A Reflection on Freshman Year
Andriana reflects on her freshman year experience at Carleton!
Andriana reflects on her freshman year experience at Carleton!
It is now fifth week at Carleton! Students are working on midterm papers, preparing for exams, and anticipating Midterm Break on sixth Monday! At this halfway point, I have decided to write a reflection post on my first year at Carleton.
I recognize that my freshman experience—and that of the entire class of 2023—was unique due to the circumstances brought on by the pandemic. But here goes, anyway.
First, freshman year was harder than I had expected. I knew that college would be an adjustment, but I don’t think I had fully internalized that fact. My first term was challenging in that it was hard to meet new people, especially at a school where I didn’t know anyone beforehand. Because I knew that the workload and my jobs would demand a lot of time, I held off on joining student organizations. This also made it a bit harder to meet new people.
It’s hard to offer advice on how to get through this. If you are the kind of person who loves to join lots of clubs and be really involved in your school community, then it might be worth signing up for a couple of activities just to meet new people. If you are nervous about the academic and social transition, however, joining a lot of organizations might add unnecessary stress. In that case, don’t feel pressured to overcommit—it’s okay to take time to adapt to your new environment.
Beyond this, know that there might be lonely moments. You might be someone who becomes best friends with their roommate. Or not. You might form strong bonds during New Student Week. Or not. You might gravitate toward people on your floor, in your classes, or in extracurriculars. Or not. If you feel like you are struggling socially during your first term—or even your first year—that is okay. I guarantee that other people are feeling exactly the same way. Take comfort in the fact that you will meet new people as you interact with your classmates and gradually become part of the Carleton community.
In my experience, the first two terms I had a hard time meeting people. Luckily, I made friends with my roommate, Maya, and with a few people in my classes. But as I mentioned earlier, there were lonely moments. By the end of my winter term, I had finally started to feel settled in the Carleton community. Unfortunately, this was exactly when everything happened with the pandemic, and I have yet to return to campus. So…
Along with the social aspect of college, I found the academics to be an adjustment. I have talked a bit about this in previous posts, but I’ll go into more depth here. I noticed my first term that many freshmen were somewhat panicked about the workload. People would leave meals early in order to do homework, they would skip social gatherings, etc. While I prioritize my work, I also feel like college is not a strictly academic experience. It is important to balance schoolwork with socializing (this is partly how you meet new people!) and to recognize when you need to make sacrifices either way.
Just to be clear—I don’t mean, “Forget homework, just party!” I’m suggesting that you give yourself a night or two during the week where you decide, “Yes, I will go watch a movie with my floormates!” Take a break, even if that means that you stay up later or get up earlier to finish your homework. If you’re enjoying dinner with friends, let yourself relax and be present instead of worrying about everything you have to do after. It is so important (I really cannot stress this enough) to give yourself a breather. Not only will you be more productive when you work, but you will enjoy your college experience so much more.
Additionally, in terms of academics, I was admittedly in for somewhat of a rude awakening. In high school, writing was my strong suit—I have always loved writing, I received positive feedback on my papers, yada yada. When I reached college, I expected that writing, again, would be my strong suit. And it was, BUT… I still had a lot to learn about college writing. My first paper in college was for a political science class, and I worked hard on it. I spent the entire weekend researching, writing, visiting the Writing Center…
Here’s the thing. At Carleton, students don’t make a habit of discussing grades. One of the best things about Carleton is that the culture is very collaborative rather than competitive. But on my first paper, I got *hushed voice* a B. Minus! I was disappointed—I was not used to getting Bs in my favorite subject. Math? Sure. Science? Why not. But writing? And on a paper where I had worked the hardest I had probably ever worked on a single assignment?
In the wake of the *B That Must Not Be Named,* I realized that I seriously needed to step up my game. What would have been considered A-level work in high school would not achieve the same results at Carleton. I responded to my disappointment by attending office hours to discuss my professor’s feedback in detail. This was crucial. My professor was able to tell me what needed work in my paper, and also gave me encouragement which really helped my confidence. On my next paper, I got an A.
This experience, getting a B- in college, was surprisingly formative. Once again, I knew going into college that I would probably not be a straight A student, but I hadn’t really internalized this. Oddly, I felt shame about getting a B- (yes, I know how bad that sounds), and had the weird idea in my head that I was the only person who wasn’t getting As.
Ultimately, getting a B- on an assignment that I thought I would do well on was a humbling reminder that college is not high school. That getting As is not the only metric of success. That you can work really really hard on something and still not achieve the desired result. That one B (or B-, as it were), or two Bs, or all of the Bs, or Cs, or anything else… will not be your downfall. I have gotten more Bs since the First B(-), and I have learned to use these Bs as motivation and an opportunity to learn and improve. I am a better student because of it.
Much of what I have written about must be experienced first-hand to really be meaningful. The point of writing this post at all is to let freshmen know that any challenges they might experience are not unique to them. These challenges can feel isolating, unsettling, frustrating. It can be embarrassing to talk about how you are struggling, especially when you haven’t yet formed strong relationships. Give yourself time to find your place here. You will.
Andriana is a sophomore at Carleton, where she plans to major in English and double minor in Creative Writing and Cross-Cultural Studies. Although she will be spending this fall at home in Richmond, VA, Andriana is already excited to return to Carleton and escape the southern heat. When she isn’t busy avoiding Virginia’s never-ending summer, you can find Andriana binge-reading, playing music, or watching a favorite movie or show for the umpteenth time. Meet the other bloggers!