Things I Wish I Knew Before My First Semester of College

by - 6/08/2016

It is crazy to think about, but in just a few months I will begin my senior year at BYU.
Now, that does not by any means make me an expert on the college life, but it does mean that I have spent a lot of time here, and I have learned so many things! I decided to write this little post to maybe help out anyone who may be in my shoes and may be a little bit scared! After all, it is a time in your life where there are all sorts of new, strange changes.

I cannot believe it has already been three years since I was a new high-school graduate, moving to Utah and scared out of my mind. My parents dropped me off at Heritage Halls, and there I was.
 I didn't know anybody,
I was the first person in my family to leave,
I had never left home before (unless you include girl's camp, which I hated),
 and I had been to Utah once in my life.
I had no idea about the whole Utah culture and although I am LDS, I quickly found out that Mormon culture in Utah is verrry different than it was in Arizona.
I felt SO out of my comfort zone.
Needless to say, I was a mess for that first week. I didn't know who anyone was or where anything was at! I missed Arizona and wanted more than anything to go back. But little by little, college life became the new normal for me and I learned how to really really enjoy it. I can honestly say that the past 3 years here have been some of the best of my life so far. Now let's rewind a few years back to when I was a dark-haired, nervous, 18-year-old...

1. It is okay if you don't know your roommates. 
As a matter of fact, I would recommend rooming with randoms. It is the best way to meet new people! I remember everyone I knew from high school that would be coming up here all talking about their roommates and how fun college was going to be together. I couldn't help but feel a little left out and scared that I wasn't going to be rooming with someone I knew. As it turns out, it was just fine! Sure, it is a little bit weird getting used to sleeping 5 feet away from a total stranger, but it ended up being SO MUCH FUN for me. I ended up becoming super close friends with my roommates from my freshman year (a few of them even ended up being my bridesmaids)!

2. You can have fun whether you're living at home, or far away
Don't feel abnormal or worried if you aren't going away for school. I have so many friends who stayed in Arizona and went to school/worked after they graduated high school, and I have a lot of others who moved far away. The ones who moved seem to be having just as much fun as the ones at home. Staying at home means you are usually able to save SO much money, which is so nice. There are singles wards and other YSA activities wherever you are at. Either way, you can make new friends and meet new people. You can have fun and feel independent whether you are at home or far away.

3. Make the gospel a priority. 
Those first few weeks of college were pretty tough for me. I didn't have any friends, my mom was very sick at home and I just felt sad the entire time. It was during this time that I became closest to my Savior. I found peace attending church and the temple. Listening to hymns and bringing the spirit into my little apartment helped me get through those tough times.
I knew so many people who, once they graduated and moved away, stopped doing the little things that kept their testimonies strong. Go to your church meetings, read the scriptures and take time every single day to speak with your Heavenly Father. Nothing but good will come from these things, and they are what will keep you strong during tough times. Remember to keep the commandments and remember who you are. Don't get involved in the wrong crowd (yes, even at a religious college like BYU, there is all kinds of wrong stuff going on) and strive harder than ever to keep your life in line with the gospel.
If you aren't LDS, this can still apply to you as well! Although you are discovering who you are, stay true to what you believe in, whether that be religion, family values, or your own moral standards. The world and the media portrays college as this crazy time where all that happens is drinking/partying/sleeping around and that is just so ridiculously messed up in my opinion. Hold tight to who you are and what you know, and don't let anybody talk you into doing anything you don't feel is right. 

4. Don't overwhelm yourself.
Because so much about your first college semester is unknown, take it a little at a time. Don't put too much on your plate at first. You are going to be in college for a long time, don't try to rush it by taking 18 credit hours at first. Take general classes that look fairly easy (use Rate My Professor) and if you aren't a morning person, don't sign up for 8am classes! I learned this the hard way. Even though I was fine starting high school at 6:45, things changed in college and I was so much more tired than I used to be. If you are trying to find a job, remember this as well. Leave yourself time for socializing, exercising and doing spiritual things. If you don't have any time for these things, you're doing it wrong.

5. Explore your options.
It is great if you are already set on a major, but many people don't know exactly what they want to do. There are a whole ton of majors and minors out there, and it can be really tricky to narrow it down! I'd recommend taking general courses for your first semester, that way you have some time to figure out what you really want to do. At BYU they have a "Major Fair" every semester (and I'm sure many schools do), where you can walk around and check out all of the majors. You can also take different intro courses to any majors you may be interested in.Talk to peers and people you meet and make sure that when you do choose a major, it is something you love :)

6. Buy a sports pass, and use it!
At the beginning of the semester I was totally broke! I didn't want to drop $125 on a sports pass. But I am SO GLAD that I did! I ended up going to every home football and basketball game that year, and I had so much fun! The roc pass is totally worth it. The sporting events at BYU are definitely one of the most fun things you can do, and I hear the same things about a lot of different schools. They are a great way to meet people, celebrate the school and just have fun. Also I met my husband at a football game, so you never know what will come out of it!

8. Go on dates
If you are in a place where opportunities to date are available, I strongly recommend doing it! I had SO much fun meeting new people and going on dates. Like I said, I didn't have a car, so going on dates helped me learn about all the fun places in Provo and helped me get to know people. Looking back at these dates, I realize how important they were in helping me not only to have a fun time, but also to realize what I wanted in a husband. These experiences were so valuable to me. Had I not been willing to talk to guys and go on dates, there is no way I ever would have met my husband!
Even though dating is different for everyone, and there may be some guys that don't have the best intentions, there are good guys out there that are sweet and that you can have a fun time with. Be easy to approach and although you should be cautious and only date those with similar standards, be willing to step out of your comfort zone to meet new people, including boys :)

7. Create Yourself
So, you may not have been the most social person in high school (I definitely wasn't), or maybe you think you had some kind of bad rep or something. Either way, it doesn't matter anymore! You will meet all sorts of new people and friends that will know nothing about you. This is your chance to start fresh and to truly create who you want to be! Set goals and resolutions for things you'd like to change. Maybe you didn't feel strongly about the grades you got in high school and want to be more studious. Maybe you want to be more outgoing. Maybe you want to be kinder. Whatever it is, now is your chance to start over and really create yourself.

If there was just one I could tell my 17-year-old, newly-graduated self, it would be to relax and enjoy the ride. Hope you new college gals will be able to do the same! :)


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