To My Freshman Self

To My Freshman Self,

Remember those annoying people who told you that college will be the quickest four years of your life? Well they were right, but not in a bad way. The next four years of your life are going to zoom by. But when you look back, they'll also be full of 10+ years worth of memories and experiences. As I look back on my four years at Penn, here are the small pieces of advice that I think will allow you to hopefully make the most of your time in college:

  1. Find people who, just by being themselves, make you a better person and spend all your time with them. This is the most important thing you can do. It's true when they say that you are the average of your 5 closest friends.

  • Meet someone new everyday. There are thousands of students, each with a unique story. Meeting one a day will get you to about one thousand.
  • Put yourself in positions to fail. Apply for things that you don't deserve and probably won't get. You haven't yet faced much rejection but you should know how it feels.
  • Reflect and write. Blog, journal, and whatever else to document your thoughts. Understanding yourself will serve you well throughout life.
  • Try to get good grades but they matter less than you think. If necessary, prioritize other experiences and opportunities over class. Going to Econ Scream > getting an A in Econ.
  • When it comes to intimate relationships, make yourself vulnerable. Having someone who you care about more than yourself allows you to love and learn in a way that you can't otherwise.

  • Question and challenge your fundamental beliefs (e.g. religion). Understand what you believe in and why.
  • Create forcing functions that make you develop healthy habits. This may include joining a club sport to force you to exercise or having an early morning class to force yourself to wake up. Experiment with these.
  • College is a great time to minimize your lifestyle costs. Live cheap, do your own laundry, and manage your expenses. You can only go up from there.
  • Call your best friends from high school on their birthdays. Staying in touch with friends and family during college is hard. Don't forget the people who got you to where you are.
  • Don't underestimate sleep. It matters more than you think.
  • Read every night. All the knowledge of the world is stored in books.
  • Get a technical skill set. College is the best time to develop it.
  • When you see someone who needs help, take a few seconds out of your day and help them. Be a good samaritan.
  • Try to be 100% honest. Lies only lead to more lies which leads to distrust and unhappiness.
  • Ask upperclassmen for help when you need it. Be ready to offer the same when you become one.
  • The world rewards people who seem to have it all put together but the secret is that no one really has it all figured out. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you can embrace the fact that you shouldn't be paralyzed by fear.
  • Early on, make an effort to meet people who aren't from the same hometown/state/country as you. You'll gravitate towards them eventually anyway.
  • Whenever there's a big speaker on campus, rework your schedule and attend the talk. Don't be lazy, these are some of the world's most successful people coming to speak right at your front door.
  • Be spontaneous. Even if that means taking an 5 hour flight to meet your best friends for a day during finals week.
  • It's okay to binge watch Netflix sometimes. Being irresponsible can be liberating.

  • Start keeping a calendar. You'll miss out on too many things and come off as irresponsible by simply being disorganized.
  • Meditate for at least 10 minutes a day. Get a better sense of yourself and try to find that inner peace.
  • Carve out your own path. Resist the temptation to make career decisions based on what everyone else seems to be doing. Be bold and define your own success.
  • Realize that your time isn't worth more than anyone else's. People just prioritize differently.
  • Every once in a while, surprise your best friends just because. Random acts of kindness are the best acts of all.
  • Every semester, take one class that has nothing to do with your major. I learned more about presentation skills from Intro to Acting than any of my business classes.
  • Become friends with the dining hall lady, the apartment security officer, and others who work to help you. There's so much to learn from their stories.
  • Don't ever forget that you're one of the luckiest people in the world. Many other people wanted the same seat at college as you. Do good, be good, and make the most of your time here.
  • Welcome to a new chapter in your life. Literally. It'll be full of ups, downs, lefts, and rights. There'll be some cliffhangers and a few boring resolutions. Sometimes the magic will be in the details and sometimes the plot will hold its own. There'll be lots of character development in what will be one of the best chapters in your life's story. Turn the page.

    Your older self

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    This post was originally published on my blog, Mind Mentos.