A Few Words of Advice From a Former Freshman

As of roughly three hours ago, I am no longer a freshman. Done with my first year of college; just like that. Kinda scary how that happened so quickly, but it did. I’m one-fourth done with college and I haven’t even figured out how the Milwaukee bus system works.

But even though I’m now a rising sophomore, I remember what it’s like to be entering freshman year. Specifically, I was scared out of my mind. I lived the first 18 years of my life in New Jersey as an only child, and I was now about to go halfway across the country- hundreds of miles away from anybody who knew me- and live on my own.

Needless to say, I was scared out of my mind in the hours leading up to move-in day. I have very high natural anxiety anyways, but this was even worse than usual. Hardly talked to anyone at the reception the night before. Couldn’t sleep a wink that night. Didn’t touch a thing at breakfast. I was sweating bullets, overwhelmingly nauseous and barely able to put words together.

I arrived hours after my other roommates, helped set up the room a little bit and then laid down on my bed to sleep. I felt so disoriented and frightened that I slept right through the first few events of freshman orientation. You know how kindergartners cling to their parents’ leg on the first day of school? That’s what I felt like. A 5”9’, 140-pound kindergartner.

Over time, though, I adjusted. Made some friends. Repeated the whole “name/where are you from?/what’s your major?” conversation about 50 times throughout the first few days. Had some really cool experiences. Started working on my career. Took classes that made me think differently. Went to just about every basketball game. Did my own laundry, set up my own appointments and did most of the things that people tell me well-adjusted adults are supposed to do. And at the end of the year, I can honestly say that coming to Marquette and embracing the Marquette experience is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

In a few months, you will be at the same crossroads in your life that I was, and I’m telling you this story to let you know that it’s OK to be scared. It’s OK to be nervous. It’s perfectly fine to have no idea what you’re doing- whether in your major or any other facet of your life. That’s why you go to college- to start figuring stuff out. If I can go from where I was on move-in day to where I am now, I have absolutely no doubt that you’ll be able to as well.

With that, I’d like to offer you guys a few general tips about dealing with college. Obviously, I’m by no means an expert, and the advice that I’m giving is as fallible as everyone else’s is. You might even already know these things. These are just a few things that I observed and/or put into practice that seemed to work well for me over the course of this past year. Perhaps they will be of some use to you as well.

You will meet more people in the first few weeks of college than you’ve met in the previous year, if not longer. The trick to getting the confidence to talk to new people is to assume that they already like you before you’ve even talked to them. That changes your entire mindset before the interaction even begins.

Take care of your physical and mental well being. You’re going to be exposed to so many new things, places, people and experiences that it’ll be very easy to overstress yourself. Make sure to look after your health. Go to bed early. Take a half hour everyday to do something you enjoy. If something’s on your mind, go talk to someone about it. All of these things sound obvious, but they’re massively important.

You are going to make so, so many mistakes in college. That, too, is a perfectly normal part of life. It’s your first time living on your own- you’re not going to get a lot of things even close to perfect. Learn from your mistakes, but do not dwell on them. A failed exam or a fight with your friend is not a reflection on your worth as a human being.

Go out of your way to make an impression on faculty members. You may not like or agree with some of them, but they know things that you don’t and desperately want to see you succeed. Go to their office hours at least once per semester, if only to introduce yourself. Be more than just a face in the crowd to them.

Use these four years to figure out what you like/don’t like and what is/isn’t important to you. Sign up for any organization that you think even sounds the least bit interesting and go to the first meeting- you don’t have to go again if you don’t want to. Go to as many events as possible- you never know who or what is going to be there. The only way you grow is by doing new things.

When you do find something that you’re passionate about, aspire to excellence in it. You’re not just going to be a surgeon; you’re going to be such a good surgeon that they’re going to name operations after you. You’re not just a volunteer at the pet shelter; you’re going to be the dogs’ favorite volunteer. Find something that you badly want to do and then use it to become the best possible version of yourself that you can be.

Take advantage of Marquette’s location. Milwaukee is an absolutely amazing city. We have pro sports teams, museums, amazing food, cool shopping and just about anything else you could ever want. Take some time to look around, because you’ll find something new just about every time you look.

Call your parents. They miss you and they want to help. You don’t have to stay on the phone for long, but just a call every now and then means the world to them, Also, it is possible to stay good friends with everybody you went to high school with, but you have to put in the effort. If someone is important to you, let them know that with a phone call or text message. It’s up to you to reach out to those who you want to stay close with.

Be nice to everyone you meet, even people you don’t really like. This is so obvious that we often forget to do it. Everybody has their own problems and everybody wants to be treated with respect. Something as simple as holding the door for someone or saying hello can single-handedly make someone’s day better. You’d be surprised how far common civility can take you in life.

  • Finally, the biggest piece of advice that I can offer is to be yourself. Form your own opinions about things. Spend a few weeks setting up your own routine, then spend the rest of the year finding small ways to diverge from it. Don’t be ashamed of your differences from other people and don’t be shy about standing out from the crowd. (Remember, nothing is embarrassing unless you feel embarrassed by it.) More than anything else, ask yourself what kind of person you want to be, and then keep striving to become that person. Be authentic, be interesting, but most importantly, be you. Everybody else is already taken.

Have a fantastic rest of your senior year and enjoy your summer. Before you know it, you’ll be at Marquette, and there are a lot of people here who will be excited to see you.

Ring out ahoya!

Andrew Goldstein, new sophomore at MU

Originally published at marquetteadmissions.tumblr.com.

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