Life has a pretty steep learning curve. And while everyone likes to note that we learn the most from our mistakes, it’s pretty great when we get to learn from someone else’s before we make them ourselves. So, for your sake, here are three big things I got wrong my freshman year of college, along with two things that I got right.
1. Grades do matter. In high school, life revolves around grades. It feels like even one B+ can destroy your chance of admittance to your dream school (though that legend is pure myth). So, though I like to think that when I started college, I was still burned out from high school academics, it’s possible that I was just lazy.
Whatever my reasoning was, I had convinced myself that my grades didn’t matter. But the fact of the matter is, that’s just not true. While a high GPA is not the be-all and end-all that it seems to be in high school, you’ll need a decent GPA to be admitted to grad school. Your GPA may also weigh into your first job, so don’t slack off.
2. Your courses are more than just lectures. Sure, going to lecture every day is important—but that’s the bare minimum. And doing the bare minimum does not make you studious nor earn you a good grade, even if only half the class shows up. During my freshman year, I often felt like going to class was good enough.
But your university offers all kinds of resources: from office hours to tutoring, from research libraries to online hubs. Take advantage of these opportunities and maximize your education (and tuition dollars!).
3. Try new things. I find that I often put myself in a box, or more commonly (and harmfully), exclude myself from boxes. For instance, I’m not particularly outdoorsy and would therefore exclude myself from the “outdoors person” category. Thus, I’d bar myself from all outdoors clubs and activities.
If I could do my freshman year over again, I would try out different clubs and participate in various activities. Passion doesn’t just arise from nothing; it needs some sort of seed to grow from.
4. Partying is overrated. American college students have a global reputation for their wild parties and alcohol abuse. As a total goodie-two-shoes with a bunch of nerdy (but fun!) friends, I didn’t consume a single drink during my freshman year of college. Instead, I had a lot of innocent fun, and none of those wonderful memories are blurred by alcohol.
5. Invest in friendships. As much as academics matter, I still think that my college friendships are the most valuable asset I gained in college. Not only are your college friends a networking goldmine, but there’s a good chance that at least a few of them will become important people in your life.
I spent my freshman year giggling with my roommates and enjoying lengthy dinners with my floormates. And though some of that time was likely the result of my procrastination, I don’t regret one second of it. So although the focus of your schooling should be school, don’t just lock yourself up in a room to study… make sure to meet people and spend time with your new friends.