While there may not be real school bells ringing, or yellow buses picking you up, it’s obvious that school has once again started. For many, it’s their first time at college. And for others, it’s the start of their last year, and final few semesters. Even though everyone is at a different starting point, we can all learn from some simple “start of the semester” advice.
Whatever happened last semester—whether in college or high school—it doesn’t have to happen again. If you were less than pleased with your performance, or really want to strive for something different, you still can.
Each semester marks a new slate, a chance to do and be something different. Maybe you got all A’s, or maybe you never even went to class. Either way, you call the shots. The beginning of the semester marks a special moment when you get a choice—you get to decide who you want to be and how you want to act.
I’ve had friends go all through college not applying themselves—not going to class, partying all the time, pretending they didn’t care about their future or their GPA. But then something changed. All of the sudden we came back from summer and they were setting goals, and really working hard. When I asked them about it, it was simple. It took a while to focus, to figure out what was next for them, but with graduation looming in the not too distant future a plan of action was necessary. Lucky for them, the new semester and the new year allowed for the change. With new classes, new professors, and a clean GPA slate—hey we all start with a 4.0—they were able to paint a different picture for themselves, one that didn’t involve not going to class.
The saying “out with the old, in with new” has never held truer. You can forget your bad final, or your slacker high school days and start fresh. Make a plan of attack for this fall semester and set some goals. And maybe you aren’t concerned with the type of student you are, and instead you need goals for something else. Take involvement for example. Have you be less than a social butterfly for the last few years? Ready to get outside your dorm room and mingle on campus? It’s not too late. Nothing is set in stone in college; you have time to do whatever your heart desires. Juniors and seniors join clubs, not just freshmen. Don’t think that because you didn’t do it before, you can’t do it now. The start of the semester is a great time for change as long as you take advantage of it—it won’t be as easy later.
After my embarrassment wore off and I continued with my day interning in New York City, I found myself on the train home next to a 40-something year old Pakistani man, who was sweet as can be. Everyone stared as we talked. He said he was an engineer and a part-time teacher at the school where his commuting bag was clearly from. He was heading home to his family after a long day as we swapped stressful stories of our days.
He left me with one line of wisdom, something his father had always told him: “Wise people learn from others’ mistakes,” he said, “Fools learn from their own.”
I’ve been feeling like a fool myself, since I have always thought that as long as I learned something from a mistake, it was worth it. This man made me realize that this idea can be taken a step further.
Instead of quickly acting like no embarrassing mistake has just happened, I’m going to pin-point each spastic moment so you can ensure you don’t run into the same commuting blunders, or at least you can know you are not alone when you literally fall on your face, because yes, I’ve been there.
Everyone has had a day when they’ve walked into work with a coffee stain on their shirt or their hair frizzy or their tie all the way to the left. If you haven’t had one of these moments yet, don’t worry; your time is coming.
We all know the old adage “don’t sweat the small stuff.” What they don’t tell you is to also appreciate the little things too. Chances are if you stay observant, especially while commuting, you will find little gems that make your day. These gems will offset those pestering little obstacles. Some days, you will feel like your running the 400 hurdles, as it seems like every 20 meters there is something in your way. Other days, it’ll feel like a high jump with one main problem. Even if you feel as though your facing a pole vault, I promise you will get through whatever commuting problem you have. It may take hours upon hours, days upon days of practice and training, but in the end, you will get over it. Eventually, you will end up with a steady stride as if you are running through the woods, marveling at the trees, animals and hey, look! A waterfall! You’ll be breathing in the fresh air and feeling great.
Or maybe not, since I have been tripping over rocks and falling on my face myself… At least you’ll have something to laugh at. (And if not, there’s always Aziz to pick up the slack!)
Throughout high school I was constantly told by older friends that I would end up being in a fraternity. Some of the people who told me this were GDI’s and said it in a condescending manner, while anyone in a fraternity or sorority flaunted the positives to rushing and meeting new people.
My first week of college was rush week. I was finally off on my own, no curfew, and best of all no parents to tell me not to drink to the point I couldn’t stand…. No sir, life was good. My first frat party was on Monday of rush, after the shenanigans that occurred that night my roommate and I convinced each other that this could quite possibly be one of the wildest weeks of our lives and we shouldn’t stay in the fraternity for another night.
