It’s really hard to believe, but I’m a college senior. The past three years have become a blurry scene of a distant memory. Part of me feels like I just started college, but then the other part of me feels like it was ages ago. I’ve changed so much since then.
I thought it would be cool to relay advice to freshman that I wish I had when I was a freshman. So take it or leave it. Hopefully, it will help someone even in the slightest.
Lose your expectations.
You’ve been told most of your life that college is the best four years of your life. And that could be true. But I really hope it’s not. I mean 96% of your life is less-than stellar? That makes me sad. I hope most of your years are the best of your life.
But I won’t pretend I don’t understand what they mean. You see, college is four years of sleepaway camp with a lot of booze and some school work. The premise is college kids don’t have much to worry about except school, having fun, and working. You get four years of minimal responsibilities, Summer, Winter, and Spring breaks, and not having a 9-5. In theory, this is awesome. And I’ve found my experience to be pretty awesome. But, in reality, it is not exactly encompassing to the whole college population. College is incredibly expensive. You might not be able to afford to live on campus. You might work full-time and have no time for anything except work and school. You might live at home and commute to save money. You might go out of state. You might go ten minutes down the road.
Everyone’s experience will be different and that’s what is so cool about college. Embrace your experience. I believed going away to school was necessary and when I came home after two years, I felt like a failure. Then, I started at my new school, met some really great people, loved my professors, got better grades, and felt like an important part of the student body. College may not go the way you expected it to, but it goes the way it goes and all you can do is embrace it.
Your plan is probably wrong.
You have a plan. You know what subject you want to study, what clubs you will join, where you will live, who you will live with, and where you will work when you graduate. Or maybe you have literally no clue. Either way, it’s fine. Because things will not go as planned most of the time. That’s just how life works. Freshman year, I would have never guessed that my senior year I’d be attending a different university, living at home, and participating in the Disney College Program. And even though I’m graduating later than planned, I couldn’t be happier. At the moment, life is awesome and I’m just enjoying it.
Life is going to throw you obstacles and weird circumstances and incredible opportunities you would never have imagined. Go with your gut when this happens. Change your major, transfer schools, try a club you’ve never even heard of, study abroad, take a trip, do the DCP. Be flexible and open to things that aren’t in the plan. That’s usually where the interesting things you’ll talk about when you’re old happen. Plus, it’s really fun to say “wow, if you’d told me this would be my life six months from ago, I’d have called you crazy.”
Try as many new things as you possibly can.
Face it, you’ve been doing what you’ve been told all your life and now you have the freedom to figure out what you enjoy and are passionate about. You will change so much and really start to shape your identity. Embrace it. Cook, dance, sing, play sports, hang outside, don’t wear shoes, cloud watch, read, get into photography. Do whatever the heck you want. Figure out what makes you happy. You don’t have to do it well. Just do it because you want to.
Take care of yourself emotionally and physically.
College is stressful and can be overwhelming. Taking good care of yourself can really ease that. Go for a walk, exercise for twenty minutes every day, get some fresh air, eat veggies, drink a ton of water, take a bath, watch a movie, sleep-in. Do whatever helps you unwind.
You’re not too good for free things.
Have I mentioned college is expensive? Well, it is. Take advantage of free things, whether this is tee shirts or campus events and sports games.
Get a job, internship, and/or volunteer.
Believe me when I say it is better to have too much that won’t fit on your resume than not enough. Do an internship for a summer, work during the semester, and volunteer during winter break. Whatever works for you. Plus, there are volunteer opportunities where you don’t even have to leave your house. I contributed blog posts to a sustainability blog. If you are savvy with social media, you can manage a non-profit’s social media. Your options are endless and it feels so good adding that to your resume. You want to stack the odds in your favor for this so bulk up that resume.
Professors are a great resource.
It’s not what you know, but who you know that will get you in the door for internships and jobs. At UMD, the classes were so big that I was just merely a number. At UB, the professors are working professionals with tons of experience and connections and they all care about their students. They are truly great resources. Pick your favorite professor and let them mentor you.
Always rent if it is cheaper, and it usually is. E-books are great too. I preferred physical text books until I took a class last semester with open-book exams and I could type in keywords from the questions into the book’s search option. It changed my life. Chegg.com and Amazon are almost always cheaper than your bookstore. Shop around!
Look at the syllabus first. It may say required but the assignments may have nothing to do with the book. If you can handle the anxiety, wait until the first class to buy the book. Most of the time, professors will tell you if you need the book or not. Also, if you have a friend in the same class and you can trust them, split a book between the two of you.
Put some money away.
Even if you can only afford $20 a month, do it. That’s $240 per year. Do you know what that could pay for? New tires when you didn’t expect to need them, that parking ticket you will inevitably get because you never park legally, or food when you’re low on cash. It is never a bad idea to have emergency savings. Do yourself a favor and put some money away.
Learn to do things on your own. Sometimes you may not know anyone where you are going or you may want to do things that no one else wants to do and you don’t have anyone to do stuff with. You should go anyway! You’ll meet new people with similar interests or maybe they need buddies to do things with as well. Life happens outside of your comfort zone. So, go. Do the things you want to do even if you have to be your own company.
Enjoy college (and life in general) because it goes by really fast! And once the moment has passed, you can’t get it back. So, make the most of the moment you have while you have it. Good luck in college and the real world!