Dear Incoming Freshman Me: Calm Down!

April 24, 2024

I’ve always looked forward to college. The summer going into fifth grade, I was dragged along to my older sister’s college tours, and while I didn’t love all the walking, I found myself in love with the concept of college. I was awed by the massive campuses, the idea of living with other students, and above all else, having a Chipotle at school. Growing older, the actual education part of college became enticing as well. I didn’t hate high school, but the rigid 12-hour day and standard core classes grew monotonous, making the freedom of what I studied and how I spent my day that came with college all the more appealing.

The summer after my high school graduation, I still remained excited about school. Granted, I didn’t think about it all too much and instead treated the break as one giant perpetual hangout with my friends. However, soon my move-in date became visible on my phone calendar and it hit me that college was actually happening. And then I grew nervous.

Thinking back to the anxiety-ridden weeks before my freshman year, so much of what I worried about seems silly now. However, at the time these concerns were very real and consuming, so I think I owe my past self a reassuring update.

Concern One: I will make no friends

This was a big stressor for me, but I was lucky to make some incredible friends soon after arriving. I’ve been warned online that the first friend group you make at college never sticks, but the friends I made during Golden Bear Orientation are still my friends, with some soon-to-become roommates! On top of that, living in the dorms (shoutout to Unit 2 Cunningham!) has made my life significantly more social, so now I have a better work-play balance than I did in high school.

Concern Two: I’m not smart enough for Berkeley

Getting into Berkeley was truly a dream come true. It felt like an incredible privilege to be offered an education at the number one public university in the world. However, once the high of my acceptance wore off, my self-doubt crept in. I didn’t consider myself to be a bad student, but never an overwhelmingly exceptional one either. So while it was an incredible honor to get in here, I worried the honor was misplaced. At the peak of my anxiety, I genuinely believed there was a good chance I’d fail all of my classes and never get an A on any assignment all my four years here. I can happily say that has not been the case. My classes are certainly rigorous, but it’s a small cost for engrossing courses taught by brilliant professors. Not only is my schoolwork endlessly interesting, but I’m also doing far better than I thought I would. I’ve been challenged more than ever this year, but I’ve grown immensely because of it.

Concern Three: Berkeley won’t feel “right”

Choosing a college is an important, and therefore a long and complicated, decision. For me, it really wasn’t. Once I was accepted to Berkeley, I was about 90% certain I would go, and a tour of the campus was all I needed to acquire the remaining 10%. While I felt confident in my decision, I still worried it wouldn’t be the right fit; maybe all my classes would go well, I would make tons of friends, and it still just wouldn’t feel “right.” Out of all my worries, this was dispelled the quickest. I adjusted easily, and my love for the school clicked immediately. The first weeks here, immersed in the novelty of the campus and college life, I constantly thought about how lucky I was to end up here. While that honeymoon phase has worn off, my love and sense of belonging still remain—and it means a lot to say that wholeheartedly even as I gear up for four finals.

Concern 4: I’ll miss home

Okay, okay, anxious me wins this one. I do miss home, but I also love it here, and those feelings can co-exist. Interestingly, homesickness has hit harder this semester. In the fall I was too wrapped up in the novelty of Berkeley to think too much about the distance. Now that I’m more settled, I think about home more often, but that doesn’t change how I feel about being here either. How fortunate am I to have not one, but two places that feel like home?