Dear College Freshmen 2.0
Updated: Mar 15, 2019
The summer after my freshman year, I wrote an article called Dear College Freshmen that was full of useful information. While the content was valuable, I’ve grown in years and in wisdom (at least I’d like to think so). I've gained more knowledge to share with incoming students who are eager to start their college careers. It may be unwarranted advice, but it is advice nonetheless. If you can spare a few moments to keep reading, you may find it worth your while. This is an open letter from a college graduate.
1. Enjoy your time in school. Don’t wish it away.
I never thought I would be envious of all my friends who were going back to school, but here I am with a nasty green monster on my shoulder. As a senior, I literally counted down the days until I was free, but now I keep finding myself reminiscing about all the fun activities that came with the start of a new school year. I even missed going to class! How crazy is that?
2. Your studies matter. A lot.
Your sole purpose while being in college is to get an education. Do not let clubs, friends, your job, or other fleeting things become more important than your education.
3. It’s easy to lose yourself.
It’s no secret that college is tough. During your first semester, take the time to write down your values and refer back to that list regularly. Assess your actions just as often and ask yourself, “Have I been honoring these values?” It’s so easy to get caught up in the partying and social clubs, or even in your academics, so take the time to contemplate if you’re living a life that aligns with your beliefs.
4. Get a job.
I don’t care if you have every bill paid for and a zero balance for tuition, get a part-time job. It allows you to learn the value of hard work, how to juggle multiple responsibilities, gives you professional experience (to put on a resume!!!), and it gives you some spending (and saving) money.
5. Learn how to cook (eventually).
This doesn’t have to be a day-one lesson, but make an effort to learn how to cook when you finally get a usable kitchen. You don’t want to become a proud college graduate and still be eating Ramen noodles and mac-n-cheese every night.
6. You are worth more than the likes you get on Instagram.
I hope this statement hit home immediately for you. We’ve entered an era where people determine their value based on their social media presence. It’s so easy to put on a facade--to make it look like everything is great in our lives--when that’s not the truth. We’ll do outrageous things for a pic and portray ourselves in an inauthentic way simply because it makes us get more likes. Tell me--did you really post beach butt pictures before the fad came along? Probably not.
7. Look for new adventures.
This will look different for every person. It might be jumping off a 100 foot tower on a zip line or maybe it’s cutting your hair short. It could be exploring new surroundings or picking up a hobby. Whatever it is, just find an adventure and explore it.
8. Don’t get a pet unless you absolutely 100% can handle it and devote enough time to it.
It kills me that I have to even mention this, but the sad reality is that there are college students who are getting pets that they do not have the time or resources for. Instead of the owners spending time training and loving on them, these animals are left all alone, many in crates, while students spend their days in class and their nights at the library or out with friends. Having a pet is a great way to learn responsibility, but not at the pet’s expense.
9. Get involved, but don’t let your organization steal your identity.
This is something I really struggled with. I loved my Greek organization, as well as the other organizations I was involved with, but I let it define me as a person. When you find your identity in futile and fickle things like clubs, you will be left feeling unsatisfied and empty.
10. There will always be an in-crowd...and most of us will never be in it.
You thought cliques were only in high school, right? Wrong. Somehow there are still popular kids on college campuses, but it’s important to realize that you don’t need a seemingly higher social status to be valued. Do your own thing and don’t worry about them.
11. Pursue leadership roles.
Having a leadership role is an incredible (and likely stressful) experience. You learn so much in such a short amount of time and it sticks with you. These are skills that you can put on a resume so you can get a job after graduation. You also learn a lot about yourself along the way.
12. Use your summers wisely.
Man, did I make this mistake. You’re not a child anymore, so don’t spend your summers acting like one. Get a summer internship, even if it’s only a few hours every week. That experience can be the difference between months of job searching and getting hired right out of college. Use that time to better yourself, NOT just to goof off.
13. Eliminate the negative.
You’re going to meet a lot of people in college. Don’t feel obligated to be every person’s best friend. If someone is a force of negativity in your life, kill them with kindness, but don’t keep them around. Life is too short and you can make new friends.
14. Look at the big picture.
Will it matter in 10 years that Becky put her little’s picture on the recruitment board instead of yours? Nah. That probably wouldn’t matter a week after it’s all said and done, but hey--what do I know? The point is to not dwell on insignificant trials. It won’t matter in the long run if you missed that incredible welcome week event, but it will matter if you skip too many classes and fail out of college.
15. You don’t need a relationship.
Sometimes, it can feel like we constantly have our “dating radar” on, continuously searching for that person who we think will solve all of our problems and make us happy. Let me tell you a secret. Very few college students are mature enough to handle a serious, adult relationship. You’re going through so many changes right now: moving away from home, starting university, meeting slews of new people, joining new organizations, among other things. You change so much while in college, so take the time to get to know yourself and what you want in life before you bring another person into the picture. Turn that radar off and let life happen. If you’re meant to meet that special someone in college, it’ll happen.
16. Don’t let the crowd think for you.
We often undervalue the incredible gift of critical thinking by just going along with what other people are saying. Think things through. Think about the consequences of your actions. Think about who is affected by your decisions. Just THINK and use your brain. You’ll quickly start to recognize that not everything that other people are doing is for your good. Be smart and look at the whole picture.
17. Put the damn phone down.
Oh my goodness, this one drives me absolutely insane. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a social function where people spend more time on their phones than they do talking to other people. Want to be present? Take your pictures, then put the phone down. You can post them later. If you’re hanging out with a group of friends or at dinner, focus on the meaningful conversation in front of you instead of putting your whole hangout sesh on Snapchat. Unplugging is a freeing experience; just give it a try.
18. Be slow to speak and quick to listen.
This one is easier said than done, and it’s not an overnight change. It’s small continuous acts of shutting your mouth and giving another person the podium to make their peace. It’s thinking through what you want to say and analyzing the implications before just unleashing the floodgates of your brain on another person (or the internet). This is likely something I will have to work on until the day I die, but I will continue to try to be better than the person I was the day before.
19. Lose the “us” and “them” mentality.
There is so much hate in the world because of this mentality. It doesn’t matter what school they went to, what Greek org they joined, if they’re gay or straight, Christian or atheist, black, white, yellow, or purple, WHATEVER. They’re people, just like you and me. That golden rule goes a long way and the sooner we start to treat people the way we want to be treated, the sooner we will start to see a positive change in our world. Be better and more tolerant of diversity than those who came before you. It will change your life.
College is hard enough as it is, so don’t make it harder than it needs to be. Take some advice from an old, washed-up grad because this is all stuff I had to learn the hard way.
Was this helpful or did I miss something? Let me know in the comments below!