Enjoy the Ride: 17 Tips to Help You Make the Most of Your First Year
The rumors are true: being a first-year in college is hard. It’s scary and overwhelming, and I’ll be honest, the food is not—and never will be—as good as what you had at home. But if what they also say is true, and hindsight really is 20/20, does that mean that foresight must be myopic? Doesn’t have to be!
As a junior, I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs. Despite how I might come across now, I too was a scared and overwhelmed first-year. However, my first year at Whitman College was one of the best I’ve ever had, and it cemented my love for this school and the people in it. Earlier this year someone asked me, “What did you wish you had known when you were a first-year?” After much thought and consideration, here are the 17 things I wish I had known when I became a Whittie.
1. Take advantage of free food: It sounds ridiculous, but free food is one of the best parts of college. Find and attend events that offer free food. Not only will you get your grub on, but you also might learn something new!
2. You will make a fool of yourself and that’s okay: You WILL make mistakes, and because Whitman is a small campus, chances are that more than a couple of people will know about it. Whatever happened, happened—so cry about it, laugh about it and accept it.
3. Professors are here to help: Most of them are here because they love what they do. Go to office hours and get to know them. They’re friendly and almost always willing to go that extra mile to help a student. Don’t be afraid to ask for that extra bit of help.
4. Don’t be afraid to fail: Chances are you will have one class in which you feel that no matter how much you study and no matter how many office hours you go to, you just will not understand the material. Don’t freak out! One bad grade does not mean you’re a failure. At the same time, however, these grades do affect your entire college GPA, so don’t completely neglect to study either. You might regret it when it comes time to apply for grad school or for that internship you always wanted.
5. Don’t feel rushed to find a major: This is the year to take a class in every academic department, so shop around a little bit. You might fall in love with a topic you never expected. And don’t just choose a major you think will make you money, because picking a major doesn’t set the course for your entire life.
6. Find a balance: Partying and hanging out are fun, and studying can be a bit of a drag, but do too much of one without the other and you’ll have a hard time making it through college. Don’t be afraid to kick back and relax; check out the town, go to an a cappella concert (there always seems to be one somewhere), see Varsity Nordic, find the best hiding spots in the library and climb up on Styx for a classic Whittie photo-op. But don’t do it at the expense of studying for class.
7. Get enough sleep: Sleep is crucial to success. It might seem cool now to be that person who says, “I literally just had three hours of sleep! I’m sooooo busy! I just live on Reid’s coffee!” But when the sleep deprivation kicks in, and the inner sleepless monster inside of you awakens, it won’t seem so cool.
8. Take chances: That cute boy or girl who catches your eye on Ankeny? Ask them out! That ridiculously themed party you heard about? Raid your dorm’s costume closet or Goodwill and go all out! That Sports Studies and Recreation Activities (SSRA) class that seems impossible because you’ve never done anything athletic before? Sign up! This is the time to take chances. Who knows what you will find out about yourself?
9. Press save … often: It only takes one spilled drink to erase everything you’ve done for the past 12 hours and to commence a 3 a.m. meltdown in the middle of the library.
10. Whitman is full of new and interesting people: Reach out to them! You will be meeting hundreds of students in a short amount of time, and some of them could end up being an important part of your life. That person you talked to today could be the person who helps you through a tough time, the person in whom you confide or the person who laughs with you at 2 a.m. Don’t burn bridges; you might need them again in the future.
11. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but don’t overcommit: There are infinite extracurricular possibilities and many causes for you to feel passionate about (Check out the rows upon rows of tables at the activities fair if you don’t believe me!). You’re a Whittie, so you’re probably passionate about—or at least vaguely interested in—some of them. Try as many as you want, but know your limits. It’s okay to say no.
12. The resources on campus are there for you to use them: The Academic Resource Center (ARC), Student Engagement Center (SEC), the Registrar, student tutors, your Resident Assistant (RA) and your Student Academic Advisor (SA) are all here to help you succeed! Don’t wait until it’s too late to utilize them.
13. Always use shower shoes: No exceptions. Believe me, you will regret it if you don’t.
14. Maintain a healthy lifestyle: The gym is free and newly renovated. Take advantage of it and develop healthy habits for the rest of your life. When it comes to eating in the dining hall, remember the golden rule: bad food makes you feel bad and good food makes you feel good. For those nights you want to be indulgent, however, don’t miss Sundae Sunday—deliciousness awaits.
15. Balance your class schedule: Taking 18 credits of all 300-level classes might seem like no big deal at the beginning of the semester, but, come November, you might be singing a different tune. Balance your hard classes with a fun class requiring minimal effort. Your brain will thank you for it later.
16. Drinking yourself into a stupor does not make you look cool: It’s okay to drink. It’s okay not to drink. Know your limits and don’t be afraid to say no. Remember, not everyone is doing it— just check the posters!
17. Enjoy the ride: What you put into college is what you’ll get out of it. Grades are important, but most of your learning will be done outside the classroom. You will never have access to more free stuff, cool and interesting people your own age and more opportunities to get involved ever again. And, believe me, it flies by. Whitman can be where you have some of the best times of your life and where you can meet people you’ll be friends with forever. So sit back and just enjoy it.