Everything I Wish I Knew My Freshman Year
We are coming up on August, when many universities kick off the Fall semester. This is an exciting time for all students and professors alike, however none more than incoming freshman. I know I still vividly remember the feeling of leaving summer orientation when all the excitement begins to really set in.
A lot has changed since that day two years ago. I’ve met all my closest friends, had plenty of memorable experiences, faced some tough challenges, and made a bunch of mistakes. Most of all, I’ve learned a hell of a lot.
After much thought and reflection, I decided to put these insights down in writing and share them with you. Hopefully some of them can influence you like I knew that would’ve influenced me. So without further ado, there’s the most important things.
GPA Does Matter
One of the things I heard most often my first semester was this notion that ‘GPA didn’t matter’ anymore. Now that you’re in the school of your choice, you’re in right? Well yes, but neglect your GPA early on and I guarantee it will come back to haunt you. You have no idea how your aspirations and goals will shift over the next four years. You have no idea if you will want to seek out a graduate degree or apply for competitive internships. By prioritizing your GPA, you will give yourself those opportunities. Don’t get this mixed up though, GPA is not the goal. Creating opportunities is the goal. It just happens to be the case that having a strong GPA is the most effective way to achieve this.
But It’s Not Priority #1
With all of that said, GPA shouldn’t be your only priority nor should it be priority number one. Don’t sit in your dorm studying all day every day. College is a world of trade-offs. You may have to sacrifice that 4.0 in order to meet new people and experience new things. This may be hard for you high achievers out there. Do it anyway. When you look back a few years down the road, I guarantee that it will be the connections you made and the experiences you had that you will cherish, not a 3 digit number.
Your Major Choice Doesn’t Matter That Much
This is one decision that I know I stressed over a bit and I think most college students can empathize. First off, it’s okay to not know yet. Everyone feels this sense of urgency the first two semesters that just isn’t there. My advice is pick something you’re interested in, something that you enjoy doing. The rest will take care of itself. At the end of the day, very few people out their are doing their major in their everyday job 5-10 years down the line. You have nothing to lose. Don’t let anyone scare you into choosing a major based on job availability or financial gain. Do what you’re passionate about.
People Will Be Unsually Friendly
Coming into your first semester, you have a unique and interesting situation on your hands. You and your peers have just left high school where you probably knew 90% of your graduating class and now likely know less than maybe 1% of your new one. It’s a dramatic change but there is upside to this. It forces everyone to be unusually extroverted and outgoing. For once, there is no excuse to simply launch into a conversation with someone, get their phone number, go grab food, etc. Everyone is eager to make new friends and branch out. Use this. Take advantage of this. It won’t last. It’s tough to accept but after a year or two, you will have your friend groups and everyone will get comfortable. This willingness to branch out will die down so enjoy it while it lasts.
Relationships Move Fast
It’s often said that your friends in high school are temporary while your friends in college are forever. I can already see some truth in this statement. Relationships move fast in college. Really fast. This is extremely cool to see in action. A week knowing someone in college will feel like a month from high school. It’s this total social immersion where you have the opportunity to spend time with the people you choose each and every day. It’s incredibly rewarding and it will create your best friends to date.
Dorms Aren’t All That Bad
Enjoy the dorms. Yes, you will likely be sharing a bathroom and rocking shower shoes for the foreseeable future but it really is worth it. You will likely never have that many friends that close in proximity to you ever again. The sensation of being able to roll down the hall 20 feet to the left and right and have a meaningful conversation or just hang out with friends is incredible. Well worth putting up with an RA.
Have a Strong Bias to Yes
I’m sure you’ve heard this before but I wanted to emphasize it because I really think it’s one of the most important things on here. Everyone says ‘try new things’ and other sayings of that nature but it’s much easier said than done in a lot of cases. It’s not always easy to get out of your comfort zone, take a risk, or make a mistake. And there will be mistakes. That’s okay. Make them. Now is the time to make them, with the stakes relatively low and the room for growth at an all time high. In almost every scenario, you will gain more than you lose if you remember the power of yes.
Don’t Pigeonhole Yourself
Over our time in middle school and high school we develop these views of ourself that ultimately serve as limiting factors. These assumptions we make are dangerous. College is the place to challenge these assumptions and enjoy a fresh start. Not a ‘math person’? Try attending a high-profile mathematics professor’s open lecture. Are you not the ‘creative type’? Check out your schools art and poetry clubs. These situations may seem uncomfortable at first but by taking part in these experiments, you will meet a diverse network of people and you will see your personal growth take off.
They Work For You
This one didn’t click for me until later. I was tentative to ask professors for help and reach out for various opportunities. It wasn’t until later that I read the quote somewhere, ‘they work for you’. I thought about this for a bit and only then did I see a radical change of my mindset surrounding professors. It can be easy to be intimidated by all of the impressive accolades and degrees but at the end of the day, they are there to serve the students. Whether they like it or not. So let them.
Lose the Imposter Syndrome
I struggled with this personally. It’s easy to feel like you don’t belong. Like you are an anomaly that squeaked into a class, program, or even group of friends. You aren’t. This is normal for anyone that finds themselves in a new, uncomfortable situation. Have confidence in your ability. You’re there for a reason and you can achieve great things. The faster you truly believe this, the better off you will be.
If You Aren’t Loving it, Reassess
I find it hard to believe that some out there don’t enjoy their freshman year of college. My mindset is the following: if you aren’t loving your time at school after awhile than you are doing something wrong. It’s not your school, it’s likely you. There is too many interesting people and things to do for you to be not enjoying yourself. Join a club or two. Rush a fraternity or sorority. Participate in special events. Do research with a professor. The list goes on and on. If one opportunity doesn’t pan out then onto the next.
“College is the best years of your life”
Quite frankly, I can’t stand this saying. I never want to believe that my best years are behind me. Especially not at 22. I never want to be the person looking back on the glory days reminiscing. I want to be looking forward and enjoying the present. All this being said, college is pretty awesome.
You will grow more than you can imagine, both academically and personally. Your career path, goals, and aspirations will change more times you can count. You will make better friends than you’ve ever had to date. Most of all, you’ll have a lot of fun in the process. Enjoy every second.