Dear Freshmen: an open letter to all first year college students

Dear Freshmen,

Starting my first year of college is an experience I was incredibly grateful for, but definitely one that brought on its fair share of nerves. I didn’t have an older sibling whose brain I could pick, and I had no idea what to expect. College is an entirely different experience than high school, and it is a time of your life in which you will experience tremendous growth coupled with great joy and great discomfort.

Growing pains, if you will. Some of my best and worst memories have been made over these past few years. College is such a fun, challenging, exciting, trying season in life; it is a time of growing pains–you are going to experience rapid change and rapid growth in a very condensed period of time. At times it will feel exciting, and at times it will seem overwhelming. There will be days where it seems like the homework just won’t ever stop piling up, and there will be nights of laughter that you never want to end.

There will days when you put on your cutest outfit and strut confidently across campus, and there will be days you retire to wearing your groutfit in your dorm room with a greasy ponytail while consuming startling spoonfuls of peanut butter.

Both of these are normal. Both of these are okay.

There will be days when you want to be alone in your room with your Netflix and a box of pizza, because you’re burned out and need some serious me-time. There will be times you want to dress up and get lost exploring every crevice of the city you will be spending your next four years in, with the people you are hoping to share it with.

Both of these are normal. Both of these are okay.

Over the next few weeks, you will meet and become Facebook friends with an unholy amount of humans whose faces and names you just can’t quite remember. At times, you will call them the wrong names, or avert your eyes from a person on the paths or in the caf, because you can’t quite remember if you met them in real life, or just saw them tagged in one of your roomie’s Instagram pictures.

This is normal. This is okay.

As you adjust to college, I encourage you to make the most of every moment. Make pneumonics for the names of your classmates so you can greet them and look them in the eyes as you pass them. Take time to quietly slip into the bathroom and catch your breath when orientation starts to feel overwhelming. This is a time of so much change and so much growth, and the best decision you can make during this whirlwind is to be kind, gracious, and understanding to yourself and to those around you.

Be gentle with yourself when you sleep through your first class. Be patient with your parents when they call you way more than necessary. Be empathetic to your suitemate when (s)he feels homesick and needs to borrow a listening ear.

Take solace in the fact that everyone around you is learning to adjust to the new sights (wait…I already passed that tall building! I am SO officially lost!), sounds (it’s midnight and my roommate’s clock is ticking SO loud, that I might actually break it), tastes (these dining hall cookies are not my dad’s…I want to go home), and feelings (I want to make friends, but I’m also so tired of orientation leaders throwing beach balls at me, and I just want skip orientation today so I can stay in this unfamiliar bed and listen to Hannah Montana songs and pretend I’m 12 again).

Be kind to yourself, be kind to others, and enjoy this first year; it goes by so quickly, and you don’t want to miss a single second of this bumpy, beautiful, stressful, exhilarating experience. I’ll let my boy Ferris Bueller close this one:


Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Ferris Bueller

*insert mic drop here*


Kelly Doles

Ps, over the next week, I will be posting a series of blogs (one each day) covering helpful hints and tips for all my freshmen out there who are doing their best to tackle college! These will be stemming from my experiences as the guinea pig oldest child, giving insight to some of the advice I would have liked to receive from an older sibling, so make sure to stay tuned for more posts this week!


3 thoughts on “Dear Freshmen: an open letter to all first year college students

  1. ustruly says:

    Thank you so much for this! I just wrote a blog post detailing some of my fears about moving away, and actually found this a bit comforting amid the stress.

    • Kelly Doles says:

      Kirsten, I am so glad to hear that this blog could bring some encouragement to you! I live in Michigan (I go to Calvin College, in Grand Rapids), and have some friends at MSU! It’s a wonderful school, and I hope you love every second of your time there!

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