Are you ready for some of my awkward freshman year photos?
1. Get a job. Don't argue with me about this. GET A JOB. This one's technically cheating, because this was a piece of advice that I received like a steady drumbeat from my dad all summer before move-in. Thanks to his persistence, I had a job interview set up at the on-campus wellness center (aka gym) before I was even in the state, and I had a job there before I even had my class schedule. And four years later, I cried when I clocked out for the final time. I know there are a million things you'd rather be doing than working in your free time, but guys... money. Even if your parents are paying for school, it's so important to have money that you earned and is entirely yours to decide what to do with. It gives you so much more freedom, and it's such a relief not have to worry about your bank statement reading $0. And if you work on campus, those employers know that you're a student first and are generally pretty flexible when it comes to homework and finals. Plus it's a place to make friends! Seriously, get a job. If you do one thing this year, let this be it.
Okay, this was sophomore year. But whatever, time had no meaning in the wellness center.
2. You don't need to have the stereotypical college experience to have a good time. Pop culture and society in general stereotype college as one big party. And I attended the University of Miami, so before I left for my freshman year, I was hit with the same comments all the time: "Oh my god the parties are going to be amazing!!!" and "You're going to get so tan!!!!" Well, I don't drink, and my mom had skin cancer so I don't tan. And guess what? I didn't drink, I didn't go tanning, and I still had an amazing time. There's an entire spectrum of people at any school you go to, from the ultimate nerds to the wildest of party people, and you will be able to find a niche that feels appropriate to you. Don't feel pressured to party if you don't want to. Trust me, if I could stumble into a group of friends in Miami that didn't do the whole wild-and-crazy thing, you can find your people anywhere.
3. Make friends in your classes for your major. Of course, it's a good idea to make friends in any class you're in. But if you're an English major taking Biology 101 just to meet a credit requirement, what are the odds that you'll ever see these biology people again? But in your major, you'll be taking classes with a lot of the same people for multiple years. There will be group assignments and situations in which you'll need a classmate's help, and not having any buds in your major will make things more difficult. You don't need to meet your best friends in your major, but just... make an effort to befriend the people you're going to see a lot.
4. You might not be best friends with everyone on your floor. And that's okay. I had a really good group of people on my floor freshman year. A lot of them were super close, but they were never my social circle, and after that year ended I don't think I really ever saw most of them again. We were always friendly and there was no dislike, but I didn't make my lifelong friendships from my floormates. And that's totally fine! Your floor is a social scene that's handed to you and easy enough to join if you want, but you might find your people in marching band, or on your club sports team, or in a class, or at work, or literally anywhere else. Don't stress if you don't find your future bridesmaids in the room down the hall. You're fine.
Oh god. Good ol' RT4. What a group.
5. College is a place for adults. I never really thought about this, but in high school you're always around people your age. So imagine my shock when I sit down in my first-ever college class and realize the person sitting next to me is a grown man. Like, with a wife and small children. And the girl sitting behind me is in her late 20s and is also married with kids. It was eye-opening, to say the least! And not only that, but professors will treat you like an adult. If you go to them with a problem, they'll be understanding (or at least the good ones will). When I was a freshman, I went to a class only to realize that I'd forgotten to print out an assignment that was due. So after class I rushed up to the professor, absolutely freaking out, and explained to him that it was done but that I forgot to print it and could I pleasepleaseplease bring it to him at his office in five minutes??????? He barely batted an eye and told me that, yes, of course I could. I think this was my first experience being treated as a grown-up, as someone who wouldn't lie to get extra time for an assignment. Don't take advantage of this. Be a grown-up.
6. Get professional experience ASAP. The academic side of college is great and all, but by far the most valuable experiences I had in college were those of the professional nature. And, while I knew where I wanted to ultimately work, I didn't know what exactly I wanted to do or how to get there, so my initial professional experiences were not quite as relevant as they could've been. I wish I'd been more proactive about figuring things out sooner. So if you know what you want to do, or even if you don't, just start talking to people. Older students in your major, advisors, anyone. I was an intern in the athletic department at the University of Miami, and I discovered that internship when I was volunteering at a track and field meet to get credit for one of my sport administration classes. Put yourself in positions to discover those opportunities as a freshman, not as a junior like I did. Seriously.
I was a senior here. To think I could've done this as a freshman... #missedopportunities
7. Time is going to FLY. One day you're going to blink and suddenly you'll be leaving your final class of your senior year. Four years may seem like a really long time, but you will honestly not believe how fast it goes. Savor every moment!