It’s Emily here. True fact: Everyone is a little bit terrified when they first come to college. No matter how desperate you are to escape your hometown, or how eager you are to be a college kid (and partake of all that the title entails), the subtle knot of apprehension is going to catch you every once in a while. My first piece of unsolicited advice: be okay with being a little unsure, and take comfort in the fact that your classmates are by and large dealing with similar uncertainty. More unsolicited advice follows–some of the things I wish I’d known before I began my freshman year.
- You may be able to reinvent yourself in college, but you can’t become someone else. I was convinced when I came to TU that I could rebrand my geeky self into an outgoing social butterfly. While I’m really glad that I managed to force myself to meet and really engage with lots of people during the first couple of months of school, I was much happier when I assembled a group of close, similarly geeky friends.
- If you want to get involved in research, speak up now! The earlier you get involved with research, the more freedom you are likely to have to pursue what really interests you. Getting involved with research early also helps you build relationships with your professors and connect you with upperclassmen in your department. Approaching a professor to talk about research can be intimidating, but most professors will be thrilled that you’re interested. Then it’s up to you to do the work.
- Getting good grades is important, but so is being happy. I decided when I came to college that I was going to work hard and come as close to a 4.0 as I could. While at some level this was a noble goal, it also led me to tie my sense of self to my gpa. Not good. It took a long time, but I finally learned how to do well academically and do the things that keep me sane. Huge tip: get off campus sometimes. It’ll help you feel like part of the community instead of like a resident of the bizarre alternate reality often referred to as “college”.
- Be wrong sometimes. Over the next four years, what and how you think about the world are apt to change. This is a good thing. I am not the girl I was 4 years ago. Hell, I’m not the girl I was 6 months ago. I’m grateful for the change. I’m grateful for the people and books and situations that have highlighted my mistakes and shortcomings, because it is through these realizations that I have been able to grow. And that’s what college is really for, anyway.
So, welcome. Work hard. Be wrong. And certainly don’t always eschew unsolicited advice from shady characters you’ve never met.