Before I start writing to you I want to give you a disclaimer. I’m a COVID college kid meaning that I did not get the full college experience. In March of 2020 as a freshman in college, I would be sent home. I would not come back to USC until I was a junior. I think that made me appreciate my university experience even more. I learned how to smile a little more when doing simple things like waiting in line to get food at my favorite coffee shop, appreciated how difficult my time as a student leader was because at least I got to do it in person, I became grateful for hours spent in a physical classroom, and savored my nights out so. So here we go.
Dear College Freshman,
First of all, congratulations, getting into college is no easy feat. The first thing you should know is that you may think you know everything you don’t, not even close. You’re going to graduate realizing you know even less at 22 than you thought you did at 18. And that’s completely okay. Trust me these four years are going to go by fast, way too fast. But here are my best tips and tricks for making the most out of these four years.
Dip your toes into everything
Think you might be interested in Model UN or the debate team? Show up to a meeting. Talk to every club you are even remotely interested in at your school’s version of a club fair. Even if it's not the right fit you won’t know if you don’t try. Unfortunately, there are not enough hours in the day to do everything you are interested in during college, but you might as well try.
2. Time management is key
College is probably the first time you do not have your entire day structured for you. There are no formal class periods and no one is forcing you to attend class. You need to learn how to manage your time wisely. I highly recommend that you start using Google Calendar or a physical calendar - the reminders app will also become your best friend. However do not just schedule classes or academic events, make sure to schedule the fun stuff too.
Do your readings
A lot of people think because there do not tend to be daily assignments in college like there were in high school that it is okay to not do their weekly readings. But I am telling you right now this will be your undoing if you do your readings every week and take notes (which I highly recommend) this will help you ace your exams and you will be way more prepared for them than the people who did not do the readings. You do not want to be doing hundreds of pages of readings days before the exam.
Go to events on campus
Is there a speaker on campus? Go see them! Most major universities have so many amazing opportunities, speakers, and events. You will never get the wealth of knowledge anywhere else than you get at a university. Use your tuition wisely and go to as much as you can. Learning extends way further than the classroom.
Become friends with your professors
Be the student who goes above and beyond with your professor, especially if they are in a field that you are interested in. These are the people who will write you letters of recommendation when you are applying to internships, scholarships, jobs, or graduate school. Beyond this having a strong relationship with them allows you not only more knowledge from them but opportunities such as connections they may have within your industry.
Work Hard, But Learn to Roll With the Punches
It sounds really simple, but many people get clouded by the amount of freedom they have. Make sure not to lose sight of your goals and aspirations. Always have some clear goals and make sure that you are working towards them. These are your formative years, but they are also the years you are allowed to mess up. Be adaptable, not everything is going to go to plan a lot of things are not going to go to plan. But as long as you have a clear goal, everything will work out in the end.
Make the most out of these four years by having fun
Firstly, be strategic about having fun. You cannot excel academically in college and go out every night. However, with that being said you also should not be in the library every night. Start building the foundation for the career you want. However as one of my friends once said you won’t remember the biology exam you did poorly on, nor will you remember that group project. Your best college memories will be watching Clueless with your best friends, the night when you went to midnight breakfast at the dining hall, or when you went to Latin dance night at that club in the city. These will be some of the best memories of your life. You will never be as young as you are now so act like it.
Dance like no one is watching
I mean it. When you are super stressed take two minutes to have a mini dance party. Dance down the streets of your campus. Dance your heart out at the local college bar. Dance with your roommate before going out, during your finals study sessions. A little dance party always makes everything better.
Love those around you
The hardest part of transitioning to college is finding your people. But trust me once you find them you will never want to graduate. The most important part of life is our relationships. Love people, love them fearlessly, and make time for them they are what will be the heart of your college experience.
I hope these tips were helpful. My biggest advice is to stay true to yourself and don’t compare yourself. It can be easy to get lost in the noise but realize that you are here for a reason. Go out because you want to, join that new club because you want to. Do not do things just because people are telling you to. I used to always think people were exaggerating when they said that four years flew before your eyes. They aren't. So make sure you make the most out of them. Because the next thing you know you will be at your commencement ceremony wondering how time passed so quickly. You got this. I am sending you a whole lot of love and wisdom.