As freshman year of college comes to an end, it’s only natural to feel a compulsion to reflect on the madness that was this first year at Cornell. After having listened to my friends’ reflections and cringing at my own, I have compiled a list of things that we wish we had known before timidly stepping foot on campus.
1“I wish I had been a little less worried about making friends during O-week.”
O-week can be hard. Maybe it’s your first day at school, and you weren’t expecting to already see hordes of freshmen travelling together in packs of twenty, but you do. It’s demoralizing, and you can’t help but feel like you’re late to the game. Maybe you’ll never make friends…SNAP OUT OF IT. Late to the game? It’s your first day here! The fact of the matter is that you have four years to make meaningful, lasting friendships, so you shouldn’t put so much pressure on yourself to force these relationships over the span of a week. The majority of the people you call “friends” during O-week will probably just be random, faceless names in your phone by the end of the semester, so it’s okay to give yourself time to adjust to this terrifying new world you’ve suddenly been thrown into.
2“I wish I hadn’t assumed that everyone would be so much more qualified than me.”
Knowing that you’re about to begin your studies an Ivy League Institution can be daunting. On Cornell Days campus tours, you dare not let one of your dad’s jokes slip; the tour guide will hear the intellectual inferiority in your father’s voice and report you to Cornell, causing them to rescind your acceptance. You wonder what your classmates will be like and what great things they’ve accomplished in their eighteen year lives; you conjure up an entire class of superb students: they’ve cured diseases and travelled the world, collecting Nobel Prizes as they go. How will you match up when you get to Cornell? The reality is that you get to Cornell and realize that everyone is surprisingly normal and for the most part humble, and you do fine in your classes and people are actually quite respectful of each others’ talents.
3“I wish I had known that it’s okay to eat alone in the dining halls.”
There is absolutely no shame in eating, a very personal ritual, by yourself. Having friends present doesn’t somehow aid your digestive process, so if you want to enjoy some time alone, go ahead. We have a tendency to assume that people are observing us much more closely than they actually are and that they actually care about the observations they’re making. The chances are that no one even notices you’re eating alone; chances are that if they do notice, it doesn’t affect them and they couldn’t care less about your eating habits. My friends voiced similar concerns about people looking at their plates during meals. The same logic applies here. No one cares how much food is on your plate or how many plates you took, and if they do care, that’s dumb; the food on your plate is going into your body.
4“I wish I hadn’t been so quick to trust older students, romantically.”
Unfortunately, being a freshman makes you an easy target for the schemes of older students. Perhaps you’re not very experienced in the realm of dating because you weren’t exactly sure how to communicate with anyone you found remotely attractive in high school, and perhaps you’re in a new environment and you’re feeling very vulnerable. Some older students have a nose for this kind of thing, and sadly, some of them will leverage this knowledge to their selfish benefit. They may pressure you to push your boundaries or straight up use you. Suddenly, you find yourself caught in a really uncomfortable situation because you realize you’ve been overly accommodating to an emotionally unavailable shark, but you don’t want to end things because this person has become something of a defining attribute to your college experience thus far. It’s tough, but dating in college is a learning curve and trying to figure out if someone is the type should get easier.
Obviously, these are just a few of the hundreds of things we wish we had known before starting school, but if we were to list them all, we could probably fill a book. All jokes aside, we wouldn’t take any of it back. Trying to navigate college can be pretty tough, but each of these experiences has been a lesson learned or a funny story, allowing us to grow, so we’re better for it.