What They Don’t Tell You About College

Portrait photo of NC State Goodnight Scholar Nadia Chapple of the class of 2024.

People love to give rising first-year students advice about college, but there is one things that everyone fails to mention.

There is something about being a rising first-year student in college that makes people want to give you advice. Much of the advice I received from family and strangers alike was actually very helpful. They made me excited to move on to the next chapter of my life. However, I soon realized there is one thing that everyone fails to mention.

College can be lonely. 

I want to assure you that my intention in writing this is not to make you worry about sitting in your dorm room with only your stuffed animals to keep you company. I promise that you will find friends. I want to share what I wish someone had told me before I came to campus.

The reality of it is this — we are all in the same boat. We are all nervous about being late to our first class because we got lost on the way. Most of us don’t know many people on campus. Everything is new. I found it helpful to remind myself that no matter how confident a first-year student seemed, they were having the same worries as me on the inside. 

I would consider myself more of an extrovert than an introvert. I love to socialize, talk to strangers, and make new friends, but I’ve always had the comfort of knowing that there were my longtime friends to rely on. I could always count on having someone to just be myself around.

I soon realized that college is different. I was completely exhausted my first week, both emotionally and physically, despite not even having classes to attend. I found myself torn between meeting new friends and maintaining a bubbly personality, and staying in my room alone to recharge my social battery. 

Excuse the self-promotion, but the main thing that made my transition easier was my Goodnight Scholars cohort. 

Unfortunately, this challenge was only amplified by the current pandemic. A small picture on a Zoom call doesn’t compare to meeting someone in-person. I noticed that it takes some effort to put yourself out there and meet new people.

Excuse the self-promotion, but the main thing that made my transition easier was my Goodnight Scholars cohort. Due to both our quarantine boredom and our eagerness to meet one another, we immediately contacted each other, set up phone calls and Zoom meetings, and even met in-person in small (distanced) groups. 

Having a solid group of people who I got to know over the summer was incredibly helpful for my transition to college. Before my roommate moved in, I had every single meal with a group of Goodnights. My first night, we took a group trip to the Target on Hillsborough Street. It was nice to know that I already had 49 friends if I needed anything.

The other thing I found very helpful in making friends was having a roommate! I wasn’t sure what to expect from living in a 17’x10′ room with a complete stranger, but within the first night I realized how nice it was to have company.  It was comforting to be able to talk without a filter, make silly jokes, or just sit in silence with someone. 

And now for my unsolicited advice to you:

  • If you are able to, make some friends before you get to campus, especially in a time like this. If you happen to see that someone has the same interests as you, reach out to them! Remember that we are all feeling the same way and everyone is looking to make new friends. Knowing a group of people before you come on campus, whether it be Goodnights, engineers, students from out-of-state, or just an assortment of different people, will make campus feel a little smaller.
  • Once you are on-campus, my point still stands: Don’t be afraid to reach out to others! You will almost always receive an excited response to grab lunch or chat after class. If you’re feeling extra bold, ask if you can sit with someone in the dining hall or knock on your neighbor’s door and introduce yourself! Try and get yourself out of your comfort zone.
  • Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, take time for yourself. Even the social butterflies need breaks. Allow yourself to relax not just physically, but emotionally too. Try journaling to express your thoughts and reflect. Don’t pressure yourself to make 100 friends in the first few days — sometimes just one is enough. Finding your friend group may take three weeks or three years, but it’s okay to be happy with your own company too!

Photography credit: Jason Perry/Goodnight Scholars Program