University

My Letter to the First Year

If you’re like me and about to start your senior year of college, you’ve probably been reminiscing about the past 3 or so years. You’ve probably been clicking all the articles your upcoming sophomore friends have been sharing about being a freshman. I’ve pretty much read all of them, regardless of how much I detest the source websites. Looking at you, Elite Daily and the like.

But this post isn’t about my dislike of certain websites. (I do enjoy the occasional listicle. In fact, this is one.) No judgment here… mostly. While the university articles I’ve read seem well-intentioned, I feel like the advice given didn’t cover everything. So I’m gonna give you my advice in a sort of addition to the articles I’ve already seen.

1. I’m sure you’ve heard by now that no one cares about you in college. In a way, it’s true. The adjustment from small town high school to large public university for me was weird. Initiating friendships has never been easy for me and I’m incredibly shy about speaking up in class. I was told that my professors wouldn’t care if I came to class and my classmates wouldn’t care to get to know me, and that has some validity. But it’s also so very wrong. Some professors seriously care about your success! They teach university because they are good at and passionate about a certain subject and they want you to feel the same way. They invite you to office hours for a reason and I’ve gotten close to many professors this way. An Italian professor made espresso for us once, a history professor had us over for a pizza party, and another has given out extra credit in the form of playdough to my class. And as far as your classmates… Get to know them. Just say hi! I’ve made several friends in class and it’s comforting to be able to text or Facebook message them if I need help with homework or studying. So don’t be discouraged; people really do care. You just have to find the ones that do.

2. You’ve probably also heard the freshman 15 is real. And it is. It also comes in forms of the freshman 5, the freshman 10 (me), and the freshman 30. You’ve been given advice to take advantage of the gym and eat healthy. That’s good advice, really, but it’s also really easy to get discouraged when you fail at this. And it’s highly likely that you will. You have so much new responsibility in college that sometimes your health doesn’t come first. I’ve been working on it for 3 years. So don’t beat yourself up. Try to be healthy, but be okay if it doesn’t come naturally or quickly. Also try it with friends and find stuff you enjoy! Running around campus in the fall, playing sand volleyball, and going to yoga at the gym are some of my favorites. It’s way easier to motivate myself when I don’t hate every second of working out. Finally (and this is important) college and work and transitioning can be so stressful. You deserve to eat cookies sometimes.

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3. I’m positive you’ve been told not procrastinate. Also something that won’t come naturally. Honestly, now that I’m entering my final year, I’m just gonna tell you something. I don’t regret procrastinating. And I do. A lot. Maybe I don’t have a 4.0, but I’m still on the Dean’s List so something must be okay. It’s different for everyone, so you have to figure out how much procrastination you can get away with, but don’t try to avoid it altogether. It’s just not that easy to avoid. Because sometimes going to your friend’s 21st birthday celebration means pushing your paper back a little bit. Sometimes watching a game in the lobby of your dorms means pushing back on studying for tomorrow’s final. I don’t regret not studying an extra hour for that test. I don’t regret only putting 95% into my paper rather than 100%. I regret missing concerts near campus, dinners with friends, sporting events, events my RA hosted. I regret missing the fun stuff about being a student. Just find a good balance between work and play.

4. Also don’t skip class because it will hurt you and will become a habit. Just kidding. I’ve skipped class… maybe a lot. Still alive. So here’s my advice about that. It could become a habit. And sometimes you might miss something important. But it isn’t the end of the world. Going to every class, hating life and being burnt out is way more likely to hurt you than skipping one lecture to get some extra rest. This past semester I had a three day migraine. Going to class would’ve been absolutely useless, so I just didn’t go. I emailed the professors in my small classes and they were very understanding. I also slept through a midterm, so I just dropped the class rather than trying to work my way back up from that. I’m taking a full load senior year, but I don’t regret any of it. I’m not telling you this so you’ll be a slacker. After all, I came into freshmen year thinking I’d be an A+ student with perfect attendance like I was in high school. But that’s just not realistic for most people, so relax. Skipping a few classes probably won’t hurt you. (Just look at your class syllabus and check the attendance policy. It’s easy to figure out how much you can get away with.)

5. Speaking of getting away with things, I read on one of these articles to do every assigned class reading. You will die, man, so don’t even attempt. In a regular 15 hour semester as a liberal arts major, I would say my assigned readings average 200-400 pages per night? It does depend on your class schedule, but my experience is that my classes are all reading and not a lot of actual homework besides large papers. Learn which readings you have to actually do and which ones you can skip or just skim over. Seriously. Remember how I talked about being burnt out? Trying to accomplish every assigned reading is one way to reach the burnt out phase very quickly. Side note: I’ve actually kept a few textbooks I never got to finish reading because they’re interesting. I plan on reading them when classes aren’t in session just for the joy of learning. As another side note, always do your homework. Don’t skip your actual homework.

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6. You’ve also been told classes are hard. And they are. But some classes aren’t. I took a music theory class one semester because I’m already good at that and I knew I’d make an easy A. I took it for fun and that was a great semester for me. So find a few easier classes to go along with your difficult ones. It’s all about balance. And don’t worry. Even though classes are hard, they aren’t impossible. You can do it.

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7. Finally, because this is so long and you may not even be reading at this point, you’ve been told to do everything you possibly can because these are the best four years of your life. I signed up for like 15 clubs my first year. I’m not involved with any of them now. I’ve found my niche now and a handful of organizations that I’m passionate about. I’ve found my favorite restaurants and favorite places to hang out, study, and eat on campus. I’ve found my favorite campus jogging spots and my favorite sports. I found a neat internship for a semester. You’ll find things you love too, and you’ll likely meet your best friends doing them. So you probably won’t be able to do everything; but you’ll be able to do great things. Do them well. I’m confident, too, that although these will be a great four years, they won’t be the best. I don’t know about you, but I’m planning on taking on the adventures the world has to offer after I graduate. Don’t try to fit all of your fun into four years. You have an entire life ahead of you.

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In conclusion, all the things I’ve bolded are decent words of advice. They seriously are. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll happen. College is fun and learning should be fun. Once I started relaxing and actually enjoying myself at school, my grades actually improved and I didn’t mind going to class so much. College will test your beliefs, your stamina, and your mental stability. College will challenge you in so many ways. College will also teach you so many valuable things, and it’s a beautiful four years. Enjoy them while you’re here. Allow it to prepare you for a beautiful future. And good luck with your first year. You got this.

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