From interviews with seniors at my college.
Go out, get drunk, hook up…but make sure that’s never the most interesting thing about you.
Do not ever underestimate your talent. On two different occasions, I came out of two professors’ office hours crying because both of them couldn’t believe my GPA was as low as it was. One was an English professor and the other was a journalism professor, and I was doing really well in both their classes. I will never forget the look of wild confusion on each of their faces when I shared with them the one detail that could prevent me from studying abroad. Both professors praised my work so highly and told me I was capable of so much more than the grades I was receiving. I walked out crying because, for the first time in my life, I believed them.
Remember that you’re not in high school anymore and that nobody cares what you were like in high school. It’s ok to take good memories from high school with you to college, but make sure not to get caught up in them. You’re going to want to make all new friends and have all new experiences in college and if you stay too attached to your high school experience, you won’t be open to everything that high school has to offer. Don’t focus on what made you, you in high school. Figure out what your mark in college is going to be—and figure out with whom you’re going to make it.
Freshman year is a huge transition period, and I wish I had understood that and handled it with more grace. Feel your feelings and know that it will be easier one day, once you’ve found the right people.
College is, for most of us, the first time we all truly venture out on our own and begin the work of deciding who we will become. It is a beautiful time of discovery and one that you wont get to repeat. So if I may, can I ask one thing of you? Your grades are important, and parties are fun, but make sure you take some time for yourself once in a while, away from it all. Even if it’s for 10 or 15 minutes, once a week, find a place where you can sit and be still, without a care or worry on your mind. For me, it has made all the difference.
Don’t feel like you need to be best friends with the people in your hall because of your proximity. Be selective about those who get to spend time with you.
For the love of God…FOR THE LOVE OF YOURSELF…don’t ever, ever let yourself become someone’s side bitch. You are main bitch material, dammit! It’s been three and a half years, and I am still grappling with that concept. Please, please know that you don’t deserve to be waiting around for his (or her) text messages, and you shouldn’t be watching him text his ex-girlfriend while both of you are on a date. When he asks, “where is your self-respect?” after waking up next to you and then hooking up with your good friend that night, make sure to first, punch him square in the face, and to second, get him the fuck out of your life. Stop waiting around for all those losers to see how fucking awesome you are, and make time for the ones that knew it the moment they met you.
Get out there, join a club, and join the community. I know alcohol and the bar scene is new and exciting, but be safe and try not to be too stupid. I made too many mistakes like that as an 18 year old. It’s not fun to be remembered as the girl who made out with 12 people in two hours.
Everyone is probably telling you right now that these will be the happiest four years of your life. What they probably aren’t telling you is that these will also be some of the worst years of your life. In college you will feel on top of the world and utterly defeated (sometimes in the same day). So just try to remember that you’re not doing anything wrong if you’re having a hard time. And before you jump to any conclusions about how much happier everyone else is, and how much more fun they’re having than you, go sit down and talk to a friend. You’d be surprised by how many people feel lost and directionless at least some point in their college careers.
Try to learn something new, whether it’s about yourself or what you’re studying. School is still so much fun, and it’s the last time you’re going to get the chance. Learn the things you can’t learn outside a classroom, though those things can often be more important.
Please please please don’t be afraid to befriend seniors. Some of my most meaningful relationships of my freshman year, if not my entire college experience, were the ones I had with seniors when I was a freshman. I want nothing more than to give that kind of meaning to someone new. I want you to do well, and I want to pass on a legacy at this school through people like you. Also, you guys are precious, and you have a ton of cafeteria swipes. Upperclassmen friends are not hard to make if endless fries and Lucky Charms are involved. One of my meaningful friends who was a senior when I was a freshman told me just a few weeks ago that my personality hasn’t changed, just that I’ve learned to navigate the world better. And that’s all you need to learn. Enjoy these next four years, ’cause they zoom away a hundred times faster than you think they will. Mine did, and I wish that I was paying more attention to them.
My advice for freshmen is to trust their gut in all decisions they make. Do whatever YOU feel most comfortable with regardless of what your friends may think. Be friends with everyone and don’t stand for “groups” “your crew” “your girls” because in most cases that’s just a euphemism for a clique.
Boys suck. Accept defeat and eat another donut.
