By Caroline Hancock

After finishing my freshman year of college, I have realized that I am far different from the person I was when I first arrived on campus. Reflecting on the past two semesters, I have seen myself grow immeasurably and learned eight lessons along the way.

Discover Your Niche

Find somewhere where you can plug in, serve and explore all what college has to offer, whether it’s a club on campus, Greek organization or church. Getting involved not only gives you a chance to meet more people, but it gives you an opportunity to be a become a part of something bigger than yourself.

Find Your People

Transitioning to college can be hard, and I wouldn’t have been able to do it alone. Find genuine people who will be there to support and grow alongside you. It might not happen overnight, but once you find community and meet the people that you connect with, hold on to them dearly.

Embrace Spontaneity

I’m a planner. I always like to be prepared and know what’s coming next. Coming into college, I feared the unexpected and didn’t like to improvise. Throughout the last two semesters, I’ve learned that some of the best memories you make are spontaneous.

Encourage Others

College is hard, not only do you need to be encouraged, but you need to encourage others. It seems to be that many students, myself included, can easily get disheartened and lost in the busy lifestyle. Be a light and encourage others; you will be surprised by the significant difference it will have on you and others.

Be Transparent

I came to college barely knowing anyone. It is extremely intimidating coming in and having to meet so many new people and make friends. I immediately wanted to make an impression that would gain the approval of my peers regardless of how true I was being to myself. Dishonesty gets you absolutely nowhere, so be yourself, be authentic and be transparent.

Accept Failure

I expected college to be as easy as high school. However, in reality, you won’t always get the grade you hoped for, not every friendship will last and you simply can’t please

everyone. Instead of letting failures define you, use them as opportunities to learn and grow.

Welcome Diversity

Coming into college from a small private high school bubble, I wasn’t exposed to as much diversity as I thought. Not everyone will come from a similar background, act the same or think the same. Instead of overlooking diversity, celebrate it.

Be Present

At the beginning of the year, I was constantly distracted by what I was going to do next, where I was going and what I needed to get done. I ended up being so distracted by the future that I wasn’t being present. Instead of thinking ahead, cherish what you are experiencing now and make sure you soak up every moment while you can.

Freshman year was a season of change, growth and maturity. I came in hesitant, anxious and overwhelmed. Having learned these lessons, I can confidently say that I’m leaving eager, brave and emboldened.