“You didn’t need a college degree to become one of the people who knew what was really going on. If you paid attention, you could pick things up on your own.”
― Jeannette Walls
Hello there, you very adorable and naive and mistake-prone freshman. Welcome to your first year in college, the first time that your JanSport will be stuffed with more freedom and decision-making power than you’ll even know what to do with. A time in your life where you can decide to become anything or anyone that you want—well, that is until your financial aid money runs out, anyway. So, while you’re contemplating how many different flavors of soft serve you’d like to fill your XL cup up with at your dining hall, or what in the world to wear to a neon or nothing party, consider this. Consider “the freshman 15” to-do list for your first year of college.
1. Change your major at least 3 times. Change it to whatever you wanted to be when you were a kid, to something extremely wild, but interesting. Interesting enough that you’ll be eager to toss off the Twin XL top sheet that’s snuggled up on your face in the morning and go to class.
2. Enjoy having meal plan. It’s probably the last time you’ll have easy access to an unlimited amount of food, at a really low price.
3. Join at least one new club a semester. The activities you do in those clubs, juxtaposed with the people you meet and the leadership roles you’re attracted to, can help you understand more about what you want to actually want to do.
4. Start interning as soon as you can. It establishes industry contacts, a glimmer of work ethic and an understanding of how to apply the information you throw up onto a Scantron into a potential future career.
5. Brainstorm the most outrageous ‘I can’t believe someone can get paid for that’ kind of job and take an elective course in that area.
6. Before you write off any college experience, whether it’s becoming a sister of Alpha Epsilon Phi sorority or spending a semester dabbling in the native tongue of some exotic country, learn more about it. Ask questions; meet other people who have done it. Then, make your own decision.
7. Attend as many dorm events, freshman gatherings, or welcome parties as you can. If anything, you’ll start to understand how many opportunities that are begging for your attention at your university.
8. Shake hands with a fellow freshie in the elevator of your building. Ask the person you sit next to in algebra class if they’d like to get together and study. Walk up to the President of Habitat for Humanity and say hello. Meet new people.
9. Get comfortable flirting with your textbooks in places other than just the library. You’ll spend a lot of hours reading and rereading the notes you draw all over your books. Have multiple places that you can surrender and focus in so you’re not so dependent on settling for a chilly room that’s filled with smelly books and other miserable students.
10. Have serious, long-term relationships with nouns other than your textbooks.
11. Keep your parents on speed dial – call them every single day. Mom and dad will be some of the only loyal people who will stick by you throughout the next four years of your life.
12. Make your piggy bank jingle. You may not need the extra cash now, but you’ll want it later on. Beer gets expensive (when you’re 21, of course) and when you’re half asleep trying to figure out how to make it through another theory of literature class, the thought of a European backpacking trip or one-way ticket to move somewhere exotic after stuffing your diploma in a suitcase post-grad, will be the explosion of hope that gets you by.
13. Look up to someone, who is not a Kardashian or a Real Housewife of whatever. Choose a professor, an RA, or someone who is a few steps ahead of your in your major. They’ll help you see why working hard is worth it.
14. Never pay full price for textbooks. Ever.
15. Hold on tightly to that feeling of not knowing anything. Of getting so completely lost on campus. Of juggling between three different majors that you want to pursue. All too soon, you’ll figure everything out. You’ll have memorized different shortcuts around campus, the best time to eat at the food court, and how to strategically tip toe from your bed to the bathroom without waking up your roommate. Until then, enjoy being a foreigner for a time period that kicks off the rest of your life.