Dear Incoming College Freshmen:
I know that I'm not the first one to tell you that you are embarking on one of the most exciting periods of your young lives. I know you're being bombarded with advice from everyone -- parents, teachers, older siblings, aunts, uncles, friends, etc. At times, it can be very overwhelming but bear with me as I throw some more wisdom onto the pile.
Moving into the dorm is both exciting and terrifying. On one hand, you're gaining the freedom and independence that you (probably) never had at mom and dad's house. On the other hand, everyone else in that dorm is gaining this same freedom for the first time. There will be roommate drama. There will be the crazy roommate that makes you want to tear your hair out. Learn to take it all in stride.
Once you've settled into the dorm, get involved. I cannot stress this enough. It's the best way to meet people on campus. Sure, you might strike up a conversation with someone in a class but it's far easier to introduce yourself to others with similar interests. I met some of my best college friends while working at Emerson's WECB radio. Many campus organizations allow opportunities for resume building, be it with work or volunteer experience. Just don't allow yourself to be spread too thin -- you don't want to be the person that commits to everything and therefore constantly flakes out.
Take your classes seriously. Sure, college affords you the opportunity to have fun but remember the real reason why you're there. You're earning a degree, not the title of beer pong champion. One of my biggest regrets from college is that I did not network with my professors. Your professors have been in the industry that you wish to work in. They have connections in this field and are a veritable wealth of advice. They can recommend you for internships and one day, jobs. If you later choose to go to graduate school, they will write your recommendation letters. Form working relationships with at least one or two professors. You never know when you'll need them.
Look into student employment. The pay won't be great and you'll likely have restrictions placed on the number of hours that you can work per week, but on campus employment is another way to get involved and make connections. Bosses in campus jobs are often more understanding when you need to miss a shift and study for an exam. Usually, you won't have a problem finding other students to cover for you. Sometimes, the right student employment can add stellar work experience to your resume.
Take every opportunity that comes your way. Does your school offer a study abroad program? Go for it. Can you get discounted theater tickets with your student ID? See some shows! Is your school hosting an internship fair or a job-hunting workshop? Attend it. Trust me -- you'll miss having these opportunities once you graduate and have to live in the "real world."
You have no doubt graduated from high school with a group of people that you think will remain your dearest friends. Sometimes, this is the case but it's inevitable that you will either fall out or lose touch with at least a few of your high school buddies. People change -- sometimes it's them, sometimes it's you. Shed yourself of any toxic friends. As someone once told me, friendship is more than shared memories.
You will experience your first crippling heartbreak. Some of you will split from your high school sweethearts; others will experience their first "real" relationships. When it ends you'll be devastated but eventually, the feeling will pass. Someone better will come along. Someone better always does.
Lastly, enjoy yourself. Your college years will be some of the best of your life. Your classes and professors will expand your horizons and help you hone the skills for an eventual career. You'll meet people that might someday become great contacts. Trust me -- you'll learn more about yourself and others than you thought was possible. There will be some tearful phone calls home but know that the feeling will pass.
Best of luck in your college career!
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