Lessons learned freshman year – Part 2, importance of connecting


Photo by Robert Kinlaw, collegetownnc.com

When students share what makes them anxious about heading off to college, most of them confess that they’re concerned about leaving the social comforts of high school; their “friend group” and their familiar surroundings.

They wonder whether they will miss their high school friends and family too much. They’re nervous about whether or not they will fit in and if they will make a good first impression. It’s scary starting over.

But for some, this is the challenge that they’re most excited about. For them, going to college is all about the opportunity for a clean slate and starting fresh.

Many students who are proud of how they’ve matured during high school are ecstatic to go somewhere and not have the baggage of their dumb moves from sophomore year, or of not being surrounded by their ex and their ex’s friends.

But for everybody, freshman year is about connecting and making new friends. I asked Ben Knoble, a 2016 Ardrey Kell grad and a soon-to-be sophomore at UNC Chapel Hill how he felt about making the social transition to college.

Ben Knoble, a soon-to-be UNC sophomore

Friends made freshman year often end up being a student’s closest friends. Do you feel that you have made friends for life? Why? Why not?

Yes. Absolutely, unequivocally, yes. “Why” tends to vary from group to group. My freshman friends are from the surrounding dorm area.

We went through the ups and downs of a very exciting first year together. We cried for each other’s breakups, celebrated birthdays and jumped in unison during horror movies in the lounge. We know each other’s passions and fears. We may be spreading out over campus this coming fall, but when we need a friend or two, there they’ll be in our group chat, lovingly entitled “4th Floor Plus.”

Sometimes, though, friendships develop purely out of common interests. You know, like how all of your friends in band seem to know everyone? I’ve made lifelong friends that way too. Sure, it starts with band, or a campus ministry group, or that computer science club that’s as quirky as you can imagine. Slowly, you get to know the faces. Maybe there are even nametags to help you out. And as you show up more often, talk to people more often, you find a couple of people that resonate with you. They make your day when they show up.

Maybe you have deep conversations about the universe with your ministry group, or maybe it’s just being part of a bigger whole in band, or maybe it’s collaborating on projects or playing a good old-fashioned round of Super Smash Bros., but you find the people whose presence you miss sorely. Before you know it, you can’t wait to be back with those people.

Sometimes friends crop up in strange places. Early in second semester, I had a group of friends decide that we wanted to eat lunch together one Monday. So we got in touch, figured out when, and showed up at the dining hall (Lenoir, for you UNC-bound folks), and began the eternal struggle that is finding a place to fit four people. And we had a great time talking. So the following Wednesday and Friday, when our schedules lined up, we did it again. And again. And again. And whoever got to Lenoir first had the wonderful responsibility of finding a table.

Thus, the table-finding squad was born, and the four of us went on to eat lunch together 3 times a week, barring exceptional circumstances. We ate our last meal together for the semester one Friday night. We took photos in which we all lovingly glared at each other and said our goodbyes. The group chat, however, has still not died down, with a never-ending collage of animal-themed videos being sent my way when I need a pick-me-up.

Your freshman year might not be mine. But generally, the people with whom you share your struggles and your joys freshman year will be bonded to you in ways you won’t even realize until it’s over. Don’t miss out on that.


Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to:lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.com; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com