Freshman Lessons: Things I’d Tell My First-Year College Self
Freshman lessons are often learned the hard way. That’s how it was for me and millions of other newbie college students around the globe since the history of man’s foray into higher education. Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20, but never foresight. That’s where listening to your elders comes in mighty handy. If you’re on the verge of entering college next fall semester, you could stand to benefit from those of us who didn’t get it right the first time — or at least, not as right as we would have liked. Here’s some advice, some from reddit and some from my own experience. Ignore at your own risk.
1. Don’t buy the textbook before class; wait until the professor tells you that you’ll need the book. Even then, look for an outdated edition. They’re often indistinguishable in content and much cheaper. (Me and reddit)
2. Score a high GPA in your first two years of college because that will, in turn, act as a shield against some of the harder courses when you get into your major. (Reddit)
3. Spend some time with your professor outside of class. Okay, here I don’t mean that you should invite him out for dinner and dancing, but I do mean that you should memorize those office hours and utilize them to the best of your abilities. When going to see the professor, however, keep these additional tips in mind: 1) Don’t waste his time with questions you can easily answer on your own. Google is your friend. 2) Only bring forward sincere issues. While some professors aren’t bright enough to catch it, some will see through the charade and your attempt at ingratiating yourself to them could actually blow up in your face. (Me)
4. “Meet people. It is so simple, especially in the first few days of classes. Something as simple as talking to the person right beside you, asking where they are from etc.” (Reddit)
5. “Step out of your comfort zone, even just a little. Don’t become a meth addict who joins a fight club or anything, but college is your chance to take some chances. Say hi to that cute girl in your psychology class. What’s the worst that can happen? It’s not high school. No one will care. … In the wise words of Bob Dylan, ‘If you got nothing, you got nothing to lose.'” (Reddit)
6. “If you find yourself having mental issues, do not feel embarrassed or ashamed. It happens to lots of people. Your college will have resources that you can go to. I went from a 4.0 one semester to a 0.46 GPA the next and was too embarrassed to get help. I dropped out of school and forgot my goal of going into medical school because I was to proud to ask for help. I eventually went back to school and was successful. (didn’t get into medical school though) But it would have been much better if I had sought help sooner.” (Reddit)
7. “A professor you really like can make a subject you weren’t interested in come alive. … A professor you really dislike can ruin a subject you previously liked. … So if you find one you like, take all the classes you can from them. Don’t just take classes whose titles you like.” (Reddit)
Addendum: I can attest that this one is true. In college, my favorite subjects were writing-related, so when I signed up for a Creative Writing II course, I was pretty stoked. Then I actually got to the class itself and saw how awful my professor was. It wasn’t that he ever criticized my stuff. He didn’t. But the people he would criticize, he wasn’t constructive at all. Just a mean-spirited jerk! He was also incredibly arrogant, but had a hilariously outdated fashion sense, like he was trying to be cool but was stuck on what cool was in 1978. While the experience didn’t kill my love of writing, it did result in me missing 12 of his classes throughout the semester.
8. “Your Professors are people too. Talk to them. And if you can, about things not always related to class. They’ll end up liking you and it could give you more opportunities in the future.” (Reddit)
9. “Leave your door open in your dorm, great way to meet me people when you’re just hanging out in the dorm. I went to a school where I didn’t know anybody, met some great people just by doing that. Also, don’t date freshmen year, you don’t want to be tied down and miss any potential opportunities because you have a girlfriend. Keep in mind their are many other students in your same situation. Man I miss college. Enjoy it have a blast.”
10. “Don’t blow all your money first semester. Way to many people (me included) spent the majority of their summer job money in first semester and come the end o the year were way strapped for cash. Budget wisely young padawan.” (Reddit)
11. This one is particularly relevant to some of the news stories going around about sex assaults on college campuses, from Reddit: “If you see a person, male or female, drunk or passed out at a party, get a friend and help remove them from the scene. … Always watch out for your fellow students. They’ll do the same. … Don’t be afraid to speak up. You might be a freshman, but it doesn’t mean you don’t have a voice.”
12. “Get involved. Newspaper, radio, student government, whatever. You’ll make friends and will have an easier time finding work when you graduate.” (Reddit)
13. “The main difference between High School and College for me was that in High School, teachers care about seeing you succeed, and will take the first step in reaching out to try to help you. In College, it’s the other way around. If you’re struggling, you need to make the first move and seed out your professor. More often than not they will do everything they can to help you if you take the initiative.” (Reddit)
14. “Get a job and work while you’re going to school. Seriously. When you go to apply for a job after getting your degree, you’re going to be up against a lot of people who have never held a job. … Plus, you’ll be making money!” (Reddit)
So how about it, readers? Any freshman lessons for those about to head off to school next fall? Sound off with your suggestions in the comments section below.