1. Drop Pre-Med.
Sure it feels awesome to tell your parents so they can brag to the rest of the family that you are “studying Biochemistry… Yeh, we are going to have our first doctor in the family.” You know what’s even better? Choosing a major that actually applies to your interests in life and does not bore the absolute shit out of you. After one semester of hardcore study sessions and stress breakouts, I switched my major to Business and I could not be happier. Second semester my grades were better, my workload was lighter, and my stress was down. My newly found major is no walk in the park, however I truly enjoy learning the material and have a social life now. Work with your passions, not against them.
2. The first two weeks are crucial.
Everyone will be susceptible to making new friends. Take advantage of this because it will not last long. Sit with new people at lunch, talk to cute boys (or girls), and meet friends from all over the world! Everyone is in a new environment and going through the same transition that you are. It’s exciting yet nerve-racking! Regardless if you stay best friends with your first colleagues or not, they will always be a comforting face and a nice “hello!” as you speed walk to class that started 2 minutes ago.
3. Get involved.
Intramural sports, leadership, Greek life, clubs, community service, study groups, organizations, underwater basket weaving, ANYTHING. You came to a University for something different. Making friends in classes is not that easy, but joining a club with like-minded people is one of the easiest ways to make friends (other than living in the dorms). Extracurricular activities will give you a purpose and will make your experience engaging. By the end of the year your best friends are going to be the people you live with and the people in your clubs and organizations. Dedicate yourself to something, anything. Try new things! I rushed a sorority my first semester and the girls were awesome, but it was totally not for me, and that is ok! However, I made a ton of friends from that participation and I found another organization that I took a leadership role in and fell in love with. Getting involved will make your college experience; never let a day pass you by.
4. Time Management.
Stop procrastinating, make a weekly To-Do list, and get your shit done. In the beginning of the year, take every syllabus you own and enter each assignment, test, and quiz into a digital and/or physical planner. Do this NOW and you will thank me later. Trust me, you have time for what ever it is you want to do. I had a job, 16 credit hours, actively involved in several clubs and organizations, did well academically, and still hung out with my friends. I was able to do this because I managed my time and did not procrastinate, often. You are paying thousands upon thousands of dollars to get this incredible education and experience, so make it significant. You can binge-watch Netflix the entire Winter Break, I promise all seven seasons of Breaking Bad will still be there.
5. The Freshman Fifteen is very real.
Weight does not treat everyone the same. Some people will lose 15 pounds others will definitely gain it. Make body peace with yourself and be happy in the skin you have.
There is a stigma that assumes college students live off Top Ramen, except I have yet to eat a single bowl. In fact, there was never a day I went without a meal, maybe that was my problem… Regardless, get a meal plan with the University and you will never have to worry about what or where to eat next. It is convenient and believe it or not, behind the mounds of pizza, there are healthy options, choose them every once in awhile.
Another cause to weight gain is alcohol. Alcohol gets converted into acetate meaning your body will stop burning fat. On the weekends most people will be wearing beer goggles, which will hide your newly found beer belly, until Monday comes. Stop hitting the [beer] bong and start hitting the gym.
6. Utilize “Rate my Professor”.
Read the reviews of each and every one of your professors before you sign up for a course. If 99 people say a teacher will make your life a living hell maybe you should keep looking. My Economics Professor was “really great” according to the website, so I took the course. He probably was “really great” back in 2006 when the reviews were originally written, but now he is an old, sad man that talks very slow and is absolutely horrible at teaching. Lesson to be learned: make sure the reviews you are reading are current, credible, and applicable to the same course level that you would be taking. He did have an awesome curve in the end though.
7. Look up.
Stop living behind your phone. One of the stupidest things I did my freshman year was record an entire concert. No iPhone concert footage is watchable, it is shitty quality and all you can hear is screaming girls. Put your phone down and live in the moment. I can re-watch the entire concert on YouTube because someone with a decent camera captured it. Technology is a beautiful, yet destructive thing- try to find a balance.
