Everything I wish my freshman year self had known

Attention class of 2020

As senior year comes to an end for class of 2016, there is a heavy dose of mixed emotions carried out on campus. Some people are happy, some are miserable, some are scared, and some are too hungover to care either way.

Much like anything in life, when a huge chapter in life comes to a close, it warrants a sense of nostalgia. Thinking back on the past four years at UT, I have come to find that I wouldn’t have changed a moment of my being here for the world. It may not have been perfect, but it was the greatest chapter in my life.

If I could go back in time and tell my freshman year self anything to ensure that I did not waste a moment of my very short four years, my advice would be this.

Take advantage of these four years

Going to college is probably the most frightening and intimidating moment anyone will ever have in their lives. It is the transition from a sheltered and secure lifestyle to a free for all where responsibilities hit you in the face – hard. You’re allowed to be scared. You’re allowed to be nervous. You’re allowed to have a panic attack once your parents leave you that first night of college where you are forced to sleep next to a complete stranger.

You are not, however, allowed to waste your time. Assignments start to build up, cramming for tests will happen, but the biggest regret you will have in your life at the end of your college career is if you waste any of your time. Four years sounds like forever, but it will go by in the blink of an eye. Enjoy your days and have fun. Take advantage of these four years because they will promise you memories for the rest of your life.

Make mistakes

In the words of the beloved Hannah Montana, “Nobody’s perfect”. You have been told this your entire life, but it is the best advice you can hold onto throughout your college experience. There has never been a time in my life that I have made more mistakes than in college. And that is OK. There is a reason for the buffer between high school and the real world and it is so you can make as many mistakes as you would like. Just remember to learn from them. Making the same mistake over and over again while expecting a different outcome is the legal definition of a psychopath. Don’t be a psychopath. Learn from everything you do.

Try something you never would have before

Life is too short to be embarrassed. Four years is a minuscule period in your life to be embarrassed. Walk around campus and see all the fun and exciting opportunities available. Go out on a whim and try something new. Too often do we fall into a routine and refuse to break away from it. When you get into the real world, your free time will be precious. College is where you have time to waste and experience opportunities that may never arise again.

Document everything

We may be the generation that gets made fun of for taking pictures of everything, but it is important to do so. Take pictures of your experiences, your friends, your memories to ensure they will not be forgotten. You will never regret having too many pictures of your friends doing stupid stuff, you will only regret not having them.

Remember that everybody fails

For many, school work is a life or death matter. On a daily basis I have heard my friends say things along the lines of “If I fail I’m going to die” or “If I don’t get an A my dad is going to kill me”. I am not here to say that schoolwork is not important – it is the sole reason ¬†we are here at a university. However, there will be times when we fail and that is okay. If you go your entire college career worrying about one bad grade, it will not only drive you insane but it will also take away from all of your successes.

Life gets busy and sometimes we don’t prepare for things as much as we should. But that does not make us bad people. Give yourself a break when it comes to your grades. At no point should a test bring you to tears. We are humans, not robots. There is always time to make up a bad grade, but there isn’t always time to keep your sanity in tact.

There are always more fish in the sea

Dating in college is an experience like no other – simply because only 2 percent of relationships in college will actually be successful. If you get dumped – it is going to be OK. You may feel like your world is crumbling down and you will never find love, but you need to chill out. Though I’m sure each and every relationship you have in college is meaningful, there are plenty of other fish in the sea so there is no need to settle.

If you don’t have a relationship in college, that’s cool too. Work on yourself. At the end of the day, you are the person you spend the most of your time with. If you don’t absolutely adore yourself, you cannot expect anyone else to do it either. So put down that tub of ice cream, put on a fresh layer of makeup and continue to put yourself out there. One bad breakup is not the end of the world.

Learn as much as you can

We may be tempted to skip class on multiple occasions, but remember why you are at college: to get an education. Classes my seem mundane, you may be uninterested in a certain topic, but everything you are learning can be of value to you if you learn something from it. Take classes that may have nothing to do with your major, do those extra credit assignments. Your education is based off of your effort.

Listen to your professors

It is easy to disassociate your professors with being an actual resource for you. They stand in front of a huge classroom and seem to be all-knowing until they give you a bad grade then they are one of your least favorite people on the face of the planet. Whether you realize it or not, your professors have an abundance of knowledge and experience that you have at your disposal to take advantage of.

It wasn’t until late in my college career that I realized my professors could help me out in pursuing what I really wanted to in the future. They are there to help you. They want you to succeed. Go to office hours so they can recognize you. Ask questions. Form relationships with your professors. They could be a huge tool in the professional world from the use of their connections. And please (seriously please) don’t forget that they are humans too – they make mistakes and may not be perfect, but they are there to help you not hurt you.

Thank your parents

Though it was your intelligence and hard work that got you into college, your parents deserve to be thanked for letting you go. Whether or not they are helping your financially through your time at school, they were the ones who let you go off on your own. Thank your parents as often as you can – even then, it will still never be enough.

Realize this is just the beginning

Senior year is wrapping up for me, yes, and that is a very sad thought. I have loved all the friends I made and the memories we made together, but I know this is not the end. What I have learned in college has helped me mature into a person who will be able to succeed in the real world on her own. Will I miss frat parties? Of course. Will it be the same not being able to see my best friends every day? Well, obviously not. But this is just the beginning.

Remember that these four years are so important in developing who you are as a person. I will continue to have my best friends because I made them for life. I will be able to live on my own and pursue a career I love because that is what I have been preparing for for years. This is not the end, though it may feel that way.

What starts here changes the world.

UT Austin