By: Marissa Blanchard
As high school graduates gear up to go back to being at the bottom of the food chain, they hunt for blogs and websites with the best tips for a great freshman year at college. Writers post about everything from the proper way to play flip cup to dorm room necessities.
I feel slightly nostalgic as I remember my freshman year experience, but I am slightly nervous to enter my junior and notice these freshman girls in the party scene. They may know how to take a proper tequila shot or play beer pong, but they are also probably unaware of the shockingly real statistics surrounding sexual assault for an underclassman, especially over the first few weeks we call the Red Zone.
It is something our moms tell us about since the dawn of time—never leave your drink, live by the buddy system and older boys always are after only one thing. We hear these things over and over again that we end up tuning it out.
These are the real tips you need before your freshman year of college. Whether you are 10 minutes or 10 hours away from home, the first semester of college is an adjustment for everyone. Here are some tips that I wish I knew before my freshman year.
1. Enjoy the Freedom, Take on the Responsibility
The freedom of college is overwhelming in the sense you sometimes really do feel invincible. No curfew, easy access to alcohol, dozens of new friends, it all is exciting and new.
I am guilty of underestimating what to expect in college. I had the freedom to do what I want when I wanted. Not everyone has the same freshman year experience, but that rush of freedom is familiar to all of us.
Don’t let it consume you. Don’t think you are invincible, because no one is. Part of this new freedom is the responsibility of setting your own limits.
You have the freedom to go out on a Tuesday night, but the responsibility to make that 9:00 am lecture. You have the freedom to take as many shots as you want, but the responsibility to make it home safe and take care of that hangover in the morning.
2. Trust Your Instincts
My mom always repeats a fact she heard on Discovery Channel: humans are the only species to go against our instinct of fear. We go to grimy bars, crowded fraternities and houses just a bit too far off campus because all of our friends seem to think it’s alright to go. We take another shot because everyone else seems to be able to handle consecutive shots.
We rationalize our fears.
You have your limits. It might take a while to find them, but when you do trust them. If you feel you shouldn’t go out, don’t. You will most likely regret it. I can’t count the amount of times I pushed my limits and regretted it. When it comes to drinking and partying, the comfort zone is a great place to be.
If your friend looks like they are in trouble, they most likely are. Being an empowered bystander can save someone from the lifelong struggle of dealing with the aftermath of a sexual assault.
Trust your instincts because it could change your life or someone else’s.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Say NO
Don’t compromise yourself for anyone. College is the time to make friends, learn and discover who you are, but that doesn’t mean you have to compromise your core values to do so.
Do whatever you want because you want to, not because someone else convinced you to.
Try new things because they interest you. Sometimes saying no can save you a lot of heartache. Stand up for what you believe in and say no to that tequila shot, or club your friend wants you to join, or to the upperclassman boy or to the yoga class all your friends want to take.
4. You Are Never Alone.
If you are feeling homesick or alone freshman year, you can bet your roommate is too. Some days putting on a happy face for the world is easy, and other days it’s impossible. I didn’t feel like I belonged at Syracuse until the last month of freshman year. Some people take longer than that to adjust, and some transfer.
Your first months at school are most likely the longest you have ever been away from home, it’s normal to feel lonely or homesick.
As corny as it sounds, talking to someone really does help. Call your parents, your brother or sister, your childhood best friend. Talk to your roommate, RA or even a counselor. Building a support system at college is important.
5. You are strong. You are worth loving. You matter.
The worst feeling I had after my sexual assault is that I felt worthless. How could someone take control over my body without my consent and with no regard of me as a person? My friends and family are living proof of my self-worth. Working with Jackie, Caroline and Julie on The Girl Code Movement has empowered me to take control of what happened to me and work to abolish the rape culture.
My sole regret, and also more important advice, is that I didn’t go to the hospital after my assault. I thought that if I went home and showered, took a nap and continued on with my day that I would forget about it. The more and more I pushed it aside the more pain I felt.
If you or a friend has to deal with the aftermath of a sexual assault, there are resources on campus to do so. It is imperative to go to the hospital and get a rape kit. Do everything in your power to make sure you are safe, healthy and have the tools to report your assault.
Your university’s Counseling Center, Advocacy Center, or Health Promotion Office have the tools to help you deal with the aftermath. The Girl Code Movement is here to unite college women across the country to become active operatives to stop a rape from happening.
Freshman year is an amazing time to grow in the independent person you want to be. Try not to be intimidated and take it all in. Don’t be afraid to take chances, be bold and have fun. The college experience is the best four years of life, but we should be aware of how common sexual assault is and contribute to the movement to put it to an end.