How to Win Over Freshmen and Influence People

Being a role model when you’re really not sure what you’re doing in your own life.

role model

by Natalie

Not to toot my own horn, but I am killing it in sophomore year.

In the past two months and seven days, I have started taking classes that I really, truly enjoy.  I have met some wonderful people.  I have written a handful of opinion columns that I’m very proud of (you can find the latest post here).  I started a club.  I finished a play and submitted it to a theatre competition.

But, most importantly, I have learned something new about myself: I’m pretty darn good at giving advice and being a support system.

At the beginning of this year, I began collecting freshman.  Not on purpose.  I didn’t go around with a butterfly net chasing the kids who still wore their high school state speech sweatshirts or letterman’s jackets.  I just, slowly but surely, became very close with a large network of first year students.  And, as I gained this new circle of friends, I gained a reputation for having the answers.  Which, if you’ve read any of my blogs from my freshman year, you’d know I don’t necessarily have.

Last year, I was an absolute disaster.

I spent my days panicking and not attending my classes.  This year, I have taken up the new habit of writing down exactly when I’m going to fulfill my responsibilities.  I’ve also taken to writing out To-Do lists.  Long story short, I’ve got my “poop in a group” this year.

As the year has progressed, I have become well-versed in taking people down, if you will. College is when a lot of people start to have mental health issues.  It’s stressful and challenging and there is a demand for a constant, shiny, happy attitude on college campuses.

It can become overwhelming.

Anxiety and depression are things I developed and learned to deal with last year.  My roommates have also struggled with mental health in their time in college.  So, because we have life experiences with not knowing how to deal, room 716 has become a popular hangout for first years who need help.

It’s fulfilling work, being a role model.  It brings me a lot of pride, knowing that I can help people because I’ve been in their shoes.  I have comforted these lost first years through times of self-doubt and it has strengthened my own ability to cope with overwhelming circumstances.  I have counseled a few of them through existential crises and “what if I hate my major” meltdowns and it has made clear to me that the struggles I faced last year were not unique.

Last year, when I began struggling with my schoolwork and mental health, my dad gave me an analogy that I have used on quite a few panicky freshmen this year:

When you forge friendships, you sign a contract for a shared emotional bank account.  We all have to withdraw sometimes when times get hard and the rent to live in our own heads goes up.  We all deposit into this account when we win the lottery and everything goes right.  Sometimes, you have to withdraw more than you deposit for a while.  But that’s fine because, eventually, you’ll be in a better place with a heavier emotional paycheck and you’ll be able to deposit back into the account when your friends need to withdraw.

There is a lot to be said for making it on your own, but there is more to be said for being able to ask for help.

When you arrive at college, a good thing to do is to seek out supportive friends.  It’s hard to see that at first glance but you’ll quickly learn who of your network of acquaintances is there for you.  Find and befriend your neighborhood know-it-all.  She/he knows where the counseling center is and how to study and how to lighten your load.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

There is no shame in being in over your head.  There is no shame in struggling with your mental health or your classwork.  There is no shame in crying in front of your friends.

There is only shame in being too proud to admit to yourself that you can’t do it alone.

College is hard and sometimes, you just need to withdraw from your shared emotional bank account.