Things I Would Tell Myself as a College Freshman
The day I started to embrace that Pace University was my home for the next four years even though it wasn't my ideal situation. I definitely made the most of my experience there and I know that everything happens for a reason.
As college students are moving into dorms across the country and people are showcasing their fears and excitement for a newfound stage in life. It dawned on me to reflect on what I would go-back and tell my freshman self and what advice I received that truly made my own experience.
The one thing that stands true and is the one advice I took and ran with throughout my four years of college was from my father.
College is what you make of it
It was on repeat for months before I even went to college because I was truly heartbroken and devastated that finances kept me from attending my dream university, Pennsylvania State University. (I am still a pretty big Nittany Lion fan though as I type this wearing a Penn State spirit jersey.) Random side note but the Ice cream from the Berkey Creamery is also the best I've ever had.
However, I took the opportunities that were in-front of me at Pace University and left with close faculty connections, a whirlwind of experience on-campus and multiple leadership positions that allowed me to shape my future career interests. (Who knows maybe I’ll even be a professor one day?)
My entire collegiate experience was during the height of the pandemic. No. It was not ideal. No. I did not want to spend my last 2.5 years of college (graduated a semester early) miles and miles apart from the friends I made Freshman year, but I took the opportunity to further my leadership abilities, learned how to navigate working-from-home and found myself loving it, and even had the opportunity to lead projects that included turning an in-person event virtual with over 100 attendees.
So while your college situation may not be what you once envisioned, It’s all about the connections you make, the lessons you acquire and the passions that stem from it. Every aspect of your life plays a role in shaping you as a person.
Be optimistic along the way, seize all the opportunities that are provided and remember that at the end of each and every day you are in-charge of your own destiny.
Research clubs ahead of arrival and Join ASAP
I joined our student newspaper, The Pace Chronicle, literally before classes began my freshman year. It was perfect for me as a Journalism major at the time, a former editor-in-chief of my high school paper and someone who knew that she wanted to stay involved on-campus. The newspaper was also a great way to get comfortable on campus through interviewing faculty/students while also always staying up-to-date on the latest information. I even had the chance to interview the president a few times throughout my collegiate experience and become the COVID-19 policy expert. While the student newspaper may not be for everyone, find something ahead of a club fair that sparks your interest and join because it's a great way to connect with others.
Don’t overbook yourself
Guilty.Guilty.Guilty. I don’t relax and I don’t say No. I was always working a job around 25-40 hours a week, running multiple clubs and even working as a teaching assistant at some point. I always want to help others and do all the things I possibly could that fit my interests. However, you need to take time to refuel and recharge yourself by doing things that fulfill your own soul and your own personal cup. It’s okay to say no, it’s okay to drop a club or even a class if you need to. It’s okay to take a break because ultimately your mental and physical health must come first! This is something I’m still working on now: finding my own personal boundaries and how to address them.
I was fortunate enough that during my freshman and sophomore year of college, I had a job that allowed me to do schoolwork when we weren't busy.
Support your friends
If your friends are athletes, go to their games when you can. If your friends are running events for their respective organizations, reshare on social media and show-up when possible. When your friends are writing important material, share it, read it, care about it. College is hard. College is a lot of work and these personal endeavors/projects are somethings your friends are passionate about and have put so much time and effort into. Support is everything especially with all the life changes that come as a college student.
College does not have to be a four year path.
This may seem conflicting because I ended up graduating early.. a story about that will maybe come on the blog one day.. But I’m here to tell you that it's okay to take longer than four years if it means you are doing what’s best for you. Focusing on less classes may be better for your personal mental stability, physical health and success rate in those courses. Exploring other experiences like more internships, outside jobs or programs like the Disney College Program may suit your interests and have more benefits than rushing to finish school on time. Taking a semester break may better fit your health needs. Adding another major or minor may spark your interests and encourage a wider range of career opportunities. I am so passionate about this topic.. I even wrote a speech on it in my Public Speaking course because there is a stigma over taking longer than four years to graduate when there is no need for that to be in existence. Everyone’s path is different and there is not one single journey that is correct.
Don’t copy your notes over twice in classes that don’t have quizzes/tests
I was so into school that I copied all my notes in every single freshman class I took twice. I took them for the first time in-class and/or while reading the textbook and second as a way to retain information. While this is great for classes that have quizzes and tests, it was truthfully a waste of my time for project-based classes. My notes were definitely pretty though when I look back at hem now. Shoutout to papermate flair pens and the obsession that I owe to my AP lit teacher in high school.
Make connections with your faculty and understand that they don’t have it easy
Have you ever lived with a department chair in a lab-centered field during virtual classes with COVID-19? I haven’t seen my mother take a day off in four years. And no I'm not even exaggerating. I’ve also become so close with many of my faculty mentors at my own school and have seen the hours of hard work, hours of brainstorming and hours of questioning their assignments. Please be nice. Please be realistic. And please read the syllabus!!!!!!!
At the end of the semester, Ask what work is good to include as sample works for jobs/applications
As I apply to jobs and graduate programs one thing I wish I did was stay organized more of my best work in each class and the purpose they served. I wish I asked my professors for what work they thought would be good to submit as work/writing samples that reflect the type of communications professional, student, writer, editor and content creator I am.
One thing I am struggling with currently is determining which work is truly my best and what the fine line is on group work as samples. There was so much group work and even though I feel like I carried a lot of group work projects I still don’t want to get in trouble or start a new journey on a bad note by crossing a line.
Live your life
I will give myself the aspect of.. I attended college in a pandemic to cut myself a bit slack.. But even my freshman year I was all school and work. Make sure you enjoy social outings, do things you love to do and discover new passions/interests. I was a walkable train-ride away from NYC and I never went with my friends. The most I did was hit up White Plains for a small shopping trip one evening and go to a diner in a snowstorm.
Order Takeout , Go out to Eat, Treat yourself
I never ordered takeout in college even though I despised the dining hall food. I made life way more difficult with meal prepping, way less enjoyable with boring options at times, and way more stressful. For many reasons I never really ordered out. I never wanted to order alone or even was used to ordering takeout because we never did it at home. I also was always about saving money, but life is meant to be lived and you’re only in college once. Don’t feel scared to order takeout/pick-up food when the dining hall is terrible and your groceries are slim to none. Make memories with your friends instead of trying to eat healthy and saving money all the time. I went on ZERO ice cream runs as a college student and I feel like that's a crime in itself.
One of my favorite days ever though was literally a week before campus was shut down with the pandemic. My friend Victoria and I went to IHOP on National Pancake Day for free pancakes. I definitely regret not having more of these experiences in my undergraduate years.
Stay confident in your own life choices
I often let other people's voices get inside my head at times. You’ll hear so many things in college that will question your life knowledge. I was super passionate about so many things like eating three good meals a day, breakfast before anything, early morning productivity, nutrition knowledge etc., I let other people dictate that those things were not necessary even though I knew they were wrong and I was right. Don’t let others guide your own opinions and don’t let the fear of others thoughts guide your own actions.
Make decisions that suit your soul. When you make a commitment or have a strong desire to do something like graduate school, double majoring, double minoring etc., Stick with it. Stick with your gut and know that if something is not right for you a change will come later on. Rely on your own knowledge and learn to trust yourself because having confidence and trust in who you are as a person is key in everything you do.