Freshman Year Essay

This past week back at the U of A, I've been noticing how college freshmen are so obviously college freshmen. They wear lanyards, spend hours picking out their first day of school outfit, and cheer out wrong names of players at football games. While I find all this amusing, I also totally remember the excitement, anxiousness and remarkable amount of cluelessness that comes with being a brand spankin' new college freshman.

My first semester of college was certainly an experience. And I use the word "experience" in the way that Randy Pausch used it in his famous Last Lecture, where he said that "Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted." The first semester of my freshman year of college was a whole bunch of not getting what I wanted. Not getting things that I applied for. Not fitting into the group of people that I wanted to be friends with. Not having any of the guys that I was interested in be interested back. Not achieving the grades I wanted (and kind of assumed I would get). That's just a whole lot of experience right there. But as Randy Pausch also said about experience in his Last Lecture, "experience is often the most valuable thing you have to offer." I was able to learn from my first semester of frosh year, and have a very successful and enjoyable second semester -- and I'm hoping to keep using my experiences to improve and grow as a student and person.

And since experience is probably the most valuable thing to offer college freshmen (except for free food because free food always wins), here are some things I learned/wished I would have realized during my first semester of college.

Just stop with this whole lanyard business.

Lanyards aren't even that convenient when it comes down to it. There are actually wallets with little key holders and clasps on them, which are infinitely more convenient than lanyards will ever be.

Stop trying so hard to be part of a group that you don't even truly fit in with.

Yeah, that group of people that you met at orientation just seems super awesome and cool! But give it a couple of weeks, and you'll see that you don't have much to relate to them over. Yet you still try so hard to be a part of the group. You feel left out when you see Facebook photos of events that they had that you weren't invited to. You try to make conversation with them, but you realize that you don't have too much in common except for loving One Direction. And as impossible as it seems, talking about Zayn's hair or Harry's tattoos all day every day gets old. Instead of being hell-bent on being BFFs with the first people you meet, try to branch out to new people, or remember to keep in contact with friends you had in high school.

Get self-motivated.

During my first semester of college, I spent a lot time trying to get myself motivated, listening to inspirational music and reading articles on study tips. But I actually spent very little time being motivated and working hard. I didn't want to start studying or doing homework until I felt fully inspired. Which meant that very little work actually got done. During my second semester, I learned that you just have to dive right into working hard. You can't wait till you feel fully ready. Because when do you ever feel fully ready for anything? Like basically never. I'm pretty sure I leave my apartment every morning rushing and feeling like I must have forgotten something.

Second semester, you'll come to love doing work in coffee shops and libraries. You'll learn to love working hard. You don't need any outside sources to convince you to want to work hard; you'll want to work hard for yourself.

It'll get better.

The campus won't feel so unfamiliar. Your homework will feel much doable and even possibly enjoyable. Your time management skills will get better. It just takes some time. You want to just be able to hit the ground running. But you'll first have to learn to walk. Yeah, the first semester is a struggle, but a worthwhile one that teaches you a whole lot about yourself.

During the first semester, it feels like you should be excited to be in college, but you're just not. You're constantly confused by people who say "I love college" and "College is the best time of your life." But give it a few months. You'll come to really love where you're at. You'll believe that your campus is beautiful, and you'll constantly refer to the University of Arizona as the best university EVER. You'll find a group of friends who you can really talk to and not stress about fitting in with. And you'll hate the thought of being away from college and its endless opportunities and freedom.

So, even though my first semester of my frosh year was just four months straight of not getting what I wanted, it was an experience I wouldn't trade. And it's an experience that I offer to current college freshmen to learn from. But, even more valuable than my lessons learned, is your own experience. Everyone has a different adjustment to college. Maybe you're the one who can and will hit the ground running. Or maybe you're like me, and you just need to learn to be patient. So, even if you feel like you're not getting what you want out of college, just realize that it is an experience for you to learn and grow from. Because this is just the beginning.

Making the transition from middle to high school can be an exciting, albeit intimidating process. Often times the student body is larger, and you’re a new fish in a much larger pond. For others the surroundings might be the same, but the academics are challenging and the expectations are much higher.

Your freshman year of high school marks the beginning of an important high school journey – one that will, hopefully, lead you to a great college education.

There will be growing pains.
The start of high school may be exciting, but it will be a big adjustment. There will be new classes, new teachers, new students, and often an entirely new campus to navigate. Your first day may leave you feeling lost and uncomfortable, but give it some time – every big change requires an adjustment period. Rely on friends, teachers, or even older siblings to help you find your classrooms, learn the lunchroom dynamics, find new clubs to explore, and get used to the new academic rigors. Before you know it, you’ll be navigating the new high school scene like a pro.

There will be opportunities to explore new interests.
High school holds a wealth of opportunities for freshman students. From new clubs and organizations, to sports teams and other activities, there’s no shortage of extracurriculars for you to explore. Now is the time to get involved, and there will be plenty of opportunities to do so. If your school offers a club fair, go and learn about the organizations that pique your interest. A bigger student body often means a more diverse extracurriculars, so explore what interests you. You never know what you might learn about yourself and your high school.

You will make new friends.
And maybe grow out of old ones. The dynamics of high school are much different than in primary and middle school. While it’s common to stay friends with those you have grown up with, new classes and involvement in new activities can lead you to new friendships you may not have considered before. If you’re attending a new school where you know few people, don’t worry – you will get to know your new classmates faster than you think.

You will need to learn the importance of time management.
As we said before, your freshman year of high school is the beginning of a four-year journey to college, and it’s something that needs to be taken seriously. Classes in high school rely heavily on every minute of classroom instruction, so there will be a lot of homework. Add extracurricular activities and new friendships to the mix and suddenly you have an overwhelmingly busy schedule. You’ll need to quickly learn how to prioritize your time in and outside of the classroom. Balancing schoolwork with extracurriculars and a social life can be difficult at first, but you’ll soon get the hang of it. Create a homework schedule or keep a detailed calendar to help you keep track of all commitments. Staying organized is key to successfully managing your time.

College may seem far off, but you will need to prepare.
Colleges look at all four years of academics, not just junior and senior year, so start your freshman year off on the right foot by performing well in your courses. If you’re having difficulty understanding some of the material, don’t be the shy freshman who silently struggles – ask your teachers for help. Not only will this improve your grade, it will also help you foster strong relationships with your instructors – something that is important when it comes time to ask for recommendations during the college application process.

You’re going to enjoy it.
The start of the high school experience is an exciting time. There’s no doubt that some challenges will lie ahead as you adjust to new academic and social dynamics, but it will be a fun journey. Remember that high school is meant to be educational, enlightening, and the stepping-stone to a college education. You’ll learn a lot about yourself your freshman year – which subjects you like, which subjects you don’t, which interests you wish to persue, and how you want to contribute to your high school community. This is a time of great change, so embrace it!

Freshman year of high school can take some students by surprise – in both positive and negative ways. By knowing what to expect when you arrive for your first day, you can mentally prepare for the experience and ease into the transition.

For high school freshmen beginning the journey to a successful college admissions process, be sure to check out the College Planning Checklist for Freshmen so you can stay on top of what you need to do this year in order to stay on track for senior year!

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