Junior reflects on first years of college

Student’s advice includes prioritization of mental health, friendship building and a time management

Joe Cho, Assistant Life Editor

They say that college is a time to truly discover who you are and who you want to be. But the harsh reality is that it is only an infinitesimal fraction of your life. Before you know it, college flies past you like an exotic car on the autobahn. I would know — I am now a third-year Wake Forest student and am turning 21 this December.

It feels like just two months ago I was in Luter ready to start this new daunting chapter in my life. Now, I sit here in quarantine reflecting on everything that has happened so far. I still reinvented myself. I still made new friends and memories but in retrospect, not everything was pretty in the midst of self-discovery. Mistakes here and there. A falling out here and there. Good bullet journal goals, bad grades, ugly habits and everything in between.

I will tell you from experience, freshman year is tough. Like one of Cher’s classic hits, “If I Could Turn Back Time”, there are things I wish I would have done differently my first year. Therefore, treat me as a failed Russian experiment or a wise sage as I give a comprehensive rundown of the adjustments and realizations I made along the way. I categorized my experiences into five major aspects of college: academics, extracurriculars, health, relationships and community.

Academics – It’s true that Wake Forest sometimes goes by ‘Work Forest’ because of its unwavering efforts to burden many of its students with copious amounts of work and deadlines. Those who overcame this tragedy are time management maestros. Obviously, that wasn’t me and I would always leave everything until the last minute. Since my freshman year, it has been hard to solidify this healthy habit of doing homework as soon as it was assigned and effectively splitting up the workload throughout the week. I also wish I would have gone to more office hours for extra help, since the professors here are very generous and thoughtful when it comes to their students. Lastly, I wish I would have completed my divisional requirements in my first two years because now I have to take four divisional classes as a junior during the most major intensive year of college.

Extracurriculars – My only regret during freshman year in this category was not writing for the Old Gold & Black Newspaper sooner. So you should, too!

Health – COVID-19 has disrupted our lives so much to the point where physical debilitation is not the only symptom that has plagued us. Mental health has been at an all-time low in the country. My freshman year was cut short because of the virus, but it took a whole pandemic to make me realize that I was unhealthy before the spread. I wish I would have dedicated more time to working out regularly and staying active in the first year, as it benefits both the body and mind. I also wish I had checked out the University Counseling Center and the Learning Assistance Center and Disability Services sooner.

Relationships – In addition to physical and mental health, social health is another crucial part of wellness. In my case, it took me a while to realize that amiability is an important trait to possess because, by the end of the first semester, I only knew a dozen people. I blame my introverted nature, but I do wish I prioritized making meaningful connections more. When it comes to dating, there is no need to rush into a romantic relationship in the first year. I wish I would have waited and experienced more friendships before harboring emotional baggage.

Community – Having a community that you belong to is a godsend because like the last category, it benefits your social health. I was reluctant to find a community that I could truly connect with and involve myself in freshman year due to my introversion. I wish I would have found one earlier, especially with people who you can grow with and who can keep you accountable.

Take it as you will, but I truly believe that some of the things I have mentioned can be useful insight as you make this trepidatious transition from a high schooler to a college student. So don’t fret because college is yours for the taking. Be wise and courageous and try to brush your teeth at least once a day, please. Lastly, whether you take my word for it or not, I leave you with this vow.

From this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer (in Old Golds), in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, as long as the Pit chicken remains uncooked, you are officially a Demon Deacon.