Welcome to your first year of college! Welcome to your new school, new chapter of your life, and your new home. You have been here several days now, and today marks the first day of your college career. Many of you are on your way to becoming doctors, lawyers, ministers, teachers, entrepreneurs, sales executives, and so much more. As a second year masters student, I constantly see undergraduate students milling about on campus, and often times over hear their conversations. The first day of school is my favorite because the conversations are more priceless now, than they will ever be. I also love scoping out the social media scene and seeing all the “back to school” tweets, status’, and instagrams followed by #InsertUniversity18 It really makes my day (so keep them coming!) But, while I love overhearing the “I got lost” or “My professor is SO weird!” Conversations, what I want to remind you of, and hope you take to heart, are just a few things I wish some one would have told me, and I would’ve taken to heart. Remember these are in no particular order, but they will save you a lot of time, effort, and grief… and maybe a GPA or two!
Study Hard, Study Often, Study Well
I know everyone reading this knows to study, but often times I wonder how well we know to study. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing my first year of college. My GPA, unfortunately, reflects that lack of knowledge. It took me until my senior year of college to learn how to study. Studying is more than reviewing your notes quickly before an exam. There are hundreds, and I mean hundreds of places to find study tips. If you think you’re already good at studying, test your methods against other peers, or study tips. Your future self will thank you when it comes time to look at graduate schools, potential internships, and maybe even jobs.
Put Down the Phone, and Pay Attention
This goes for in the classroom as well as outside the classroom. Your professors are not stupid, they know when you are on your phone. And they judge you hard for it and will remember it when grades are due and you are sitting between an A and B. Harsh as it may sound, but if you sit on your phone all class every class, do not expect a professor to show mercy and give you that A. Fully expect that B. You miss so much material, especially in your upper level courses, when you are head down on social media/texting. I was completely guilty of it as an undergraduate student and I completely regret it. In terms of outside of the classroom, do you know how much you miss when you are walking through campus on your cell phone? A lot. But you wouldn’t know that because you’re living vicariously through your smart phone. Put it down, look around, and take it in. You’re only here 4 years (or 5 for you victory lap folks) and when it’s your last year on campus you’re going to wish you had experienced more than your phone screen had to offer.
Get to Know Your Professors
I think everyone at some point believes the stereotype that professors are “super nerds” who have no life and all they do is teach, grade papers, and come up with new ways to make your life miserable. For almost every professors I have ever known, that is the exact opposite of the case. I have had professors who are firefighters, who have a working knowledge of every county in the state, who have traveled the world, who compete in marathons, who have had some pretty cool jobs pre-teaching days, who know multiple languages, who have done and seen more than I will ever hope to do. Yet they still find time to be huge sports fan, go to every event on campus, have great families, and still have time to answer hundreds of e-mails from panicky students. They genuinely want to help you and see you succeed.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
This is similar to the one above, but I cannot stress this enough. Your professors are not terrible people who want you to fail. They want you to do well, if you do well and go on to bigger and better things, then they can brag to their colleagues “Yeah, I know that kid, they’re fantastic!” If you don’t ask for help, they won’t know you’re struggling. If they don’t know you’re struggling, they can’t find new ways to teach the information. That’s how professors often times get “stale” in their teaching. Because they assume it works, when in reality, they may be needing to explain something in more details or in a different way. We all learn differently, and that’s okay. It’s important to find out how you learn and then work with your professors to learn the best you can.
Get Off Your Bed, Out of Your Comfort Zone, and Make New Friends
This is me telling you something I wish I would still do. I am a fairly introverted person so the idea of meeting new people and attempting to make friends is just exhausting. Had it not been for 1 or 2 key people during my first few weeks of undergrad. I would not have made any new friends and I am willing to bet I would’ve moved home and transferred to another university. It’s scary enough to go off to school where you will know people, but it is even more scary to go off to a school where you know not one person, which is what I did. If you never get off your bed and get out on campus, no matter where you go to school, you will be miserable. If you force yourself to walk out your door and just find what’s going on.This is probably the number 1 “easier said than done” I completely understand that. Please trust me when I say, you will be fine and you will make friends.
Don’t Go Home Every Weekend
I get it, when you go to a small school in the middle of nowhere, it is so easy to pack up the car and head home after class on Friday. Making in home in time for the football game Friday night, spending Saturday with family and friends, and coming back on Sunday is so easy, so familiar, and not nearly as scary as spending the weekend at school. Even in the middle of no where, there is always something going on. There are athletic events, movies on campus, geocaching, trips with the university, and so much more going on. Sometimes you have to get a little creative on quiet weekends but that is the opportune time to make friends and memories. Those are often times the stories you will be telling your friends back home when Thanksgiving/Christmas break roll around.
Enjoy the Next 4 Years… They Go by Too Quickly
I could throw in dozens of other tips for how to survive your freshman year. From being nice to your suitemates, to not eating the eggs in the dining hall, to wisely using your skips in class, to not living with your best friends. At the end of the day, your college experience is what you make it in its entirety. Not every second of college is going to be a movie preview. Sometimes you will feel like quitting, dropping out and starting a coffee shop (or a bar). Having survived 2 years at a community college, 3 years at a university, and starting my 2nd year of graduate school, believe me when I say; the friends, the connections, the lesson you learn, and the memories you make will last you a life time. Whoever said “high school is the best 4 years of your life” probably didn’t make the most of their college experience.
So for all the freshman out there, especially the baby camels: Welcome home. From those of us returning, to the ones who just got here. Welcome home!