As graduation looms ahead, I’ve started to look back and reflect on my time in college. Some years were good, some weren’t the best. My freshman year was tough for me, but I think there are many things I could have done differently to have made a better experience for myself. I thought I would share what I would do differently my freshman year of college to help current high school seniors have a good experience their freshman year.
Get More Involved on Campus
This is probably the biggest one for me. My freshman year I told myself I just wanted to get settled into college life and didn’t want to overwhelm myself. Big mistake. I wish I got out there more, joined more clubs and extracurricular activities, and met more people.
Here’s the thing – you want to get leadership experience because it looks good on a resume and helps you get a job down the road. It’s like how you needed extracurriculars to get into college. Here’s the other thing – you need to start building up that experience your freshman year. I don’t want to stress you out, but it’s good to get involved your freshman year so that you can keep building up experience each year of college. Let’s say you’re a part of the Accounting Club your freshman year. Then next year, you can apply to be secretary. Then the year after that you can apply to be Vice President, and then you’ll be eligible to be President your senior year. All of that experience accumulates, so it’s good to start early.
Plus, joining these student organizations are a great way to meet people with similar interests as you.
This regret also includes how I wish I had gotten an on-campus job. I was surprised by how much free time I had in college. I had only about 3 hours of class a day! That’s crazy compared to how many hours I spent in class in high school. I think I definitely would have been able to handle a job on-campus, and wish I had worked a few hours a week so I could both build up my resume and earn some spending money.
It’s common for grades from freshman year to be a bit lower than grades from the following years because students are still in that transition period. However, there are still some steps you can take to help prevent that from happening to you. I did well my first semester but started to slack a bit my second semester. The problem for me was that I would go to class, but not review the material until the exams came up. At one point I was reading and trying to memorize hundreds of pages of Macroeconomics and Business Law at once. Not. Fun.
What I would have done differently is:
- Done the assigned readings before class. (Ok, realistically, skim the readings. But actually reading and taking notes is much better). That way I would understand what the professor is talking about during the lecture.
- Review my notes (or the slides) after class and made sure that I understood everything. I would also go to office hours to talk to the professor if there’s something I didn’t quite understand
- Memorize key concepts, cases, or formulas as I go rather than try to memorize everything at once the week before the exam
This is especially important for classes where you have to memorize a lot (such as Law) or classes with formulas you need to understand (such as most math classes).
Went Home Less Often
I go to school about 40 minutes away from home, so it’s easy to go back often. I like seeing my family, being able to sleep in my bed, having decent water pressure in the shower, etc., but I wish I had gone home less my freshman year, especially near the beginning.
My dad’s birthday was the first weekend after I had moved to college and it also happened to be a long weekend, so to help make the transition away from home easier, I went home that weekend to celebrate his birthday with my family. Unfortunately, when I got back, I realized I had missed out on a lot of social events and it felt like everyone had already started to find their friend groups. Making friends is easiest near the very beginning before everybody starts matching up with each other, so I definitely wish I had stayed on campus and tried to make friends then. (Not that it’s impossible to find friends after the first week. It can take some time, but don’t stress if you can’t make friends right away. I didn’t meet my closest friends until near the end of freshman year.)
Taken Better Care of my Health
Honestly, I don’t remember if I gained the Freshman 15, but I do know that I could have taken much better care of my health. Here’s what I would have done differently:
- Eaten better. It’s so tempting to eat unhealthily, with French fries and pizza being offered all the time at the dining hall. I ate a panini every day. It’s all about balance, though. A slice of pizza once in a while is fine, but I should have eaten more salads. lean protein, and whole grains. And less dessert.
- Exercised more. The school gym is free (well, it’s included in tuition costs) and ours includes free fitness classes like Zumba or Spin. Those classes are expensive out there in the real world! I should have taken advantage of those options much more often.
- Washed my hands more. It’s so easy to get sick when you’re living in close quarters. I wish I had brought more medicine to have on hand for when I got sick (because going out to get medicine when you’re sick is just awful) and that I had taken more preventative measures like washing my hands more often and not touching my face.
Found a Summer Internship
Again, I was too lazy. I was discouraged by the fact that most companies were looking for juniors, and didn’t even bother trying to find an internship. Instead, I worked at the job I had back in high school. I am glad I did something, but wish I had put more effort into finding an internship for the summer.
Although most large companies are only looking for juniors, try looking into small companies or even startups. Startups especially don’t care as much about what year you are as much as about the enthusiasm and hard-work you’re willing to bring to their company. Like I mentioned earlier, building up that resume early on will help you land bigger positions later on. Startups give you a lot of responsibility, and you’ll have so much more to talk about in interviews later on.
Hopefully my regrets from my freshman year will help you figure out how to have a great freshman year in the fall!