A colleague of mine – John Giordano – published a really nice post the other day. I’ve posted an excerpt of it below. See the whole post here.
Your parents, their friends, and your teachers ― and people like me ― have been offering all kinds of advice these past few weeks. You probably don’t want to hear it anymore. I don’t blame you since you’ve always been someone who wanted to figure things out on your own. Maybe you could just indulge me a bit, though. I’ve been seeing fresh-faced freshmen arrive on campus for as many years as you’ve been alive. I learned a few things when I was a freshman about being a freshman, but I’ve learned even more teaching freshman over the years. So, here goes.
- Freshman year is what you make of it. College is what you make of it. You will meet people at your school who think stuff happens to them. Most of the time, it doesn’t. You make things happen
- Go to class. This shouldn’t be hard. If you chose not to do any homework on a given day, you are basically giving yourself the schedule you had in preschool. That’s a bad idea if you want to succeed. Your professors might act as if everything is fine; don’t expect them to warn you. It just doesn’t work that way. One of the biggest challenges of freshman year is that students have so much time. Too much unstructured time. Use it well. This is a big one.
- Have a great time with your new friends. One of the best things about college is the social growth that takes place. But, strike a balance between your work and hanging out. Your professors don’t care when you went to bed. They expect you to be ready to work. If you’re tired and unable to concentrate, it’s your choice.
- Syllabi―actually read them. Professors sweat a lot writing those things over the summer. They tweak them till they’re just right. The course syllabus should give you a very good idea what the professor expects of you. Read it again before mid-term. You’ll see that it makes more sense. Be a planner. Keep a calendar.
- Go see each professor during office hours at least once this semester.
- Try to offer one sincere observation or opinion during each class meeting (or every other class) as long as it isn’t a huge lecture course. Listen with generosity. Listen to learn.
- Be professional. Okay, it’s not technically a “job,” but look at school as a pre-professional experience designed to give you the skills to navigate the world beyond college. Learn how to make yourself clear, and be sure to take yourself seriously. Be honest with yourself about whether you are putting your best into the things you do. Don’t make excuses.
- Expect to be a bit all over the place. If you are going to grow into a new person beyond the daily influence of your family and your high school, you have got to let go of old ideas. This is challenging. It’s okay to be confused, unsettled and nostalgic for high school. Oh, and reach out to at least one international student this fall. If you think you feel disoriented, imagine how they feel. You have a lot to learn from each other.
- Appreciate the people you live with. It’s easy to expect things to be the same as they were when you were living at home, but living with strangers means that some of your habits are just as unfamiliar to others as their habits are to you. Share, be generous, and look for common ground. And don’t steal food out of someone’s mini-frig unless you like people taking things from you.
- The food will probably get boring after a while, and the dorms are not 5-star hotels. Be appreciative of what you have. Thank the people who work in the dining hall, and thank the maintainers who keep the dorms clean.
- Get to know sophomores and other students who have been around the block. Listen to what they have to say. Avoid people who want to game the system and do as little as they can.
- Solve your own problems. When your parents say they will take care of it, tell them you are in college now and you need to figure it out yourself. Don’t let them call your professors or the dean.
- Don’t worry if you don’t know what you want to major in. And if you do think you know, be prepared for the possibility of changing your mind. The whole idea of starting college is to poke around. Don’t let anyone make you feel inadequate because you’re not sure what you want to study. Explore.
- Put your phone away during class. Your professor assumes you aren’t engaged if you’re texting in class. This isn’t a generational thing. This is as basic as it gets.
- Join a club or two, but don’t go crazy. It’s easy to be tempted to get really involved.
- Take good notes. Don’t just copy down what the professor is saying, especially if they post their presentations. Write down what you understand about the topic being discussed.
- Take the total tuition of your college and divide by 32. The number you get is the cost of attending college per week over freshman year. Ask yourself if you are making the best of this investment.
- You will get some grades on assignments this year that will feel low, considering the effort you put in. You will be disappointed. Take your professor’s comments to heart―then work toward the new standard being presented to you. Look forward, not back.
- Remember that pizza eaten in the middle of the night contains as many calories as pizza eaten during the day.
- Your parents are having a hard time with this transition. It’s not simply that they will miss you. It’s that they know the choices you make, and the values you develop, are yours from this point forward. Their major work is done. When the time feels right, you may want to thank them. It’s your game now. Play hard and play well.
Good Luck This Year!