My freshman year of college was quite an adjustment: I went from 267 students in my high school graduating class to 4,000 students in my college freshman class.
The high school classes in which I dedicated little effort to receive "A" letter grades turned into introductory-level college courses that were the bane of my existence.
I went from living with three brothers to a random roommate. I moved from a cozy home to a cold dorm. I left endless social weekends filled with high school football games and parties for some weekends filled with studying for Monday's midterm.
Although my freshman year was the biggest adjustment I had experienced both academically and socially, the four years between my first day of freshman year to graduation day gave way to an even greater adjustment.
I learned that I had to adjust my old high school habits to accommodate college expectations, like studying, attending office hours, joining clubs and organizations and still having a solid social life.
I learned from the ups and downs, late-night studying, binge drinking and a few added pounds that college is all about balance.
Balance is necessary for a well-rounded life, and it begins in college. It took me four years to learn to balance time with family and friends, student involvement and internships, social life and studying, drinking and exercise, saving money and having fun.
Why? As humans in our 20s, we are programmed to overextend ourselves to the point of exhaustion since we fear missing out.
Balance among the following components of your college life will make you happier and a better-prepared individual for the real world after college:
Between family and friends
I lost touch with my family during my freshman year because I was too selfish to care about staying in contact with them. Growing up, I was close to my mother and my brothers, but come freshman year, I spent my time hanging out with friends and never contacting my family.
It got to the point that I could hardly relate to my family because I had distanced myself so much.
Family will always be there; friends will come and go. Plus, my friends freshman year were not my friends come senior year. Not to mention, through it all — the rants about my friends who ticked me off, a guy who dumped me, a professor who gave me a D — my family listened to me.
Sorority sisters, classmates and teammates will not always be there for you, but true friends will be. Although those people are hard to find, they do exist. These true friends and your family members are the people who should matter to you most.
Between internships and student involvement
Oh, internships, the new recruiting tool in practically every industry. The bottom line with internships is that you NEED one.
Otherwise, you will have a very, very slim chance of getting your résumé on a potential employer's desk.
Besides this, though, employers want to see that you were involved in more than just studying and a semester-long internship.
Did you play a sport, lead a club, start an organization or join Greek life? Whatever you're passionate about, find a student organization and get involved. Your résumé will thank you.
Between a social life and studying
In college, you'll find some lifelong friends and make fond memories. You'll laugh a lot (and cry), celebrate birthdays and have epic spring break adventures. But, remember that a social life shouldn't take over your life in college, and neither should studying.
An employer won't ask you what you made on your statistics final, but he will see the photographs on Facebook from your sorority formal.
Find balance between your social life and study habits. No, you don't really NEED to go out every single night of the week for every single bar special, nor do you really need to study all night every night as you prepare for a final. By the end of your semester, you'll either know the material or you won't.
Quit stressing over your final; graduate school requires more than an awesome GPA.
Between drinking and exercise
The "Freshman 15" does exist, as does the "Freshman 25," or perhaps, the "Freshman 10 Plus Sophomore 5." There may even be a "Junior -5," but then a "Senior 7."
It is tempting to frequent your favorite bar every week (or more than once a week), but remember that drinking alone isn't what's packing on the pounds.
It's also the drunk eating that often follows epic nights out, plus slacking on exercise. I was an adamant exerciser, but I quickly learned that it's not enough if you're boozing almost every night.
Keep it balanced. Exercise even 15 minutes longer to combat the excess calories. Your waistline, cute jeans and spring break bikini will thank you.
Saving money and having fun
College is expensive, no doubt, and it will only get more expensive from here on out. Housing, books, tuition and everything else all add up.
Once you're out of college and working in the real world, bills, rent, food and all that's involved with making a living for yourself requires money.
Yes, you may have a job right after graduation, but you won't immediately have a paycheck. You may not receive it for two weeks or more, but in that time, if you were to rent an apartment, you need money for rent, a security deposit and application fees.
If you're starting a cable and Internet package, you need money for both the subscription and deposit. You need money for groceries and gas.
These expenses we often take for granted in college, thanks to our student loans or scholarships, are strikingly evident in the real world.
So, skip the lame concert at the bar and cook dinner rather than going out. Have friends over to share a fifth of alcohol rather than paying for the over-priced drinks at the bar one night. The balance now will only help you when you get a real paycheck, and then, you'll really need to budget your expenses.
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