Advice from a College Freshman Survivor

College Student daydreaming when he should be studying. iStockalypse Tokyo 2010.
College Student daydreaming when he should be studying. iStockalypse Tokyo 2010.

You go to college to learn. That's the whole point of it. After having completed my freshman year, however, I realized that you learn just as much outside the classroom as you do inside it. And, believe me, these lessons will bruise you and break you just as much as the exams and labs do. Hopefully the advice below will help all you incoming freshman through the experience.

1.) You can't be good at everything (and no one expects you to be)

When I graduated from high School, I felt like the King of Pride Rock. I graduated at the top of my class, had landed a great scholarship, and was headed to an astounding school. I thought I could nail everything that came my way. Then came Chemistry. As more of a physics girl, I struggled with chemistry. I gave that class everything I had first semester, and still managed to only get an A- (not considered a 4.0 at college). It was a devastating blow to realize maybe I couldn't nail everything that came my way. But reflecting on my year, I realize: I'm a mechanical engineer, not a chemical engineer. I don't need to be good at chemistry. I have other skills and passions I bring to the table. The same is true for everyone. Don't dwell on your inadequacies, but focus on your capabilities.

2.) Not everyone will be your best friend

I was fortunate enough to be a part of a themed-learning community in the dorms my freshman year. I came in with the hope and excitement of being good friends with everyone on the floor. Of being a part of a great community. Although I had a great year on the floor, I wasn't as close with everyone as I had hoped or expected to be. Yet, I realized you won't connect perfectly with everyone you encounter. You can't depend on making a best friend in everyone you meet. But for those people you do connect with, those you do make a best friend in, you have to hold fast to.

3.) You won't have time for everything you want to do

Plans for my life seem to be like my pile of textbooks: they only continue to grow and grow. I came into college with a plan for a minor, which turned into two minors, maybe a Master's, and now possibly a PhD. The same was true for school involvement: should I do ten clubs? How about twelve? By the end of first semester, however, I realized a truth: I don't have time for it all. I can stay ambitious, but I have to pick those things I truly care about. As a freshman in college, everything seems so limitless, the options so endless. Despite this, our time is still limited. Pick the clubs you truly care about. Pick the degree you can't live a day without. Choose the friends you want to confide in. Select the passion you want to pursue. And spend your time there.

4.) Don't get tied down too quickly

This one I don't speak of from experience, but more from observation. There are people in my life that have chosen to marry young. It is a decision people have the full right to make in their lives. Yet, I have seen someone I know alienate himself from those his age because of his marriage. It is important to surround yourself with great friends you can trust in, and loved ones you can enjoy more intimate relationships with. But I believe the college years are perhaps the most important growth period of your entire life. It is imperative to go through these years and figure out exactly who you are and what you want in your life before devoting yourself to someone else. That doesn't mean the ability to sleep around and go out with hundreds of people, but rather to simply figure out the relationship with yourself completely first.

5.) Be open to change

I know most college majors don't need much help with this one as they vacillate between college majors and interests with great ease, so this one is a double-edged sword. Most people heading to college these days have little idea of what they want to do, and it is important to first figure that out. Being an undecided major is a time and money waster. Once you actually figure that out, though, don't keep the idea in concrete. I came into college knowing I wanted to be a mechanical engineer, and there is a company I was set on working for. I ignored other companies and opportunities while on an internship hunt because I wanted to work for this singular company. After acquiring an internship for the summer at a different company, however, I began looking more into their mission and goals. I started to realize maybe there is more than one company I would like to work for. This opened a whole new side of engineering to me. College allows you to truly figure out what impassions you. Don't throw that away.