Tips for a College Freshman from a College Senior

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Over the past three years, I’ve worked and maintained presidency with a club on my college campus called the Learning Community Liaisons. We are upperclassmen that volunteer two to four hours a week to mentoring, educating, listening, and advising college freshmen on a peer to peer level. We listen to their questions, direct them where they need to go, and advise them based on our experiences in college. So I have a couple tips that I’ve arranged based on the stories and experiences I’ve had throughout those past three years.

  1. Do your research.
    Over the past three years, I’ve seen so many friends drop out of college, or “skip a semester” because they rushed into their college choice. Before I put the final nail in the coffin, I did a ton of research on college degrees, schools, activities, and costs that would be most beneficial to me. I ultimately decided that it would be smart for me to stay local, attend my local university and save oodles of cash living at home. Don’t forget — not only do you have to pay for tuition and books, but if you go away to college you have to, and I mean HAVE TO, purchase a meal plan (>$1,000), room and board charges, new furniture/bedding, etc. And that doesn’t include any of your money for going out, ordering takeout, buying school supplies or shopping. If your parents were grand enough to set you up with a prepaid college plan, or can pay your way for you, EMBRACE IT. Not all parents do, as I can speak from experience. So do your research. A degree is a degree no matter where you go. “It’s not what college you attend, but how hard you work once you get there.”- An employee at my current job told me this.
  2. Take advantage of those easy freshmen classes.
    Let me paint the picture: You walk into your first college class. It’s World Geography. There are 350 other kids in the class and you’re beyond nervous. You sit down at a desk in the middle of the room, close enough to the front to seem like a studious kid and far enough back to not seem like professors’ pet. Your professor hands out the syllabus. She does not take attendance, and there are only two mandatory days you absolutely have to show up: midterm and final. You have the book, you have the page numbers you need to read before the midterm… so you’re set! You rejoice! “So I don’t have to be here?! I’m going to get me some mexican food!” End scene. I’ve seen it happen way too many times, and to myself as well. No one is forcing you to be in class like in high school, so now that no one cares, you skip classes to sleep in, go to lunch with friends, or solely because you don’t want to. Which is why college isn’t high school. No one is forcing you to be there. But look at it this way: You wouldn’t pay money to see a movie and then turn around and head home instead of going into the theater, hoping that you’ll know what the movie is about when your friends talk about it. GO TO CLASS. Those first year of classes are easy and free A’s! You’ll be kicking yourself if you skid passed with B-‘s and immediately start your GPA with a 3.0. GO TO CLASS. Take the classes seriously! You’ll want to hug your freshman self four years from then.
  3. Don’t try to emulate the movies. 
    It’s fun to have fun, to put it simply. The movies show us all young, free, adventurous and wild. But there’s a reason it’s a movie. It’s an ideal. 18-year-olds go to college, somehow pass while getting drunk every night, and end up graduating. But please, that’s all pretend. Don’t waste four precious years with “just having fun.” T.V. and movies depict college to be this nonstop party: college girls magically drinking as much as the guys, frat houses exploding with girls in skirts up to their bottoms and underage drinking is never addressed. They hardly ever show students actually in class. It’s four years to buckle down, get good grades, join clubs that will pull you forward in life after you graduate. Not just for quick friends and an invite to formal. It drives me bananas when people say “Be wild! Be crazy! It’s college!” Yeah, and when I’m crying myself to sleep still living in my parents basement back home knowing I get to work at the local fastfood chain in the morning, I’ll sure be happy I drank that fifth beer! Wrong. When you graduate, you’ll be 22. You’ll still be young! But the difference is you’ll be established and hopefully have the money to party. Unless you’re really set on getting drunk off of your parent’s money, then go right ahead.
    *Disclaimer: That was more of a rant and for that I apologize.
  4. Be different. 
    Time and time again we’ve heard that. Be unique, be different, don’t follow the crowd, be a leader. But it’s true. If you’re an employer with a stack of resumes from recent grads from the same university with the same degree, who do you pick for the job? The 20 people who all were a part of Greek Life and might have held positions there, or the one person who had multiple outside internships, was accepted into an honor society, all while gaining volunteer hours, working part time as a waitress and clearly displaying that they can juggle a tough workload. It’s about separating yourself from the rest. Why would I choose you if I was an employer? I don’t know you. All you are to me is a piece of paper. So let that resume speak for itself. Join different things. Something that will make the employer say “Wow! That sounds interesting. I’ve never heard of that before. I’d like to learn more about him/her.”

College is all about getting a job in the end. Like I said, when you graduate you’ll only be 22. Super young and ready to party. The only difference is that you’ll be experienced and hopefully have a full-time job. So live it up…. in the classroom. You’ll be happy you did.

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