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A College Freshman’s Take on Freshman Year Advice

This post is from a student, parent, or professional contributor. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and do not necessarily reflect the positions, viewpoints, or policies of Niche.

Three young adults jump in the air. Their legs and arms are out. On the ground is snow and behind them is a road, bare trees, and a brick building.

Prepare for Failure

As an overachieving high school student, I breezed through those four years without breaking much of a sweat. Although I did not expect to ace college with the minimal effort I put in for high school, the second semester of my freshman year was a huge slap in the face.

To start, I had a professor who was not a great lecturer. His Zoom meetings resulted in me learning next to nothing despite spending the entire hour and a half three times a week focused on the computer screen.

Furthermore, the content of the class, physics (ew), was not easy for me to grasp.

I spent the majority of the first half of that semester teaching myself, rewatching other professors’ lectures, and reworking problems over and over again. Despite all my efforts, I simply could not keep up with such a tough topic alone while juggling other classes and extracurriculars.

This class became my first college class to break my perfect record. Although upsetting, I learned that failure is sometimes inevitable and that I had to tweak the way I learned. 

Explore Your Passions and Discover New Ones

College is about discovering new things and building on your passions, so trial and error is inevitable. Take any opportunity to aim high so if you do fall short, you’ll have something to look back on and be proud of.

Find what you love and understand why you truly love it. Although I’ve been set on becoming a computer science major since high school, this past year allowed me to grow to appreciate my major even more.

Prior to my freshman year, when others would question me as to why I picked computer science and how “coding is so hard and boring,” I simply laughed it off. If you ask me today, I can truly say the real reason why I appreciate and love my major.

To state that coding is too hard is generalizing and downplaying the actual effort put into coding. The hardest part of coding is to learn to use your creativity to come up with solutions for the problem you are solving. It’s not the actual writing code part but rather the ability to think in a computational and analytical way to solve problems.

Simply reading the textbook will allow you to understand the grammar of each language and how to use it properly, but without experience and creativity, that knowledge is useless. Realizing this allowed me to endure the painful, long hours I sat staring blankly at the code instructions.

10 Mistakes To Avoid As A College Freshman

Break Free From Your Bubble

In high school, many students tend to stick to the same friend group or similar kinds of friends. One of the first things I noticed after high school was that most of my classmates were simply my friends by association. Once we left the one place holding us together, I stuck to only a few of my close friends.

Going into college, those few friends and I moved to different cities and I was forced to fend for myself. Learning how to rebuild a friend group was especially hard for me.

Initially, I had planned to join a few organizations, but when I did, I still felt the same loneliness weighing me down. I never felt entirely comfortable or that I could open up.

As a result, I impulsively reached out during my second semester to two different organizations my high school self would question me greatly for. Yet during our first meeting, I instantly felt a connection despite it being through an online Zoom call.

There, I was able to meet a great group of engineering girls I admired academically and socially. These are friends I know I can count on.

Socialize and Get Active

It’s easy to lock yourself in your dorm all day, especially if you’re dealing with a heavy workload or crazy sleep schedule.

Being enclosed in such a tiny workspace with the occasional walk around the house was stifling and I felt a decrease in productivity when my classes were online. I became bored or distracted easily.

Learning to get out of my house and see a change of scenery became a good life lesson for me. After an early jog in the morning, I felt more alert and prepared to focus during my Zoom calls or class assignments.

Throughout the day, I set hourly reminders to get up and stretch or walk around to get my body moving every few minutes. These small changes made a huge impact on my productivity.

Manage Your Time Wisely

College is also about independence, meaning you must learn to check and regulate yourself.

You have probably heard of many college students complaining about how professors tend to throw out vague assignments and due dates and leave the rest to you to figure out. I am another testimony to say that yes, this is true.

A planner has never been more appealing than now. I would consider a planner to be a necessity for college.

Furthermore, I highly recommend not stacking up activities or extracurricular activities. Pick and choose ones that you truly find yourself in and can spend your time growing in those organizations.

I am currently in two organizations, but those two simple orgs make me feel so useful, appreciated and cared for. I hold a leadership role in one of them and am able to advocate and encourage future girl engineers in the second. Quality over quantity. 

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