8. Office Hours are there for a reason, go to them.
Universities require professors to hold office hours, even though nobody ever shows up unless they are failing or a test is coming up. I urge you to stop by when you have a question on homework, then nonchalantly get off track and talk with your professor. The outcome could be life changing. I have gotten free lunches, endless connections (including jobs, clubs, and leadership opportunities), and yes even a B+ changed to an A- despite the syllabus stating several times that “there will be absolutely no changes to final grades, even by one point.” Do not be ‘just another face in the crowd’ in a 300 people lecture hall. Your professors can serve as great tools and mentors; it is worth talking to them.
9. The only shots you’ll regret are the ones you didn’t take.
Unfortunately, I think that quote only applies to basketball. You probably won’t make it out of your freshman year sober and if you do, congratulations, nobody cares. At the end of the day, it is your choice whether you drink or not. Yes, you can go to a party and still have fun without drinking anything. Tip: Pour water in a red solo cup boom you have vodka. In fact, try being the sober friend every now and again to make sure your drunken friends all get home safety or have a DD. Either way, a big part of college is going out. It’s fun and exciting, but make sure you are with someone you trust and knows how to get you home safe. Nights are much better when you can remember them.
10. Live in the Dorms.
This is your chance to move out, gain independence, and experience life away from your family for the first time. Sure, it can be intimidating and scary, but once you leave you will wonder how you could ever go back. “And you will hate the things you’ve lost, but love the things you’ve found”. I had my best friends, study groups, fitness center, and dining hall in my residential hall. Living on campus will give you all the tools you need to be successful socially and academically.
11. Oh, Roommates.
I could write a whole article on this topic alone. Your roommate can become your best friend if you learn to compromise. For the last 18 years you both grew up in two very different backgrounds, living situations, and habits and are now forced to live in a cramped 12×12 together. Keep that in mind and be the person you’d want to live with. Be respectful and make a cleaning schedule with your suitemates, also clean your damn hair out of the shower drain. At the end of the day, your roomies are going to be there to listen to you vent, gossip with and about, and share a bond that you do not get with many people.
Keep a Journal and write often. A journal gives you a place to vent, reflect, laugh, cry, doodle, anything you want. There are no rules, it is for your eyes only and allows you to see how much you have grown as a person over the years. I started a new journal specifically for my freshman year of college. It is crazy to look back and see how my goals, friends, and thoughts changed over the course of a single year.
13. Learn to say no.
This was one of my biggest problems in both high school and college and it is learning to say no to overfilling your plate. If you already have important plans this Thursday at 6, DO NOT fill your schedule again for Thursday at 5:30 thinking you will make it to both events. It is ok to say no. This is one of the hardest lessons to learn, especially if you are extremely involved and love to do everything. Sometimes you have to say no to keep your sanity.
14. You will fail.
College amplifies the material, course load, and rigor. Hopefully you will understand this quickly and make the necessary adjustments (try studying) because you will fail. The first college math test I ever took was Calculus. I did not study because why would I? I never studied in high school and always did fine. I got my test back with a big, fat wake up call. Failed. Me? I-faaahhh-ailed? Yes. You failed. You did not put in the time, work, and effort necessary thus you failed. And you know what? Sometimes you will put in the time, work, and effort and still fail and it will suck. Go to office hours (see #8), pick yourself up, and work harder. My failures taught me far more than my successes ever did.
15. Embrace every moment.
Everyone says high school flies, but it seems like every year goes by faster and faster. Enjoy your time in college; everything is so fresh and new, exciting and engaging, weird and overwhelming. I learned to enjoy each moment, even the bad ones. From heartbreaks to bad test scores and missing your pets and parents- feel every emotion and embrace it. It is perfectly ok to not be ok because everything is alright in the end and if it’s not all right, it’s not the end.