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Sunday, March 3, 2024
The Observer

To freshman: It's going to be ok

You're a few weeks into this college thing and you’re feeling overwhelmed. Maybe you’re feeling lonely and like everyone else already has more friends. Maybe you’re feeling the opposite of lonely, like you’re surrounded by people you don’t know and you don’t like and you don’t know how to get away from them. Maybe you’re feeling homesick. Maybe you’re feeling scared, uninterested or inept in your new classes. Maybe you’ve heard for the last couple years how proud everyone is of you and how you’re going to do great things, but you don’t feel any great things happening yet.

Maybe you don’t know exactly how you feel, and you can’t identify directly with any of the examples in this paragraph, but there’s still something there. I have something to say to you, freshmen:

It’s going to be okay.

It’s all going to be okay.

The first year of college is tough. You are in a completely new environment and part of your life. That's weird, and even if you're pretending it's not weird and ignoring it, it's there, and it's okay. Your feelings are valid and I guarantee you that plenty of people around you are feeling them, too.

Maybe you're not feeling lonely. Maybe you've been in a whirlwind of activity, with new friends and new clubs and parties. And that's great! But these next two weeks or so are when burnout is going to start kicking in.  You’ve been away from home and sleeping, eating and drinking much differently than you did at home. Classes are going to be ratcheting up a notch. We have three home games in a row, throwing  a monkey wrench into your plans for catching up on homework and sleep over the weekend. Your dorm and Domerfest friendships are going to crack and splinter and fall apart. These are the weeks when, in the eternal words of Kenneth Parcell from “30 Rock,” “the pig spore will hit the wind-spinner.”

And it’s still all going to be okay.

There’s a dichotomy to freshman year that most people feel: feeling lonely and feeling overwhelmed. Some people find themselves alone more than surrounded, or vice versa. And some people simultaneously feel both and feel alone in a crowded, sweaty dorm, simultaneously wishing that you could leave all of them and wishing that they would be your friends.

You are not alone in those feelings. Every other freshman is feeling them too, to some extent, in some fashion. Every upperclassman went through that and might even be feeling the same way now. Heck, your professors and TAs know the feeling.

You are not a failure at college. You are not a loser. You are not stupid. And you are not alone.

Soon, you will find your friends. They’ll come into your life slowly, on the peripherals, and suddenly you’ll be in their dorm room for the third 2 a.m. in a row, crying from how hard you’re laughing.

Soon, you’ll find your favorite classes. You’ll be in your professor’s office after class, asking them to explain in more detail what they meant on slide 8 because you can’t get enough. And they’ll look at you and ask if you’re considering a career in this field because you have a gift for it, and you’ll suddenly have a career path and a mentor.

Soon, you’ll be home for Thanksgiving, explaining to your grandmother about your hall traditions or how hard it is to stay standing up on the bench on the third rendition of the jig.

You’ll figure your life out. You’ll get into a schedule, and a friend group, and a career path. Please, please, little freshmen, remember that you are here to learn. Friends, sports, and parties are lots of fun of course, but your education comes first. Focus on your classes and your passions.

Your freshman year will be hard, and you’ll have days and weeks when you think it’s too hard. You will cry. You will scream. You will spill coffee on your laptop and drive to Walmart at 1 buy rice to dry it out. But your tears will dry, your screams will quiet down, and your laptop will sort of work again.

It’s going to be okay. 

Courtney Phelan is studying English writing, secondary education and French. She wants to be an English teacher, so that she can get paid to correct people's grammar. She is in her final year at Saint Mary's College. Contact her at

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.