Nate Muramatsu: A rising sophomore’s advice on transitioning to college

The most confusing thing about the transition to college might be the advice that everyone gives you. Every adult in your life seems to have an opinion on what your freshman year should be like, and often the advice is conflicting.

When I got to college, I remember being told conflicting advice on how to make the most of my four years as a student.

“Grades should be your priority, but don’t spend all your time on schoolwork.”

“Don’t worry if you don’t have an internship, but why don’t you have an internship yet?”

“Make sure you take time to enjoy the city around you, but don’t let the city distract you from studying.”

As the members of the Class of 2020 approach their transitions into college, they’re inundated with dizzying expectations. In the summer between high school and my freshman year, I tried to get a sense for what everyday life in college would be like. I looked at the social media posts from college students I knew, talked to my parents and processed the things I heard during admitted students’ days and Colonial Inauguration.

But in the end, my transition to college was difficult because the expectations I created for myself weren’t very realistic. I thought I could handle classes and extracurricular activities without sacrificing a lot of my free time. I didn’t realize that meeting people and making connections took time and effort. To me, it felt like all of these stressors came out of nowhere, and that somehow, the other freshmen around me didn’t feel the same way.

I eventually realized that the best advice I got came from memes I found on college students’ social media – and that advice was much different than what admissions representatives and my parents had told me. Now as a rising sophomore who had a slightly difficult transition to college, I think I’m more qualified to give the Class of 2020 some advice.

The memes are right. Books are overpriced, the residence halls have a bunch of problems and you will most likely be – or at least feel – like you are broke. College classes are challenging, and because freshmen register for classes last, you’ll probably be stuck with taking classes at 8 a.m. If you feel like you’re having a particularly hard time adjusting, remember that you’re not the only one who’s dealing with the stress.

By understanding that what you’re feeling is completely normal, you might be able to better regroup and focus. It’s important to remember that these negatives are a part of college life.

Finding ways to deal with stress is important. Some students go on runs, take walks and explore museums and memorials. While you won’t always be able to take a two-hour break from work to walk down to the National Mall, finding your go-to study spot outside of Gelman Library is helpful. Some of my favorite places to study are coffee shops in Dupont Circle and by the White House.

It might sound cliche, but make time to do the things you loved to do in high school. The reason many people choose to go to GW is because it’s a new and exciting experience in a city. Combine these new experiences with things that you already know you love.

Find opportunities to speak publicly, network and meet new people. Some clubs and organizations at GW have tryouts or positions that require elections. Even if you haven’t done something like it before, it never hurts to try, and you may make friends along the way.

Despite what you might see, many students I know feel enormous pressure to succeed on the first try – I do, too. It’s easy to succumb to the feeling that everyone around you has their life together, and you’re the only one who doesn’t. You need to know that not everyone has a job. Not everyone has an internship. Not everyone has good grades, and almost everyone else feels an equal amount of pressure. It’s completely acceptable to feel these things, and you wouldn’t be a normal college student if you didn’t.

Approach all of your new experiences positivity, and work hard. Eventually, the cool GW moments you’ve heard about on social media will also come your way. You already fought most of the battle just by completing the college admissions process, and you’re ready for the next challenge. So, enjoy yourself. See music festivals and live performances with friends, take lots of pictures and make memories. When you find this balance in life at GW, you’ll overcome the transition and finally feel at home.

Nate Muramatsu, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

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