15 Things Incoming College Freshmen Should Know
By Lester Asamoah
Welcome to the University of Oklahoma! Welcome to the freshman experience and the college journey. While we are all Sooners, everyone has different backgrounds - some have parents and siblings that have went to college and got super involved, thus they know exactly what to do, who to talk to, and where to go. Others may have parents far removed from college, and there are still plenty of people that have never had a sibling or parent in college. I come from the camp of having no parents or siblings in my [immediate] family that have attended college. Because of that experience, I really value advice and mentorship. I understand that it takes only one club or one experience to change your life or discover something new, so I love doing whatever I can to help make those connections. This exhaustive list of college pro-tips will hopefully help you out in your journey.
Without further ado, the list:
1. Go to class - This will help immensely. And I’m not saying this as a “goody-two-shoes” student or anything. I, like many others have missed class on several occasions, legitimate and illegitimate. But the point of class is to help you learn. You would be surprised how just showing up will help, even if it’s an easy class or everything is in the book. When you’re being lazy, just remember that you, your parents, the federal government, or scholarship donors aren’t paying for you to not go to class. It seems cliché, but go to class.
2. Be strategic - Study smart, not hard. Don’t spend hours reading if you’re not retaining the information, you’re wasting your own time. Don’t agree to study groups if you’re not a study group person. Contrary to the first rule, if you have a choice between finishing a project worth a big part of your grade that is due soon, or going to class that you can miss without any major penalty, you have to understand that maybe you should do your project. Go to class, but be smart with your options. Oh, and if you have a test on Friday, probably shouldn’t go bar hopping the night before. You would be astonished on how many people do that.
3. Meet new people - You never know who will change your life. There’s at least 5 people I can instantly say that my life would be completely different if I hadn’t have met them. And college is the best time to meet tons of people.
4. Get involved - There’s something on campus for literally everyone. 4.0 students sometimes get rejected from grad schools because they have no personality and nothing to add to the prospective programs. Academics are always and forever number one, but get involved. Freshman year is the time. Don’t even count on Senior year to have a ton of involvement, because you should be prepping for law/medical/grad school or a career. The most transformative and memorable experiences come from student activities. The classroom can never give you student life experiences of leadership, friendship, responsibility, self-esteem, networking, teamwork, etc.
5. Be yourself - College is a time where people try to mold themselves into what they want to be. And yes, while it is a fresh start, you really should just be yourself. Molding will only go so far. Don’t pretend like you’re sporty if you’re not. Don’t act like a lady-killer when you never have had a girlfriend. If you like to party, don’t pretend like you don’t. Your true self will be revealed. However, that’s not to say you can’t improve yourself as a person.
6. Single is not a bad thing - Don’t waste your time chasing men/women your freshman year. Living through a huge life adjustment is not a good time to even think about dating. Be single, be happy. You’re still growing A LOT freshman year. You may not even know what major you want, much less what kind of guy/gal you want. Calm down. And if you’re coming in with a gf/bf, I would strongly reconsider that decision. Not that you don’t love, like, whatever them, but college is a different ball game, and the success rate of freshman relationships are abysmal. Sorry.
7. Study Abroad – There are way too many good opportunities to study abroad to pass it up. Studying abroad is a great personal and academic experience. If you’re studying a language, it’s a must have. And there are even programs clamoring for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) majors to study abroad. There is nothing like studying abroad. No matter what your major is, you really learn about yourself and about a completely different culture, which is invaluable and helpful in so many ways. Look into program and plan out a way to study abroad.
8. Meet your professors - Your professors are functional human beings with families and lives. Most importantly, (the majority of them) enjoy students and what they teach. Office hours are your best academic friend. Go to them. Even if you’re not struggling, just touch base and make sure you’re on the right track. It literally makes a grade letter difference.
9. Take advantage of your meal plan - Please. When you live in an apartment, the struggle becomes so much realer. If you end up living in a sorority/fraternity house, you won’t have any real control of what you want to eat or when you eat it. If you’re starting out in an apartment with no meal plan, bless your heart.
10. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise - Studies have shown time and time again that exercising improves mental performance. The Huffington Post summarizes my point beautifully in their article. College is overwhelming, but carve time to work out. There are literally no negative repercussions of working out (unless you’re just negligent in the weight room) and you will be a healthier person physically and mentally.
11. When something is wrong, admit it - If you’re struggling mentally, tell someone. Parents, sorority sises, frat bros, friends, trusted faculty, just tell someone. If you need money, there are resources for finding a job or a loan. If you are not having a good roommate experience, your housing services has been trained for that very problem. If you’re struggling in a class, tell the professor. Things will grow much, much worse the longer you withhold information. Honesty will literally set you free.
12. Make a plan - Your plans are almost guaranteed to change while you are in college, but still write out a six month to one year plan and try to follow that. Do you want to apply (at OU) for Outstanding Freshman? Do you want to get involved in x amount of clubs? Do you want to lose x amount of pounds? Do you want an internship or fellowship? Write everything down and try to stick to it. Yes, things will change, but you should still always have a solid sense of direction. There are few things in life better than accomplishing something major.
13. Be flexible - I would estimate that around 50 percent of the freshmen that read this blog post will have no idea what they want to major in. The other 50 percent picked a major because they think it will be a good job, or they think they want to actually do that major. Just be flexible. Most high schools don’t expose students to a wide range of opportunities. Open your mind and see what really inspires you. Don’t be afraid to change your major. Be cognizant of your future though - you may love European history, but if you don’t know how to pursue a career in that, think about doing something else. I don’t want to discourage people from taking obscure or fine arts degrees, those are the most interesting and beautiful learning programs, but I do want people to keep in mind that degrees are pieces of paper that won’t put food on the table.
14. Faith - Faith is a key part to mental health and happiness. If you actively attend church, pursue a church with the same or similar denomination to your faith. Being in a faith-based community of college students that are paving their way like you are is a great way to have immediate comfort and guidance. Additionally, upper classmen in the church/mosque/synagogue can help you work through the unique faith-related issues of college. Going back to no. 5 though, be yourself. Don’t force faith or allow faith to be forced on you if you truly don’t believe - it’s not fair to you or the faith community. I would, however, encourage always at least giving faith at least a chance.
15. Have adventures - Nobody remembers that really stressful US History exam, but everyone remembers staying up all night joking around and bonding together over the stressful exam. Have fun! Have adventures! College is the time for staying up late, exploring college towns, walking around campus at night, football games you’ll never forget, making inside jokes, meeting wonderful people, making mistakes, and making memories. The real world can wait, just enjoy college. None of my best memories ever happened in the classroom. They happened from Oklahoma City all the way to Italy. They happened staying up all night, making snack runs, hitting on girls I could never get with, and going to campus events. College is hard. It’s stressful and demanding. Anyone that says any college is easy is a liar or graduated with a very poor GPA. Even the “easy” majors require countless hours and projects. So enjoy yourself. Work hard, play hard. When you’re 25, 35, 45, you’ll look back at this time. I hope you’ll be able to say that you made the absolute most of it inside and outside of the classroom.
Lester Asamoah is a junior International Security Studies and Arabic major as well as a Ronald E. McNair Scholar. He currently serves the Student Government Association as a member of the Executive Office of the President.