Six Lessons for Incoming College Freshmen

Six Lessons for Incoming College Freshmen (Sean Rayford via Getty Images)

Nearly 10 months ago, I stepped onto my college’s campus ready to advance my journalism studies and begin a new chapter in my journey. In that time, I learned many new skills and concepts — most of them outside of the classroom — that made my first year one to remember.

Get Involved Early

College is the ideal time to figure out how you want to expand on your passions, and that can be done through involvement in student organizations. I worked on several news shows for my college’s student-run TV station, announced several basketball and volleyball broadcasts for our sports channel, and became a staff writer for our newspaper. As someone who appreciated opportunities to be on camera, I quickly noticed I could learn skills off the air that would help me as a journalist, most notably writing broadcast stories or operating the camera for sporting events.

I was also able to get involved with organizations that did not focus on my major, including a cultural organization known as Asian Students in Alliance (ASIA). ASIA held weekly meetings and events related to discussing our experiences as Asian Americans and overall cultivating a tight-knit community. It served as a fantastic opportunity for me to engage with other people who share similar stories and connect more to my Filipino background in a city that, for all of its benefits, does not have much of a Fil-Am scene. 

Getting involved early on in the year allowed me to make new friends in a different environment and make connections across various fields. Simply saying “yes” to certain opportunities allowed me to gain experience early on, whether it was appearing in front of the camera more or attending a journalism conference to network with industry professionals. It’s important to not only get involved but take advantage of the opportunities presented to you. You never know when one “yes” turns into a fruitful path down the line.

Balance Time with Friends with Time for Yourself

Everyone will have different experiences when it comes to finding friends and crafting a community — whether it’s saying hello to your neighbors or your peers in class. I was lucky enough to join multiple friend groups in the first few months of college, each of them with very different backgrounds and styles. Some of my friends were really into sports, while others could talk about movies or shows for hours. I’ve had an incredible time making memories with them, whether it was an occasional game night, playing basketball in the gym, or exploring the city.

At the same time, I also learned to appreciate the time I got in solitude. Between busy schedules and socializing in various extracurriculars, I realized that I needed to have some more time alone in order to recharge.  I filled that time by reading in the library, sitting in my room listening to music, and taking walks around the city — sometimes multiple times a day. All of it was essential in ensuring a healthy lifestyle, both physically and mentally. I’m glad I was able to recognize those differences and appreciate those times both with others and myself.

There’s No Rush

One of the biggest lessons I took away from my first year is that there’s no pressure to figure everything out right away. I’ve known my chosen career path for quite a while, but that isn’t the case for everyone. I’ve heard stories of people switching majors or combining multiple majors in what’s known as Interdisciplinary Studies. Some of my peers in journalism added it as a minor or tacked on a different minor with their journalism major.

Beyond academics, though, there is absolutely no rush to have the next five or ten years of your life planned out. Things change. Use college as a time to explore your passions and, as I mentioned earlier, nurture them by being involved on or off campus. College is the perfect time to explore various sides to yourself. I have rediscovered a desire to be involved in student productions for film and theater and had the opportunity to help some friends in their final projects. Having a diverse friend group also aids in figuring out your passions, and reaching out to them for advice can only help you in your journey. If you take the time to let those come naturally in the first year, you’ll have a clearer vision for what you want the future to look like.

Check Everything From Time-to-Time

Whether it’s your grades or your bank account, always be mindful of your progress throughout the year. It’s better to address any issues sooner rather than later.

Be Cognisant of Your Dorm Space

I learned this lesson the hard way when it was time to move out. Utilize the storage space your college gives you from the jump. And if you can’t decide whether or not to buy something, think about whether you’d want to stuff it into your suitcase by the end of the year.

Reach Out When You Need Help

College can be a major adjustment from high school, so it helps to make friends with some sophomores, juniors or seniors so you can get an ideal view of the freshman experience. Aside from them, though, lean on friends or family if you feel the need to speak up about something, and take advantage of your school’s resources to make your first year at college a memorable one.

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Invest in the diverse voices that will shape and lead the future of journalism and art.
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