they are will place you in the perfect position to do just that. Now, what are some things that you are worried about dealing with in your freshman year of college? Sound off in the comments section below.
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