Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Blast from the Past: The Freshman Fifteen

Tomorrow I head back to my alma mater with some of the girls from my tutoring program. We'll be sitting in on a few classes with some of my old professors to give them a feel for a college classroom setting, and I kind of can't wait.

So in honor of this trip, here are fifteen lessons I learned my freshman year and hope to pass on to the next generation:
  1. Try new things. I had always wanted to work on the school paper, but it never worked out in high school, so I joined the staff my freshman year. This eventually lead to a full scholarship and a career path.
  2. You don't have to do what you're best at, just do your best. Don't think that just because you're good at something means you have to make that your future. I was good at math and science in high school, but I never really loved it. So instead I became an English major. Best. Decision. Ever.
  3. Collect friends. Make it a priority to meet people and then make them your friends. I met some of my best friends my freshman year, and we've stayed more than just Facebook friends.
  4. Dare to be different. It's good to have different opinions, interests and styles. You'll learn more, experience more and discuss more. Just make sure you respect the differences in others.
  5. Reach outside your comfort zone. My first university was smaller than my graduating class, and I still remember that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when tumbleweed went rolling across the road when I drove up to my apartment after transferring. I might not have liked living in such small towns, but at least I now know I'm a city girl through and through.
  6. Stay in the dorms and then get an apartment. People either love the dorms or hate the dorms, but give it at least a semester. While every school housing department if different, the dorms offer a certain security and support system you won't find while living on your own. But for heaven's sake, learn how to live on your own. After all, who wants to spend four years cooking on a hotplate and using a communal shower?
  7. You don't have to chose your roommate to love your roommate. Everyone has good in them, including the roommate who sings in the shower at 5 a.m. or the other one who's now dating your ex-boyfriend or the other one who won't shut up about her daddy's high-powered job. I learned to love each one of those girls--along with a few others--and I'm glad they're my friends.
  8. Surround yourself with people who are better than you. Have friends who are smarter, faster, kinder than you. While competition can be good, be happy for other people's successes because chances are you'll be able to learn something from them. And somewhere down the road, they'll learn just as much from you.
  9. Get involved. Learn about the community you're living in, get to know the the school administration, join as many clubs as you can handle, take advantage of internship offers. This will give you an opportunity to learn how the world works outside academia.
  10. Remember why you picked your school. There was a reason you applied to that school in the first place, and even if you change your major or go through a really bad breakup with a guy down the hall, you can still look for greatness in your college experience. Be proud to be a Viking or a Cougar or a Knight.
  11. Know when to study, and know when to put the books away. Get good grades and learn everything you can by spending time in the library and attending all your classes. Yet there's a lot to be learned outside the books, and after you have your diploma, not many people are going to care whether you had a 3.8 or 2.8 GPA. Be aware of academic requirements for scholarships and student employment, but don't get so stressed about good grades that you miss out on everything else.
  12. Just say "YES!" This is not an excuse to be foolish, but when someone asks for your help, asks you on a date, asks you to join their study group, asks to sit with you at lunch, don't turn them down. The more you say "yes," the better experiences you'll be asked to be a part of in the future.
  13. Stay out of debt. I remember the exact day I wasn't able to pay off my credit card in full for the first time. Even if it means going to your second-choice school or contradicting #12, live within your means so you don't spend the next 20 years wishing you had a better credit score.
  14. Be happy with the choices you make. There will be moments you regret leaving home, taking a class, attending a party. (I still can't believe I wasted two years as a poli-sci minor, and I sometimes wish the internet didn't exist so I wouldn't have to relive some of my more embarrassing moments.) But even our mistakes and the bad things that happen to us lead us to become more today than we were yesterday.
  15. Avoid the cafeteria. The Freshman Fifteen is no urban legend, so don't bother with a meal plan and take the time to make your own food. Better yet, cook with your roommates and take advantage of the free student fitness center. I've spent a lot of time, money and mental health trying to undo the damage done my freshman year.

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