Whether you loved high school or couldn’t wait to leave, you probably want to make some personal changes before you head off to college. The opportunity to start fresh with a totally clean slate isn’t always available, and you should take advantage of this one. Although you are (of course!) already awesome the way you are, there are always areas of ourselves that we can improve.
A lot of people think “reinventing yourself” means changing who you are. In fact, it’s usually the opposite. It means shedding parts of yourself that you’ve outgrown, or maybe that you even wore as a mask. It’s about embracing qualities you didn’t previously display, perhaps because you were scared of how others would react.
Ready to start becoming your best self as you embark on your freshman year? Here are five tips for getting started.
1. Take a critical -- not cruel, but honest -- evaluation of yourself. Reread that sentence if you have to: This is not a go-ahead to tear yourself to shreds. Everybody makes mistakes in life, and you can’t eternally punish yourself for choices you now regret. How long are you going to beat yourself up for that one rough haircut sophomore year?
This self-reflection should be about identifying what you consider to be weaknesses. There’s a difference between a weakness and a flaw. A flaw is something you can’t really fix, but a weakness can be strengthened. When you really think about it, you’ll realize that even things you consider to be flaws are probably just weaknesses, and you can improve them.
2. Study people who seem to have the traits you want to have yourself. Hold up a sec. Were you about to start scrolling through Instagram? Scrolling through people’s photos, even if you do admire them, isn’t going to give you the inspiration you need. Instead of looking at their pictures, read their interviews. Listen to their music. Or -- best of all, because some of the people you idolize are probably people in your own life -- talk to them in person.
Write down what qualities you see in these people that you want to see in yourself. Don’t be surprised if they all have one big trait in common: Confidence. Confidence is really, really key to reinvention -- and anybody can develop it, no matter how self-conscious or insecure you may feel right now.
3. Set reachable but challenging goals for your first semester. What kind of person do you want to be on campus? Maybe you want to be the type of girl who everyone immediately recognizes and says “Hey, that’s [your name] -- she’s awesome.” Or maybe you want your professors to say, “I had [your name] in class, and she was one of my best students this semester.”
In order for others to have those reactions, you’ll have to take action. Want people to know who you are? Get involved in activities and talk to anyone and everyone. Want to impress all your teachers? Set a study schedule that all but ensures you’ll be top of the class. Amplify standard semester goals like “Join Greek life” or “Maintain at least a 3.7 GPA”; instead, modify and personalize them: “Join Greek life and establish myself as a leader,” or “Maintain at least a 3.7 GPA and get to know professors on a personal level.”
Balancing multiple big goals in different areas — academics, social, dating, the list goes on — can be tricky, especially during your first semester. We touch on how to handle all of the above in UChic, which is available at Barnes & Noble.
4. Become friends with people who intimidate you. There will be people who just seem to naturally thrive from day one. And it’s understandable if that frustrates you! You’re trying to become a new, improved “You,” and “She” is already nailing it.
Remember, in college, there really is room for everyone to shine. So don’t get competitive if there are other girls with similar goals to yours. In fact, your response should instead be to befriend them -- they’ll inspire you and keep you motivated. Resist the urge to pit yourself against them.
No matter how perfect somebody seems, it’s almost guaranteed that she’s also trying to improve herself in some way. It’s just the way humans are. So don’t forget that insider her mind, she may be trying to reinvent herself just like you are.
5. Create a living space that reflects what you want to project about yourself. Okay, so dorm room decorating doesn’t allow for that much creativity, especially when you’re splitting precious square footage with a roommate. But your bedroom doesn’t have to be an HGTV masterpiece to be a motivational, inspirational space.
Tack up quotes from people you admire. Display photos that make you feel good about yourself and your life -- and if none do, then don’t put any up! Buy a scented candle that aligns with your goals; for example, cinnamon scents are thought to improve productivity and focus. (You might not be allowed to light it in some dorms -- but you can at least still smell it.) Keep a notepad on your desk where you write down daily accomplishments and positive thoughts.
Little touches like these will keep you on track, so that from the time you wake up to when your head hits the pillow, you feel like you’re moving forward -- not reverting back to a version of yourself you’d rather leave behind.
In the course of a lifetime, you might reinvent yourself over and over again. And you might find that after moving in a different direction for the first few months (or even years) of college, you don’t love all the changes you made. And that’s okay! College is about figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Try things, see how they go, and decide how you feel.
You are in charge of yourself. You call the shots -- so start calling them.