What I wish I knew before my freshman year of college


May 29, 2021

It’s officially been a year of online college! I’ve just finished up finals and I’m feeling free! I thought I would take a moment to reflect on the past year and share some advice that I learned during my freshman year. Even though I completed the entire year online, I think I’ve still learned a lot about college academics and tips that should be useful for my next three years. Most of this is academic advice, as I haven’t really experienced a true college social-life living on campus, but hopefully this will help some of you who are planning to start college this fall.

1. Go to office hours!

I honestly didn’t really know what office hours were before I started college! I knew they were a time where you could go and talk to a professor, but I wasn’t sure what people used them for. In high school I didn’t really go in and speak to my teachers outside of class; at my school, most of the time if you met with a teacher outside it was because you wanted some extra help with the material and I always felt bad about taking up a teacher’s free time. However, I didn’t realize that at college office hours were a bit different. The purpose of office hours differs for each class, for example for my calc class it was a place where we could take homework problems we were confused about and go through them with a professor but for my history class it was a place where we could pitch a paper idea and develop that idea with some help. Office hours shouldn’t be something that you only go to when you’re struggling, but an opportunity that you make the most of even when things are going well. Professors set aside that time to meet with students from a specific course, and you should definitely make the most of it! Don’t feel embarrassed about going, in fact, it shows professors that you really care about the class if you go to office hours!

2. Go to class

I feel like this piece of advice might look pretty straightforward, but it’s super important. In high school you couldn’t just skip class, but in college no one’s checking where you are every moment of the day and it’s easy to just skip a lecture if you’re not feeling like it. Especially in the online environment where most lectures are pre-recorded, it’s so easy to just procrastinate watching them and suddenly end up with 20 lectures to watch in one week! I was pretty good at staying on track this year, but I know that if I had fallen behind it would have felt super overwhelming. Most classes are already fast-paced and by falling behind you don’t give yourself enough time to really understand the material and ask questions if needed. There will be days when you really feel like just skipping that lecture, but trust me, if you keep up, it will be worth it!

3. Do the homework

This one may also look pretty straightforward, but unlike in high school, in most college classes professors don’t check that you’ve done the homework, it’s just an expectation. It can be easy to just skip assignments if you’re having a busy week, but make sure to try and keep up or go back and finish them as soon as possible because things can really start to pile up! If you fall behind on assignments and homework it just means that you’ll be cramming right before a midterm or final which will make it even more stressful!

4. Find your bearings first, then get involved

At a school like Georgetown, everyone is super involved in extracurricular groups and I remember feeling like I also had to get super involved in my first semester. My advice would be to realize that you have time! Take your first semester to get your bearings and understand what college life is like; get used to the workload, social life, and just living on your own for the first time, and then get involved. In my first semester I was involved in one extracurricular, but in my second semester I felt like I had gotten a routine down for approaching my workload and decided to get more involved. I’m happy that I decided to do it this way, so I wasn’t immediately met with overwhelming stress during my first few weeks of freshman year.

5. Make use of study groups

I’m definitely the kind of student who gets more done working alone, sometimes I find it difficult to be productive in a group settings, but college has really taught me that study groups can be really useful. For a lot of my courses we are encouraged to get together outside of class and work through problem sets or discuss study guides for a specific reading. Of course, it only works if everyone has put in the effort beforehand, but it’s really useful to get together in a group as you can fill in the gaps in each-other’s knowledge! (of course, only when it’s allowed in a class) I can imagine that when we’re on campus it will be even more convenient to get together in a group and study together.

6. Don’t worry about the rejections

College is really an opportunity to grow and prepare yourself for whatever you want to do later in life, so don’t be scared to try new things! This is definitely easier said than done. I am the kind of person who worries about being rejected or about what other people might say if I don’t make it onto a team or a club. I can guarantee you, everyone is so busy with their own work and plans that they won’t even notice if you get rejected from an opportunity. The most important thing is that you try, and not hold yourself back because you’re scared of what others might say.

7. Do not listen to imposter syndrome

Maybe it’s something that I’ll eventually grow out of, but I know that lots of people including myself often struggle with imposter syndrome during college – feeling like you’re not good enough to be where you are or that you aren’t as smart as everyone else. Remember, you’re there for a reason, the school picked you for a reason! Comparing yourself won’t do any good, and remember there’s much more to a person than the experiences listed on their LinkedIn! I wish I hadn’t spent so much of my freshman year worrying about if I was smart enough, and just enjoying myself, because those doubts are almost always made up in your head.

And with that, there’s seven things that I wish I had known before my first year of college and that will hopefully help you! If you have any other pieces of advice, be sure to add them in the comments.

See you next week,

  1. […] case you wanted to take a look, I also dug up my end of year reflection posts from my freshmen and sophomore […]

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