Freshmen year of college was a time of transition. I learned, sometimes willingly, other times not, to adjust to the college lifestyle, the academic rigor (study hours? Actually read the book?), and all the added freedoms that college offered me. It was a magical time of growth and development.

Here are a few lessons I learned from freshmen year:

Oh, the people you’ll meet…

An important part of life is the people you share it with. Be sure to take a moment to embrace all the newfound friendships from freshmen year. Before you leave for the summer, exchange contact information. A lot of the friends and classmates you met during freshmen year will likely be around in the upcoming years; you never know when you may need to call upon someone to borrow a textbook, form a study group, or maybe just catch up with someone to socialize. Maintain those social networks!

Connect with professors.

One of the most rewarding experiences I had as a freshman was while visiting a professor during his office hours. Just the two of us, without the hustle and bustle of lecture class, were able to have a great conversation about my goals as I continued to make progress in that major. Be sure to take a few moments to connect with your professors, save their contact information, and keep them updated as you continue your educational journey. Remember, you may one day need a letter of recommendation from an academic instructor, so keep in contact with one or more professors.

Find your support system.

A college campus can be as large or as small as you make it. At first, I felt like I was “just a number” and that I was all alone. That all changed once I started to participate in a few activities. A big part of finding success during college is finding one or more support systems to lean on when needed. With different student organizations, Greek life, clubs, and intramural sports, colleges have a ton of different ways to connect. Once you connect, you really take ownership of your college experience, and it feels like a second home.

Discover yourself, immerse yourself.

I remember it distinctly – I was walking out of the Journalism Building one day when the lightbulb went off in my head and everything clicked. I realized exactly what I wanted to major in. It took me a few semesters, but I figured it all out. Once I knew what I wanted to do, I sought out professors and resources at my college’s humongous library and just went to town soaking in all the information I could. It was a series of great moments because that’s where the true value of college is: utilizing resources to enhance what you want to become. Talk to your career services office on campus before leaving for the summer. Think about job shadowing or volunteer opportunities. One day, the lightbulb will go off and when it does, soak in all that you can while a student.

Think Big Picture!

During freshmen year, my mind was preoccupied with tests, quizzes, and homework assignments. However, I should have also spent time thinking big picture toward internships and study abroad experiences. Often, these opportunities are the ones that can separate you from everyone else, but they require early planning. Do some forward thinking about what you want to pursue during sophomore year and onward. Position yourself to make those goals a reality. Short-term, college is about tests and quizzes; long-term, college is about preparing you for the professional world. Give enough attention to both of those concepts.

Plan for next year.

As my freshmen year wrapped up, I was guilty of just wanting school to be over so I could hang out, stay up all night with my friends, and play video games. Unfortunately, an excess of late-night video games would NOT set me up for sustained success in life. My advice: start planning for next year. Meet with your academic advisor and talk about what classes you’ll be taking next year. Create an action plan for the summer, whether it be to work (financial goals) or volunteer (professional goals). Keep the momentum going! Yes, find time to relax and decompress (video games!), but also find time to keep working on yourself and your goals. Life keeps going, don’t let the opportunities pass you by.

What lessons did you learn from freshmen year of college? Share in the comments!