I was recently asked to write an advice letter to my former college self that could potentially help future college students. My journey from college to real life has been filled with a ton of lessons but if there were 10 things I wish someone had told me before my freshman year it would go something like this:
As you graduate high school and jet off to Syracuse University (woohoo), remember these 10 things as you enter freshman year:
- Break up with your high school/summer boyfriend
College is a place of independence. You choose your classes (whether or not you go), your friends, your everything! There is a short window in your life where you will have selfish years. You will eventually marry, have kids, work, and your days will be filled with worrying about people other than yourself. The last thing you want is to be attached. While you are in your dorm room skyping with your boyfriend, you are missing out on study dates, formals, parties and late-night heart to hearts with your roommates. You have your entire life to be someone’s emergency contact. Enjoy the freedom!! If you are meant to be together someday, you will be.
- Do not miss class
One of the most exciting and scary parts of college is that you have full control over your life. The idea that skipping class because you can just read the textbook is a surefire way to fail the class. The professors are creating the exam questions from the lessons they are teaching. This I can promise. Also do not, if you can help it, sign up for any classes before 10am. You will not go. You are paying a ton of money to attend college, don’t waste it. p.s. On St. Patrick’s Day, do NOT go to 44’s (or the popular Irish Bar). If you think you can begin your day drinking green beer at 8am and pass that midterm, you won’t. You may even fall asleep while taking it (thank g-d there were no cell phones back in the day…)
- Study Abroad
Do not let this opportunity pass you by. It is a gift that will keep on giving. You will quickly break out of your comfort zone by learning how to live in a foreign city by yourself. Experiencing a new culture and language will broaden your horizons. Learning how to interact with people from other countries will empower you. There is a big difference between learning about the artwork of Michelangelo in a textbook and actually siting Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia which is packed with, not only Michelangelo’s David, but his unfinished Slaves to works by Andrea del Sarto, Giambologna and Botticelli. (Remember that scene from Good Will Hunting). College is about new experiences. You might not be able to have a lot of time to travel once you get a job or go onto grad school. GO!!!
- Apply for a Summer Internship
A summer internship during college is vital. The job market is tough and employers won’t even look at your resume unless you have completed an internship prior to graduation. Internships will also allow you to gain insight into your field as you build hands on experience. If you find the field is not a good match, it’s better to know that now when you have the opportunity to change direction. You will create a network of contacts and mentors who you can use as a professional reference or place to send your resume when you graduate .Performing well at an internship is also an incredible way to have a potential job offer before graduation, too!
- Beware of late night/drunk texts
Do not answer ANY late night texts. This is what you call a booty call, my friend. I promise he doesn’t want to watch late night TV with you and cuddle. Don’t waste your time. You are way better than that and you deserve someone who wants to hang out with you while the sun’s still out. If he calls you for breakfast the following morning, he’s your guy. ACTIONS speak way louder than words. (But if there is a chance to go to Turning Stone late night – go)
- Take Care of yourself
It is super easy to gain the freshman 15 and it is a bitch to lose. Try to find at least 2-3 days a week to workout and allow yourself ONE late night of ordering pizza or a trip to the food truck (unfortunately Ziggy’s went out of biz). Eating after drinking is a guaranteed way to pack on the pounds. Workout with a friend, it’s probably the only way you will motivate. Or take up running. It is a very inexpensive cardio workout that you can do anywhere and running will always leave you feeling great. Lastly, a little tidbit about the drinking: Pace yourself! It’s a marathon not a sprint. Have a drink, a glass of water, a drink. It works like magic. You do not want to be known as the sloppy girl at the bars. We all know THAT girl.
- Go Undeclared!
Unless you are certain of your future career, use the first year to explore your curiosities and interests. Ask upperclassmen about intriguing classes and listen to their advice. Do not go down the doctor/lawyer path because you were told that is where the money is. The money will come from whatever it is you are most passionate about. Follow your gut. It will never steer you wrong.
- Be prepared to pay back your college loans
College is very expensive and those college loans are real. They are not going to magically disappear. You must be prepared to start paying them off six months after graduation. But don’t stress too much about it because there are, thankfully, companies like Earnest to help you refinance your student loans. They will help you save a ton of money and your future husband will thank you.
- Keep a journal
Write things down. Log your adventures, your mishaps, your relationships. Whether it be venting about classes, journaling your dates, or simply expressing your thoughts about a bad day, writing these moments will have a long-lasting importance for you. Having notes to refer back to is gold! I am most certain rereading your journal will come in handy months or years down the road.
- “Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.” – Fitzhugh Mullan
College is a journey. You do not need to know at 18 what you want to be when you grow up. Don’t fixate on an exam you may have failed or a boy who never called. Enjoy the freedom of discovering who you are while creating lifelong memories with friends. Step out of your comfort zone and take weird classes. Listen to new music and go abroad. Date the guy who is excited to have you in his life day AND night. Study hard but don’t forget to give yourself a break. Once you graduate, life will never be as you once knew it. Enjoy every minute of those precious four years. They go by way too fast. p.s. Make sure this song is on your playlist freshman year, the week before Christmas break. You will leave Harry’s somewhere around 11pm with two friends. That night will be one of your favorite memories. You will know this because it’s all in your journal…