First year fears, fallacies

Getting into college is just half of the challenge because after all the applications have been submitted and you’ve figured out what meal plan you want, then you have to get through it.

And getting through your first year of college is no easy task.

As a recent finisher of year one at UND, I feel qualified to say that it’s not the picturesque nine months portrayed in the movies and on cleverly crafted Facebook pages.

Year one kind of sucks.

But it also kind of rocks.

Here are some tips to make it through with as few trials and tribulations as possible.

Know yourself

College is a great time to discover “who you want to be” in life, but in order to be successful, you also need to be familiar with who you already are. Realizing that you’re not a morning person, that you tend to procrastinate and that you really like to have a good time when you go out will help you to plan your year accordingly.

If you know there’s no way you’re going to be out of bed until 11 a.m., don’t take any classes before noon. If you are aware that you’re going to put off that 25-page paper until the night before it’s due, leave your schedule free that evening and stock up on Redbull. And, if you’ve always been a party animal at heart, know your limits and don’t agree to work at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning.

There’s no glory in fighting your nature, so don’t set yourself up for failure and take some time for self reflection before your parents dump you at your new doorstep on Welcome Weekend.

Attend with accuracy

In my freshman year of college I skipped more classes than I should have and certainly more classes than my mother approved of. I am a firm believer that you don’t need to make it to every class of the semester to be successful — although that could just be denial — but I do believe you need to attend with accuracy.

What does that mean, exactly? It means that you know which classes on which days you can’t afford to miss. If you’ve got a chem lab that’s graded partially on attendance, you better make it there whenever you’re in town and not deathly ill. If you’ve got a lecture where the notes are posted online after each session, you can attend a bit less. If there’s something important planned like a test, the introduction of the next big paper or a guest speaker, plan for your backside to be planted in class that day.

It’s not about counting the number of classes you’ve missed; it’s about making the ones you attend count.

Don’t be afraid to mess up

College is a time of discovery and exploration. It’s a time to try new things, to take some risks and — most importantly — to make mistakes.

Yes, you will more than likely find yourself in hot water a few times during your first year. You’ll stay out to late the night before an exam, you’ll kiss the wrong boy at a party, you’ll get a little sloppy at Springfest. The important thing to remember is that mistakes don’t necessarily have to be regrets — they can be lessons.

Messing up is one of the most important ways we learn to grow up. It teaches us the things we don’t want to do later on and it crafts our personality, our outlook on life, along with providing a few good stories to tell to your future children when they’re old enough.

Making a mistake is fine; making the same mistake twice is also somewhat understandable. Don’t make a mistake three times. That’s when it stops being an accident or an occasional occurrence and starts being a habit.

Dive in

College is a big old jungle of different people who care about different things and have created different clubs to take their interests to another level. This one may be cliché, but given those facts there is absolutely no reason to not get involved with something — heck, to get involved with anything.

You don’t have to join an academic club or a frat to be involved. You don’t even have to join a student organization — enjoying year one of college is all about finding something that keeps you going outside of your studies.

Like basketball? Start an intramural team. Like eating? Meet with your friends once a week for mint chocolate chip ice cream at Terrace. Like making money? Take on a part time job. There is no one right or wrong way to fill your free time, so long as it’s a way that you enjoy.

Get excited

Everything in life ultimately depends on you and your attitude — you decide whether you’re going to make the best of your situation or not.

Your first year doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be a good experience. It doesn’t have to be awful for it to be a bad experience. Life is 90 percent attitude, so plan accordingly.

Sandstrom can be reached at [email protected]