Year in Review: Rising College Sophomores on their Freshman Year of College

Some of the most meaningful work we do at Rainbow is our college counseling and admissions mentorship. It is an incredible privilege to partner with students and families while guiding them through their admissions process with ease and confidence.

One of the most exciting components of this expertise is helping students find universities, academic programs, majors, and artistic conservatories that are true and natural fits for each individual.

At this time of the year, as finals wrap-up at universities and summer 2019 approaches, it is exciting to connect with former Rainbow students and other college freshman finishing their first year of college! We decided to check-in with some of these students to hear about their freshman years, and perhaps begin to bring some first-hand ease to any high school seniors getting ready to embark upon their collegiate adventure.

Amanda Farley in front her school, LMU

For this piece, we spoke with four incredible rising college sophomores – Kimia Rahbar (USC), Greta Gersh (University of Michigan), Amanda Farley (Loyola Marymount University), and Olivia Ponthier (Penn State) – and discussed their takeaways from their freshman years and unpacked the advice they have for students approaching their freshman years!

The best part is all the new people – no seriously!

To the introverts reading this, or to those who can’t imagine life without their ride-or-die current BFFs by their sides, this may come as a surprise. Yet, this was something every single person touched upon.

As Kimia worded it, “What I enjoyed most was getting a new perspective on different people – people from different areas, different cultures. Meeting new people is really what made college for me this year.”

“The thing I enjoyed most about my first year of college was meeting so many new people. I came from a relatively small high school, so entering a new environment at a large school like Michigan was really different and amazing.” – Greta

Though this may feel daunting during move in-week, or even through the first couple months of college, by the end of freshman year, most everyone can agree that meeting new people and learning about walks of life beyond your neighborhood and high school is both illuminating and fun!

It’s going to be challenging – and that’s okay!

Freshman year is hard for everyone. What aspects are difficult depends quite a bit on your personality, but arriving at a new school, taking on university-level work, and often navigating a city away from home are bound to pose challenges for anyone!

Olivia emphasized the academic rigor of college: “I didn’t struggle academically much in high school. I realized that I have to put in the work, full send, and study 10x more than I ever did in high school. It’s a really big thing. College doesn’t stop for you, and you may have to go to office hours, go to a tutor, make a study group.”

For Kimia, learning to remove the academic perfectionism that served her in high school in order to create a balanced life was challenging: “I’m a perfectionist, but college doesn’t work like high school, and reading every single reading and doing things perfectly isn’t always balanced…Learning to balance all of my priorities (academics, social life, working out) was really hard.”

It will be different than you expect.

This is a tough one to wrap your head around until you experience it yourself, and yet it is perhaps some of the most valuable advice.

Amanda shared that she envisioned more time off-campus in the city (in her case, LA): “There was a lot less going out and exploring than I expected. Most of college life isn’t in the spots you imagine when you think of the place to which you’re moving. Most of college life takes place on campus – in the library, in your dorm, and in the classroom. Most of college life is simple, and mundane moments.” Though this may sound like a bummer, this is a healthy reminder to consider the campus culture and community, since most of your time will be spent on campus – especially freshman year!

Greta was surprised that the academic pace and schedule varied so much from her experience in high school: “I expected to have a lot more homework on a daily basis, similar to my high school experience. I have found the work at college to be given much more spread out, which really forces you to not procrastinate!”

You’re going to grow…

Every single gal we talked to shared this sentiment, which is because it is undeniably true. No matter where you go, no matter what your life experience before, your freshman year of school will challenge and ultimately grow you.

Kimia and a friend sitting in McCarthy Quad at USC

As these ladies unpacked, much of this growth is academic or surrounding learning to balance all of the important components of their lives – from school to friendships to health. But sometimes, it’s even the simple, practical parts of life “such as doing [your] own laundry and making [your] bed everyday.”

We truly enjoyed connecting with our former Rainbow students! Each student with whom we spoke had some final advice for students heading out to college at the end of this summer:

Greta: “Take things slow and if you run into an issue, don’t allow it to cloud your mind and scare you away from the beauty of college. One bump in the road is not telling of the entirety of your year.”

Amanda: “Talk to current students before you show up to get the inside scoop. Don’t just rely on tour guides and the college’s website to help you frame what to expect, but connect with other people. It helps you not only pick your school, but also really get a sense of what your experience will be like.”

Olivia: “I went random for housing – do not go random and check your emails all the time – and I was put into random housing with a random roommate. Luckily, some sweet girls next door came in and helped me with boxes and became my best friends and we’re all living together next year. This was such a small gesture, yet started a friendship that could last a lifetime.”

Kimia: “Don’t expect college to meet your expectations. It’s going to be so much different from what you expect anyway. If you can, go in without expectations and you will be able to be happy with it, rather than find yourself disappointed with what it isn’t living up to.”