As someone who will graduate at the end of this semester, I reflected back to my first year of college in 2009. For many of the freshmen, that automatically turns me into an old geezer.
In my time at ABAC, I have experienced many great things, and all of it comes thanks to good things I did my freshman year. I have decided to share this advice so that the lowest on the totem pole may one day rise like a mighty stallion and gallop into the sunset.
1. Education is your first priority, and I am not talking keeping a 4.0. College is mainly about two things: experience and education.
Education is not regurgitation of what a professor tells you will be on a test; education is not having a 4.0 semester. Education is going to class every time you can and walking away with a new piece of knowledge you will never forget.
True, a 4.0 is nice, but head knowledge without a way to apply it to life is useless.
2. Invest yourself in the campus. You only get from college what you put into it, both in the classroom and in your social life.
A wise political science professor once told me: “In college, you have three options: you can study, you can party (social life), or you can sleep, but you can only do two of these and survive.” This statement rings true, in that you have to balance your life to fit you and your schedule.
This means getting involved in something on campus. Join a fraternity or sorority, DJ for the ABAC radio station WPLH, run to represent your school as a senator for Student Government Association, or become a work-study student in an area of campus you enjoy. Whatever you do, get involved and stay involved.
3. Make trips home scarcely. We all love our parents and our families. We all miss them and they miss us. My mom still calls me to remind me that she misses me at home on the family farm.
But college is your time to develop yourself, to become the person you will be for the rest of your life. And while we should encourage our parents, relatives, and significant others to be involved in our lives, we still need that space to develop for ourselves.
I have two examples of how frequent trips home can hurt. One comes from my father when he attended ABAC. For the first year he went home almost every weekend, and it caused him to slip in his classes and his GPA suffered. The other was the first roommate that I had freshman year, who literally did go home every weekend and, by the end of the semester, had all but stopped going to class.
4. Don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is part of life, and with each failure is a chance to improve.
With every success or failure, be balanced and ask yourself two questions. What did I do wrong? And what did I do right? Having this objective attitude, and looking at both sides will allow you to see how you can improve any and all situations.
We all get one shot at life, and our decisions, good or bad, wrong or right make us who we are, and this is a time where our decisions affect us slightly less than they do later in life.
5. Meet people and be cordial. Part of being a good student is having a good rapport with your professors. I can honestly say that there are a few professors on this campus that, after my tenure as a student is complete, I will be honored to call a friend.
This is done in the easiest way, and opens doors for help, whenever you may need it. One thing that I forced myself to do as a freshman was to go to each of my professor’s offices and introduce myself during the first week of class.
Cheesy? Oh yes, but it puts you out there as a person that is easy to talk to, and to meet with. I also introduced myself to the dean of my school. The longer you stay in school, the more vital each of the deans will become to your academic life, so make friends and stay on their good side.
There was a point where I would go to see my dean with a quick question, or ask for advice, and it would turn into a deep discussion on topics, such as politics, which tend to be fairly controversial. Having a good relationship and rapport with your professors will allow you to have discussions which would include the phrase, “I can see where you are coming from, and here is why I agree/disagree.”
This can also get you recommendations, job referrals, and a host of other good things. Do not brown nose. There is a difference between making friends and having a professional relationship, and brown nosing does the first, not the second.
6. Pay attention to what is going on around you. The school and administration love to hear from students about how the campus can be made better. There is a tool for making your ideas, concerns, and improvements known. Student government was put in place to serve the students of ABAC and carry their concerns and advice to the administration. This is why senators are elected every year. Use this valuable tool to make ABAC a better place.