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7 Pieces of Advice for College Freshmen

Updated on July 6, 2015
7 Pieces of Advice for College Freshmen
7 Pieces of Advice for College Freshmen | Source

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It's GO Time!

You're done unloading laundry baskets and mini fridges into your dorm and Mom and Dad are giving you their teary-eyed good-byes. Mom pulls you aside and tells you to keep your socks clean, your teeth brushed, and to drink more water than soda pop. Dad gives you a high-five and yells out "No wild parties" as he and your Mom drive away.

That's it! You're free! You're about to embark on one of the most memorable and amazing times of your life. It may seem like you've got an eternity in front of you, but the next four years are going to go by faster than a run away freight train. You'll blink and it's over.

The college years are unlike anything you'll experience in your life and my hope is that you use them wisely, that you grow deeply in your own identity, and achieve everything you are capable of.

Here are seven things to consider as your embark on your college journey.

1. Don't Pick a Major Right Away

The beauty of education is that you the more you know, the more you realize you don't know. You may go into college thinking you want to study one discipline, but then your eyes will be opened, and you may want to pursue something entirely different.

As You Fulfil Requirements Your Interests Might Change

Your first couple of semesters will be full of required lower level general-ed classes. Keep an open mind and try not to see them as hoops to jump through, but as academic opportunities. You might wonder what Marine Archeology has to do with becoming an accountant, but those lower level classes may spark new passions or give you a different viewpoint on life.

Take Time to Make an Informed Decision

It's normal for a 120 unit degree to only require 45-60 units of study within the actual major. All of the other classes are elective and general requirements. This equates to several semesters of study outside of your major and gives you plenty of time to choose your major and explore your options. Don't feel pressure to have it all figured out your first year.

Another reason to take your time in choosing a major is that you don't want to waste time or extend your stay. If you complete 30 units of a major and decided that you'd rather pursue something else, those units might not count towards your degree, and your time and energy will have been wasted. If you wait until halfway through your junior year to start a major, you may have to stay an extra semester or two to finish your studies.

2. Be Independent!

College is the first time in your life when you get to really taste independence. There are no house rules or curfews, and your mother is not going to do your laundry anymore. It's time to start acting like an adult.

Create Distance

Hopefully you've gone away to school and your parents can't just pop in for taco tuesdays--but if your folks live just up the street or down the hall, try to create both physical and emotional distance.

College is an important time in life where you begin creating your own set of life values. Your family's political convictions, religious beliefs, and values don't need to be yours. You now have the freedom to choose your own path in life and live out your own convictions.

Tips For Independence From Your Family:

  • Don't call home more than a couple of times a month.
  • Start earning your own money and budgeting it.
  • Don't come home from school every weekend.
  • Create your own life for yourself in your college town.
  • Start paying some of your own bills. Start with your car insurance or cell phone bill.
  • Explore other viewpoints and values.

Studying Abroad is a great way to see the world, learn about new cultures, and add units towards your graduation.
Studying Abroad is a great way to see the world, learn about new cultures, and add units towards your graduation. | Source

3. Study Abroad

Studying Abroad is a very rewarding way to rack up units towards your degree. You get to experience living abroad, learn a new culture, study a new language, and gain an international view of your chosen academic path. There is nothing like it, and you will never have an easier time setting up housing and getting a visa. Often, the tuition isn't even much higher than what you pay to your home university because of government and academic exchanges.

If getting away for a whole semester is too much for you, explore your university's short term study abroad options. During summer and winter break, you might be able to attend a shorter one or two course study abroad experience. Three weeks of visiting art museums in Verona fir three units—what would be more fun than that?

4. Say Yes to Extracurriculars

The best and most rewarding part of college is your opportunities to explore and spread your horizon. You will have hundreds of clubs, sports, lectures, and other extracurricular activities to join in on. Don't be afraid to join the chess club, sign up for a rock climbing trip, or attend a guest lecture on paleontology.

Never again will you have so many choices right in front of you that are easy to say yes to. Often your school fees offset some of the costs of extracurriculars, which makes them accessible for even the most starving of college students.

5. Build Your Network

Network With Other Students

Let's think about this for a second. You are entering a college with the nation's best and brightest students—students who will one day be heads of companies and states. Now is your time to network. You are going to be sitting in lecture halls and doing group projects with other students who have similar career goals. Use this to your advantage.

Get to Know Your Professors

Getting on your Professor's good side doesn't just give you brownie points on your final, it may lead to grad school letters of recommendation and job references. Your professors are experts in their fields and likely have industry connections that will help you score internships and jobs.

Most grad schools want two to three letters of recommendation, so seize this opportunity. It doesn't do you any good to sneak in and out of class and never let your professors get to know you. When you start taking smaller upper division courses, you should see each professor as a career asset.

6. Get an Internship

Internships give you academic credit, build your skillset, expose you to different career paths, buff up your resume, give you "experience," and help you network. Entry level jobs require 1-3 years of experience, but the catch 22 is that you can't build up those years of experience without an entry level position. Am internship will give you those years of experience and is often easier to obtain than a salaried position.

Getting a good job after college is largely dependent on you gaining working skills and experience while you're still in school.

How to Get an Internship:

  • Check with your professors to see if they have any lab internships or personal field connections.
  • Apply for relevant career positions you find online.
  • Take an internship even if it isn't paid. It will pay you dividends later and may lead to a paid position in the future.
  • Use your school's career resources. Your school may already have connections with local employers who prefer students from your esteemed university.

7. Enjoy Yourself

Have Fun!

Don't just study your college years away and shut out everything fun. If you do, you will regret it. It's important to find the right balance of studying, socializing, and exploring.

Never again will you have so many opportunities, and the chance to live with tons of people your own age. Mid-day naps, midnight junk food, sleeping in until 10 am, and having friends sleeping ten feet from your head are all experiences that you only get to do during your short 4 or 5 years at college. Seriously, soak it in!

When you're sitting in your cubicle ten years from now, realizing that you're going to work 40 hour weeks until the day you die, you will look back on your summer study abroad trip to Ireland and not regret a minute of watching World Cup soccer games in a back alley pub with a thunderous crowd of chanting Europeans who think the world is going to end if Spain scores another goal.

Yep, seize the day!

Some College Humor

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