I think one of my favorite quotes does a pretty good job at summarizing the advice I would give: “For what it’s worth: it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Going to the cafeteria alone is not weird; it means you’re okay with yourself.
I won’t lie to you: College is going to turn your world upside down in both the best and worst ways possible. You will lose yourself, and you will find yourself again. You will most likely change your major, and your roommates will probably become your best friends. Inevitably, you will see more of them than you ever thought you’d want to (literally – my roommates frequently parade around my apartment in just t-shirts and underwear). But, they are also the people who will come to know you better than you know yourself and some days you are really going to need that. Never let the fear of failure inhibit you from doing what you know you actually want to do. As cliché as this is about to sound, be sure to revel in every bit of these next four years because it will go faster than you could ever imagine.
Remember, everyone and I mean EVERYONE has a story so before judging or assuming try to just listen. I still catch myself everyday guilty of this, assuming someone is crabby for no reason or being rude just to be rude– you’ll be amazed at the stories you hear when you let someone talk for five minutes.
Take yourself out of your comfort zone. Make yourself deliberately uncomfortable. It is an unparalleled character-building exercise, and you might be able to discern the things you want out of life as well as the things you don’t as a result.
You should know that change is both necessary and inevitable, so try to embrace it as best as you can. Growth is a beautiful, incredibly bittersweet process and there is (I’ve learned) nothing to fear from it. At the end of the day, that’s what you’re here for: to learn, to blossom, and to flourish into whoever it is you decide you’re going to be. Part of that process though, is making mistakes; so be kind to yourself, forgive yourself, and then, keep going. The only thing you’ll regret over these next four years are the things you didn’t do, so make sure you do everything you can; go out on weeknights, dress up for themed parties, attend as many of your university’s sporting events as you can, and always call home at least once a week. Do things you never gave yourself the liberty to do in high school, study abroad, revel in your newfound independence in whatever way you see fit, spend at least one summer on campus, and, perhaps most importantly, when you do finally find your voice – don’t ever be afraid to use it.
Participate in EVERYTHING, even if its not your thing you’ll probably find that if you participate you always have fun. Do not be that kid who is “too cool for school” because you will miss out.
A candle loses no light when lighting others. Build others up whenever you can, support those close to you and help whoever you can – you never know when the tables will turn!
I’m not sure I can think of any better advice than that given by Anna Quindlen in one of her commencement speeches. As a freshman I rolled my eyes at these words, I thought good grades, hard work, and sleep deprivation were the answer. For any freshman who feels the same, I ask you to consider Quindlen’s advice…
“There will be hundreds of people out there with your same degree; there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living. But you will be the only person alive who has sole custody of your life. Your particular life. Your entire life. Not just your life at a desk, or your life on a bus, or in a car, or at the computer. Not just the life of your minds, but the life of your heart. Not just your bank account, but your soul. People don’t talk about the soul very much anymore. It’s so much easier to write a resume than to craft a spirit. But a resume is a cold comfort on a winter night, or when you’re sad, or broke, or lonely, or when you’ve gotten back the test results and they’re not so good. So here is what I wanted to tell you today:
Get a life. A real life, not a manic pursuit of the next promotion, the bigger paycheck, the larger house. Do you think you’d care so very much about those things if you blew an aneurysm one afternoon, or found a lump in your breast? Get a life in which you notice the smell of salt water pushing itself on a breeze over Seaside Heights, a life in which you stop and watch how a red-tailed hawk circles over the water gap or the way a baby scowls with concentration when she tries to pick up a cheerio with her thumb and first finger. Get a life in which you are not alone. Find people you love, and who love you. And remember that love is not leisure, it is work. Each time you look at your diploma, remember that you are still a student, still learning how to best treasure your connection to others. Pick up the phone. Send an e-mail. Write a letter. Kiss your Mom. Hug your Dad. Get a life in which you are generous. Look around at the azaleas in the suburban neighborhood where you grew up; look at a full moon hanging silver in a black, black sky on a cold night. And realize that life is the best thing ever, and that you have no business taking it for granted. Care so deeply about its goodness that you want to spread it around. Once in a while take money you would have spent on beers and give it to charity. Work in a soup kitchen. Be a big brother or sister. All of you want to do well. But if you do not do good, too, then doing well will never be enough.”
image – CarbonNYC