Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Advice to Freshmen

On Sunday I attended a send off party for the incoming frosh. After the event I wrote my thoughts out because I don't think I hit all or even most of the important stuff, and I think better through writing than speaking.

Here. Contains both the practical and existential. 

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I would say brace yourself, but that would imply that you should become more rigid, when really, you should move freely. Be adaptable.

Be humble. Work hard. Get a bike and a helmet. 

Be open to trying new things, such as dancing. Question your assumptions and your limitations. Don't feel the need to drink or do drugs if that's not what you want for yourself. 

Don't feel obligated to be happy all the time.

Keep in touch with people you love from the previous stage of your life. Even if you are lucky enough to live with people that you get along with well (and I was very lucky), you have not known them for long and you may be missing the emotional support of people who know you.

At the same time, don't be afraid to open up to people at school. You're living together, after all. Fronting is unsustainable anyway, and most people aren't cold, just cautious/conservative. This goes both ways: be emotionally available to people and give a damn about their lives. 

Take a risk and talk about something you care about. If the people you're talking to don't care, probably someone else will--you just have to find them.

Go to career fairs and other events. It doesn't hurt to hit the ground running, and even if no one wants to hire a freshman, it'll give you practice talking to people for when you actually are looking for work. 

Go to the career development center and get your resume checked out. They know what they're talking about.

Get the ball rolling early. If you don't know who to talk to, schedule a meeting with your assigned advisor and ask them who in your major is the point person. Talk to that person and ask who you can talk to. Go from there. Email professors. Some will reply and some won't. Lurk the lectures they hold, and then go to their office hours.

I rarely went to office hours with professors for classes I was actually taking, because the classes I was taking were mostly big intro classes with TAs who were less intimidating. But you can be braver.

Join stuff you find interesting. Be aware of overcommitting your time, however. 

Use a calendar system, whatever works for you, to keep yourself organized. I got into the planner habit in middle school; you may have a different system. If you didn't use anything in high school, try to find a method of organizing yourself now because it will be more difficult.

You're not a freak if you don't feel a lot of enthusiasm for something or other. At the same time, don't dismiss things you're unfamiliar with out of hand.

Go off campus every once in a while. It's good for you.

Go to performances, plays, concerts, etc. Your classmates have a lot of talent--appreciate it! Especially since student tickets are usually free or deeply discounted.

Really make an effort to get a reasonable amount of sleep. Don't overbook your weekends, except once in a while. Take naps.

Get the university to fund your adventures.

Make sure you get alone time regularly--not just alone time in terms of being by yourself, which is also important, but alone time in the sense of having time to reflect and think about what you're doing and why you're doing it.

Get your notebooks and textbooks before the first day of class for less stress. In particular, plan ahead and get your books for the next quarter during the finals week of the previous quarter to allow for shipping times--if and only if you are absolutely certain you will take the class. Avoid the bookstore if possible; it's guaranteed to be a ripoff. 

Explore things on campus. Cantor! The Dish! Jasper Ridge! All the libraries! (The Law library is quite nice.)

Move as much stuff off your local computer as possible. Dropbox, Google Drive, Evernote for thoughts, Github for code, Microsoft OneDrive if you have Office--I'm two for two for years where my computer has broken and knowing your data is safe is intensely comforting.

Speaking of which, some helpful apps: Dropbox, GroupMe, Evernote. WhatsApp is popular in some places. Slack is good for large groups but I haven't needed it yet. Lots of people use Venmo and I'm not quite ready to make the plunge. Uber can be cheaper than taxis. Stay away from Yik Yak, it's a whole lot of pettiness.  

Continuing in the theme of making your phone useful for you, put your school email account on the Mail app. If there's some kind of authenticator app you can use to log on, use that too. Needless to say put your school's town on Weather. Schedule repeating alarms for every day you have a different schedule. Get heavy rotation out of your calendar and give different calendars different colors. 

Go to events and speakers--the event calendar is good for figuring out what is going on.

Compile a list of places you like to study. Windhover, the Bender Room in Green, the Law Library, etc.

Compile a list of things you like to eat at Late Night. Acai bowls, waffles, etc.

Write emails, send emails. Remember your professor probably isn't going to take longer than a minute on your email and just hit send instead of agonizing over every word. I use exclamation points sometimes because "have a good day!" sounds friendlier than "have a good day.", but your mileage may vary. 

Make time to do things you enjoyed doing before high school, like reading or baking or going on walks. 

Try things that are a little outside of your comfort zone. Ignore any pressure to do things you have absolutely no interest in (for me, drinking and Greek life).

Don't demand of yourself that you always be happy. I said this at the beginning but it needs to be repeated. It's okay if you miss home or feel overwhelmed or isolated. Do something about it, of course (call home, make lists, cull obligations, realtalk with someone), but if you really can't, don't push yourself to do something about it right away. 

Fear complacency but remember that you are fallible and that's okay. 

Get ready. You are not invincible but certainty is never a prerequisite for victory. 


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