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In the frenzy of last-minute college packing, many people forget about the mental tools and mindsets that freshmen (and all class years) should take to college. What are the five top things that helped me survive a hectic first year?

1. a willingness to try new things

College is all about trying new things! For many students, this is their first real step into adulthood and it can be exhilarating or just completely terrifying. I highly encourage everyone to lean on the former because this is the one time of your life where the stakes are low but the potential rewards are extremely high. Try that sport that you've always wanted to do, join a new club, or take a class in a department that you've never taken before. The worst thing that can happen is you deciding that it isn't for you, and then you can move on.

2. optimism

What happens when things don't go your way? Keeping a sense of optimism is really important during these times, especially because you won't be near family and close friends who can cheer you up. Optimism isn't foolish, but a devotion to seeing how you can always benefit and learn from an experience. Optimism is what creates a person who is able to stay fulfilled and happy while chasing their dreams, and it is the thing that can help a person grow and learn from even the worst disaster (which isn't failing your first midterm, by the way—many a Dartmouth student has done that).

3. dedication

Aside from optimism, you need dedication! Bad things won't just go away because you are committed to learning from an experience. You need to find ways to create better outcomes for yourself in your academic career, personal relationships, and self-growth. That requires self-discipline and dedication, because no one at college is going to push yourself better than you can. Dedication is you putting the work in to achieve your goals so you have the energy to finish off that last problem in your CHEM 5 test bank.

4. ambition

On top of optimism and dedication, you will also need ambition. If you continually remain optimistic about your circumstances and work really hard, but never aim for a higher level of achievement, you won't see the improvement that you are capable of. And I know you are capable of it, because you're a Dartmouth student! Ambition is fueled by your goals, so also figure out your "why" statement and your elevator pitch. What do you care about? Dream the wildest dreams and use your drive to get there. You have a whole school and family and friends by your side.

5. self-care

Lastly, remember to bring some self-care to college. Dartmouth is fast-paced, so it can be difficult sometimes to take the initiative to slow down. Know what makes you feel better when you need to recharge and also know what toxic or self-sabotaging behaviors are for you. For example, spending time alone can be amazing for some, but for others it only helps for a little bit before it feels isolating and lonely. The journey to knowing yourself takes time, but always remember to prioritize your well-being, especially in this new world where others won't do so as readily as they would back home.

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