In August 2013, I ventured out 4 miles away from my home to start my undergraduate career. Although I was beyond excited to start fresh in a new environment and take classes that I was excited for, there was a small sense of dread since I would be commuting to school for the next four years. Among the posts of my friends moving into their dorm rooms, I was at home planning the carpooling schedule with my mom. Fast forward three years, I am now a senior in college looking into my grad school options and working part time. Reflecting back to my naive 17 year old self, I realize how close minded I was during those first few weeks of my freshman year. I’m happy to say that with some guidance from friends and willingness to step out of my comfort zone, I have taken advantage of amazing opportunities that have made me event more involved on campus.
I didn’t realize how much I have to share about my college experience until I started helping my younger brother with the college application process. Among his questions of whether he should apply to a certain university or how FAFSA works, the big question that came up was “What I wished I learned before starting college”. This actually did come up in conversation on the way home one day and it really got me thinking hard. After some reflection, here’s what I told him:
- There really is no such thing as a stupid question- Honestly, if you are unsure about a particular concept or even if you are not sure what your professor is asking of you for a specific assignment, ASK! Most likely, at least half in the people in your class don’t understand, so just ask to receive clarification. From my experience, professors actually like when students ask questions because it provides them with feedback and they genuinely want to help you succeed. So go on and ask your question, your grade will thank you!
- It’s okay to change your major- I did it and I’ve seen many of my friends change majors because they found something else that they are more passionate about. If you are on the fence about changing majors, talk to your adviser for guidance. It is much more beneficial to realize early on that you don’t enjoy the classes you are taking than to realize it when you are an upperclassman. To pull this off successfully, have a plan and make sure that it’s something that you want. Don’t change majors because your friends our doing it or because your parents want you to. You are the one putting time and effort into those classes, not them.
- Take care of your body- The dreaded ‘Freshman 15’ can get real especially if you slack on exercising and don’t make a conscious effort to eat healthy. Take advantage of the student recreation center and take a class with a friend. Find something that you like to do (fitness wise) and stick with it! The earlier you start developing these habits, the more likely they will stay with your even after you graduate.
- Go to your professor’s office hours- This will allow you to ask questions that you couldn’t ask in lecture and gives you a chance to introduce yourself to your professor. The more consistent you are in attending office hours, the better the rapport you’ll have with your professor. This will come in handy especially for research opportunities and recommendations for grad school. If you can’t make their office hours because of work, email them to schedule a different time. Most professors are very understanding and accommodating.
- Stay in the moment and always look forward to the future, for the best is yet to come- With the triumphs and struggles that college comes with, it is easy to become discouraged if things aren’t turning out the way you expected. In these times, it is easy to dwell on the bad and become complacent. To rise above this feeling of uncertainty, it’s more productive to remain optimistic and strive to make yourself better by learning from your mistakes. The college experience has a lot of unexpected things to offer, you just have to be open to welcoming those opportunities.
I have learned a lot throughout in these past three years. Although there have been times that have made me question if physical therapy is still a career I wanted to pursue, I persevered through the grueling general biology classes and came out of them okay. Upon bestowing my brother these five things, I wished someone gave me this advice when I was a high school senior. I am happy to be a source of guidance for my brother and I am so glad that I learned these things because they will be useful to me in the future.