What I Wish I Knew: A Former Student’s Advice to Incoming College Freshmen

Metro Parent's 2020 winter intern offers her advice to incoming college freshmen on making the most of the experience and what she wish she knew before her college years.

College is the time for self-discovery and reinvention, or at least that’s what they tell you in the movies. A lot of experiences don’t measure up to the ideas in your mind, but that doesn’t mean they’re not special or good or important. To be fair, my college experience definitely involved a lot of growth and change. But I think at the heart of it all, I mostly remained the same.

In high school I had this strange perception that the higher the degree you held, the more seriously you’d be taken. And depending on your major or career goals, this is true. But being a bit more realistic with yourself can be a huge time and money saver.

This goes hand in hand with not setting your plans in stone. In high school you might not realize what the world really looks like and once you see it for yourself, your goals might change.

There’s no harm in switching your major or minor but it’s best to try to do it as early as you can. The first year or so, depending on your schedule, is filled with General Education courses. This is the perfect time to sort out your priorities if you find yourself at a crossroads with what you want to do. But don’t let these courses slip away from you. They still count towards your GPA even if it might not feel like it.

And GPA does matter to the point of maintaining scholarships and not overly disappointing a future employer. But anywhere in the middle of that is a pretty good place to be.

Juggling an unsure academic career and social life can seem daunting, but I think the most important college takeaway is to learn from your classes. Maybe I’m a malfunctioning academic, but in my early years of university (and a lot of high school) I studied really hard to the point of forgetting. Cramming such a large amount of information in such a short amount of time truly leads to short-term memory loss. And for classes involving your major and future career, I think taking your time and really engaging with the material, as well as your professors and classmates, is the best thing you can do for your future self.

Clubs and free events are an immediate push towards meeting new people or even traveling. A lot of clubs get money from the school to travel, which can put you in a cool position of being able to explore the world with little to no cost. And they can also set you up to meeting a group of peers with similar interests.

But beyond that, the more people who know you exist, the better. People are nice if you are nice. A simple hello in the hallways or one really good conversation with the right person can turn into a job recommendation or just a really good friend down the road. Friends can be your greatest assets if you let them be.

College is as great and wonderful of an experience as you let it be. Make friends, meet people, join clubs. Take everything you can from these years because they’re the last controlled environment you’ll ever be in. College is tailored towards the students and it’s the students’ main job to take advantage. Just know you’ll only be better for it. 

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