I remember my first day of college it was pouring rain, I didn’t know where the buildings to my classes were, and was intimidated by all the students walking around knowing what they were doing— I was honestly stressed. I reminded myself though that everyone goes through an adjusting period as we are familiarizing ourselves with a new environment. So how do we know we’re making the most of our experience, especially during our first year in college? Well, there are a couple of things I picked up while being at a predominately white institution and far from home. Here are four tips that enabled me to maximize my first year in college!

1. Know your resources. I cannot stress this enough, get familiar with what you have on your college campus. Whether it’s free printing, scantrons, a food pantry, or free therapy, get familiar with all the FREE resources. Especially as a minority at a PWI, college student on a budget, knowing where to go when you can’t make a grocery run or need last-minute printing can save you. I was able to know where all of these resources were located by asking questions, attending workshops, and speaking with upperclassmen. Many students don’t take these extra steps to familiarize themselves and regret it later on. Whether it’s because you’ve been paying for printing when there was free printing down the hall or didn’t know about the free snacks in the diversity center, you missed these resources. As college students, we’re all busy, so knowing where to access these assets from the gecko removes barriers we struggle with as first years. 

2. Get involved. Since the beginning of my first year, I decided to explore the different organizations my school had to offer. This played a crucial part in me earning internship offers, making connections, and developing my professionalism. I am part of a club that’s related to my career called the Latinx Business Student Association. Through this club, I was able to attain an internship, get resume help, prepare for interviews, and find a Latino community. I also helped start up a club called UNITE which is a space for minority students at my university where we volunteer, and have social events, and workshops to promote inclusivity at a PWI. Lastly, I’m involved in Cru, a Christian organization on campus because my faith is very important to me, I sought a Christian community during my first quarter of college. I would recommend being involved in at least 3 communities that help better your professionalism/career goals, where you can play, and where you can practice your passions! These all look different, for example, if you like volleyball, but aren’t too serious about the sport— joining an intramural sport is fun, especially with friends. These spaces are where we also meet other students with similar passions and goals as ours, so it enables us to be accepted in an environment where we can feel small.

3. Take care of your health. Whether this means saying no to going out, taking a rest day from the gym, or going out for a walk— our health can easily slip in front of us. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the options, people, and opportunities presented in college, but putting up boundaries is what keeps us healthy and safe. I struggled with this idea my first year, and it ended up hurting me in the end because I was losing myself in all my work, studying, and the people I was investing in. I got very caught up in what I was doing with my time rather than how I was executing my time. Being intentional and in the right headspace is really what matters at the end of the day because we can go through the motions and not realize how deeply we’re hurting inside. Therefore, having a support system is what makes all the difference, having an ear to listen and also to be poured into by like-minded individuals gives us support far from home.

4. Our support system is what edifies our college experience. I tend to pull away from friends when I feel overwhelmed, but I’ve realized at least having ONE person I trust and can talk to allows me to feel heard and seen. When I’m feeling stuck, sometimes all I need is to have a deep conversation with a friend. On the other side, we also want to enjoy our college experience and try new things, and having a friend, or two or three makes the journey much more enjoyable. If you want to attend a Pilates class for the first time and have a friend who’s a regular, going with them is a great idea! When we want to go grocery shopping, but don’t want to go alone, taking a friend to help us with groceries can make a simple grocery trip more enjoyable. It’s the small experiences and moments that add up and build meaningful relationships with the people around you. Being kind, and loving is what molds us into magnets for the people around us and allows us to have deep connections even after college!

These four tips are pieces I am continuously practicing, and trying to improve on too, but it’s consistency that brings change. Constantly learning, exploring, attending my weekly meetings, while also setting boundaries, and going out with friends are what have allowed me to find a balance in college. It’s not always easy, and with each new quarter my schedule changes, but I can maximize my college experience by implementing these four pieces of advice to build a healthy lifestyle.

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