Five Things to do your Freshman Year of College
By Jen Abidor
Few experiences in a teenager’s life can compare to the start of her freshman year at college, nor should they. In many ways being a freshman (or first-year as they like to call it at many schools to be “politically correct”) is a fresh start, a way to reinvent yourself and meet brand new friends…friends that will hopefully be in your life well beyond commencement. Yes, college is a time to explore and freshman year can determine the path of the rest of your college career. Here are five things you’ll definitely want to do your first year:
Become friends with as many people as possible: Many people in college meet their core group of friends almost immediately… and stay with that group for their entire college careers. Yes, you will need close knit friendships. You’ll need people to confide in and people you can trust. But, not all of your friends need to be those people. In college it’s okay to compartmentalize your friends. Meet a girl who can’t keep her mouth shut but is tons of fun to party with? That’s okay. Meet a guy who is kind of a douche but he cracks you up? That’s okay. Branch out as much as possible, and it will make the campus feel more personal to you. If anything it’s always nice to have people to wave to when you’re walking around or a friendly face in class. Don’t worry if you lose ties with people along the way. It’s completely natural. You might find yourself wondering what’s the point of making so many friends if you’re never going to see them again beyond graduation. The point is that everyone you meet has something to offer you and will change your experience in some way, however slight.
Take diverse and interesting classes… but keep your mind on your plan: It’s important not to stress too much about requirements, majors and all that “fun” stuff during your freshman year. It’s true that you have time to think about it and change your mind… multiple times. But if you do, know your goals, then make sure you get a head start. Finishing your major early can have some serious benefits and can allow you to have a far less stressful senior year. Remember to explore, though. You never know which field of study might just end up being your future major.
Get active in clubs: Clubs are a great way to meet people, and the right club can give you a family on campus. Get involved early on, in things that you’re serious about and things that you’re just trying on for size. Don’t make the mistake that many freshmen make: getting discouraged. As a freshman you come straight from being a senior in high school where you ruled the school and probably held leadership positions in clubs. In college you’re back at square one. You need to pay your dues and start small, but the benefits will come sooner than you think. Before you know it, you’ll be running the clubs again and initiating fresh-faced freshmen.
Explore the surrounding area: If you go to a school in a suburb or even a city, take the time to explore. Check out the local theater or the local museums. Make it a point to try a new restaurant once a month. Visit parks, shopping areas and landmarks. You’ll only be in this town as a student for four years, and many places have student benefits or discounts. Freshman year is a great time to explore before life gets in the way. Even if it’s as simple as checking out a movie, getting off campus is extremely important for your sanity.
Get to know your professors: A lot of students realize too late that they didn’t make good enough connections with professors, and they realize this when they apply to internships or graduate programs that require letters of recommendations. Don’t fall into that trap. Get to know your professors from the beginning. People always say that college professors don’t really care to know their students and that the college class experience is impersonal. Though that might be the case occasionally, overall you’ll find that professors are very approachable and want to get to know you. Office hours are a great opportunity, and they can even help boost your grades. Teachers like to know that you’re putting in an effort.
If you’re headed to college in the fall, just remember these five things, but also make a list of your own things to do freshman year. Make that list with people on your hall or friends from class, and try to stick to it. Ask advice from upperclassmen – they’ve been there. Remember: have fun and work hard! College is only four years. Don’t let it pass you by.