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Meghan Dalbec shares advice for college freshman on how to have a successful first year, which includes being smart about alcohol.

Meghan Dalbec is a second-year student majoring in mathematics at the University of Virginia.

Your first year of college can be terrifying but it can also be the time of your life! It comes with a whole new set of experiences, sharing a room, doing laundry, having complete freedom, and trying to navigate a social scene in which you are accountable to no one but yourself.

After having one of the best years, and as I prepare to go back and have an even better year at school, here’s some advice that I’ve learned along the way.

1. Roommates make great stories and sharing these can often lead you to your future best friends. Whether your roommate is your best friend, you can’t stand each other, or you are merely two people living in one room, you will have some good stories about your roommate. I hope you are fortunate enough to get along with your roommate, but if you don’t, just know that they don’t need to be your best friend, and there are plenty of other ways to meet people.

2. Have a pair of shower shoes. Chances are you will be sharing showers and bathrooms with a lot of people, so shower shoes are a necessity! Get a cheap but comfortable pair that will last through the semester. And, if you happen to go to college without a pair of rain boots, shower shoes make for excellent rain shoes when it’s practically a monsoon outside, and you have to get all the way across campus.

3. Get involved and try something new. Join a fraternity or a sorority, join a club that interests you or take a class on something you are unfamiliar with. If you put yourself out there — while staying true to yourself — you will make amazing friends and have a great time.

4. Figure out how to balance your free time between school work and friends. You will have a lot of free time; use it to get ahead and stay on top of your schoolwork. Cherish (read: don’t stress about) the nights when you realize you have been sitting around with your friends doing nothing for hours, and you have a paper due. Those nights can be the foundation for some great memories. 

5. Make sure you keep in touch with all of your old friends and most importantly your family. They miss you and always want to hear from you. And believe it or not, they give some pretty good advice.

6. Yes, there will be alcohol at many events, but not everyone drinks and no one cares if you do or don’t. Make good choices that you can always stand behind and support. If you choose not to drink, many may ask questions, and many may not understand why you don’t, but the ones who accept that you don’t drink and respect you for it will be your true friends. If you do decide to drink, be responsible. Know your school policies, know your limits (no one wants to be “that drunk person” and no one wants to take care of “that” person weekend after weekend), and know how to tell when someone else has had too much to drink and needs help.

Good luck as you find your way in a new school, and don’t forget to have fun! You only get one shot at your first year in college, so make the most of it.