Congratulations! If you’re reading this, I’m going to take a wild guess and say that you’re about to start your first year here at University of the Pacific. To commemorate this joyous occasion, let’s get you started with 10 things I wish I knew as a freshman.
1) College may not live up to your expectations. If I’m being honest, I might have been hoping my college experience would be comparable to Beca’s in “Pitch Perfect.” You know: finding your place, finding your voice, finding your other half. Suffice to say, my college experience has not been quite so exciting or dramatic. But college has still revolutionized my life in many unforeseen ways. Everyone’s college experience is going to be different, and even if yours turns out a far cry from your dreams, just remember college is not your endgame.
2) Establish good habits early. To be frank, I do not have the best time management skills (and that might be a gross understatement). One thing I wish I established early on is strong time management skills and a solid schedule. Before the semester starts, make a list of things you find important to maintain, such as hygiene (this should be a given…), grades, health, sufficient sleep, social life and extracurricular activities (cough The Pacifican). Then plan out your calendar accordingly. The alternating schedule and semester structure may differ from your high school, in which case you should examine your syllabi and make sure you have enough time to balance everything.
3) Make connections now. Pacific gleefully touts “professors who know your name.” And they should — this is a privilege many students at other institutions will never know. Make full use of this opportunity by becoming engaged in your professors’ classes, attending office hours when you need assistance and getting to know your favorites and their fields of expertise. After all, you never know when you might need a letter of rec in the future! In all seriousness, though, Pacific’s professors are truly involved in providing the best possible educational experience for you and your peers. It never hurts to have a worldly-wise adult or two on your side to ask for advice or assistance when necessary.
4) Treat everyone as a potential friend. for many, college is the first real opportunity to branch out from the same old people who populated your hometown. This may lead to more diverse encounters than you are used to, perhaps even starting with your new dormmate(s). But don’t feel overwhelmed — instead, have compassion and keep an open mind. If someone is willing to share his or her experiences in, say, a relevant class discussion or club meeting, listen up. In the end, you don’t have to become friends with that person (or even agree with or particularly like them), but it can’t hurt to pay attention to what they have to say. This extends to your living situation as well. Even if you do not become best friends with your roommate, learn from your experiences with them so you can be a mindful human to the next roomie who comes along. Of course, keep in mind…
5) …Your freshmen friendships might not last. Don’t take it personally. freshman year is a notorious shuffle of people rushing to find a place amongst strangers. In the midst of all this, you might find it easy to become overwhelmed or overly cynical, with some friendships dissolving almost as soon as they’ve formed. But have hope: While this is a time rife with friendships of convenience, it is also a time for many to realize what is truly important in a friend. You may get lucky and discover your group right off the bat, and you might not — c’est la vie. Don’t feel the need to conform right away. Instead, explore your interests, join clubs, attend events, get to know the people within your major — and know that tons of people find their core group later on. Remember, you have a few years to figure it out.
6) Pace out your meal plan. Let’s be realistic here: You do not want to be the guy who runs out of meal plan midway through the year and has to use real money to buy food he’s already tired of. But you also don’t want to be the one stuck with $600 at the end of the semester, frantically buying out The Grove’s supply of overpriced shampoo/gum/ organic Greek strained yogurt. Take a peek at that handy dandy color-coded meal plan spending grid (located near every register) whenever you
purchase something to ensure you’re on track. If you are vastly overspending, reassess the frequency (and quantity) of your meals. If you are vastly underspending, maybe it’s time to assemble a Grove care package for a friend or family member.
7) Do not wear pajamas to class. I know this. You know this. Look, I am all for lazy comfort, but the truth is, people’s first impressions are largely based on how you present yourself. Wearing pajamas or sweats to class when you obviously had time to change (read: any class after noon) just gives off an unwelcome vibe of unpreparedness. If professors can wake up early, work for hours before and after class and pursue their research, I think you can manage to put on a real pair of pants.
8) Be conscious of where you are and adjust your behavior accordingly. This should be self-explanatory, but some freshmen (and some upperclassmen, let’s be real) either don’t know this or don’t care. Yes, finding your soulmates in the form of a 50-strong group of people enamored with tuba and Tumblr is awesome, but we don’t need to hear you express that joy — in song — to the whole DeRosa University Center. Pro tip: If you want to steer clear of looking like an obvious freshman, avoid traveling in giant packs, memorize your schedule
and class locations, eschew wearing the standard-issue lanyard around your neck (a better place is a bag or back pocket) and stop using trays in the Marketplace.
9) You will probably get homesick. And that’s okay. You’re going to have good days and you’re going to have bad days, and sometimes those days will be one and the same. College taught me to appreciate the minute details of home life: the way my parents woke me up in the morning, did my laundry and cooked; the way my sister and I could talk for hours, going off on the strangest tangents; the way my preferred brand of milk tastes (seriously, 2 percent does not taste the same across the board). Take the time to call up your parents, relatives and/or friends from home every once in awhile. It will make you miss them less, and it will let them know you are thinking of them.
10) Embrace change and enjoy yourself. Remember to take the time to breathe. One bad grade is not the end of the world. Say yes to new foods and challenging classes and diverse experiences, and try to avoid your negative preconceived notions (unless you’re contemplating illegal activities. Avoid those). Ultimately, college is your last chance to avoid the real, independent adult world. In college, people change, perspectives change, goals change. Yes, it is prudent to plan ahead, and you definitely should, but don’t spend all your time agonizing over the nebulous future. You’ll have
all the time after graduation to think about that. I realize some of this advice may seem trite or obvious. I should know — when I was an anxious new freshman, I read tons of these types of articles, desperately diving for pearls of wisdom. But even if you have heard it all before, just realize that sometimes all we need is that last little push to start doing what we know we ought to. Now, take a deep breath and go get ‘em, Tiger.
Best of luck,
P.S. feel free to drop by The Pacifican meetings — Thursdays at noon in Grace Covell’s Smith Lounge — to let me know how this advice worked out for you.
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