Now I’m not going to sit here and tell you that every fraternity is right for you. That is what rush week is for! During rush, you get to survey each fraternity for a night or two to see how well you get along with the members. Every fraternity has different values, I went into one house and a member asked me what my parents do and to write it down on a “getting to know you survey” haha yeah right bud I’m outta here. But not every fraternity is like that, I ended up liking the Sig Ep’s the best. It worked out perfect for my roommate and I, we both got bids along with one or two other kids we knew from our 45 person pledge class.
On bid night they took us into the basement and gave us a speech (sorry I can’t tell you what the speech consisted of). After the speech we went into a football huddle of a sort while the brothers surrounded us singing songs about life in the brotherhood. At this point my adrenaline was pumping something fierce. They piled us all into cars and brought us to our bid party. That night was one of the wilder nights of my life. We partied well into the night and I ended up kissing more girls than I probably should have (haha I was in college and needed to get my feet wet). At the end of the night my roommate and I walked back to the dorm with grins on our faces. How we didn’t get arrested or in any trouble, to this day I don’t understand, but we were now college students and soon to be fraternity men… life was good.
Once you get to this point, pledge semester begins. The saying I loved the most was “it’s the best semester that you will never want to do again” It describes pledge semester to a T. During pledge semester, you are obviously every ones grunt, but you get the opportunity to meet so many people and do so many fun/probably border line extremely dumb things. The positive side to pledge semester is that it’s ONLY one semester, and then you get the next three and a half years to be on the other side of the spectrum. The moral of my story is that everyone should at least try rushing for a fraternity/sorority. Meeting new people and venturing off on your own doesn’t hurt. Unless it’s your dignity.. but hey, you are in college–you don’t need that anyway!
…or Not to Rush
Rushing is one of those very personal decisions that end up subject to a lot of pressure from outside sources. Maybe your mom or dad were in a sorority and want you to be a Lambda Lambda Lambda too because they loved it so much and feel allegiance to it. Maybe your hall-mates are all rushing and you would feel left out in a stressful transition period. Is your new roommate eager to be ‘besties’ and can’t wait to rush with you?
At some schools Greek life dominates the student culture, front-and-center at the student event fairs for freshmen, a week devoted to rushing, and a gulf between Greek and non-Greek students. At some schools, which sorority or fraternity you choose “defines” you to a certain extent as ‘girlfriend material’, the ‘priveledged kids’, the ‘pre-med nerds’, the ‘jocks’, in a way that’s reminiscent of high-school. At Princeton, we have a Jewish frat that support each other through the Yom Kippur fast and enjoy a huge meal together at the end of it. Choosing to rush that frat would absolutely play a role in defining those students.
I chose not to rush and have never regretted it. I’m sure this has a lot to do with my school’s weak Greek life presence (they aren’t recognized by the school, no houses, etc.). Benefits that I think would receive consideration no matter where I went:
1. The expense. Unless your parents are footing the bill or you’re taking out massive student loans, the expense of sororities can be extremely prohibitive.
2. I experienced less pressure to drink. The option will always be there on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, but if your sorority is throwing a party, or a mixer is going on, you will feel a lot more pressured to go. If you’re not naturally outgoing and are meeting a lot of new people, you’ll experience a lot of pressure to drink.
3. I got to pick all of my friends, they weren’t picked for me through a rush process.
I have no doubt that rush can be a lot of fun. I welcome input from anyone with a different experience!
Thanks for reading!
I’m reading Intermediate Accounting
I’m sure it’s hard to imagine leaving your besties behind, but if you end up going to the same college as them, you most likely won’t make many new friends. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and talk to as many people as possible. The majority of freshman are just as nervous and excited as you, and looking for a new friend group as well! I only knew one person going into my freshman year of college, but ended up meeting my current best friend at a campus event for freshman the very first week of school. We lived in the same dorm that year and then went on to live together off-campus for the next 3 years. I consider myself lucky to have found such a great friend and someone who was so easy to live with (a rarity!). Also, I will stress the importance of going out-of-state if you can afford it. The more you can experience outside of your security bubble, the more well-rounded you will be.
2. It’s okay if you don’t know what you want to study
I had no idea what I wanted to study until my sophomore year of college. It was overwhelming when I realize that all of my friends knew what they wanted to do immediately, but I quickly realized that many of them changed their minds in the time it took me to decide. If you don’t know what you want to do, talk to your advisor about your interests and passions and what you’re good at, and they’ll help you find the right fit (that’s what they’re there for). The first three or four semesters of college are usually just general university-required classes anyway, so you won’t be any further behind if you go in undeclared.
3. Live off-campus and meet people!
I highly encourage living off campus. Every year after my freshman year, I lived in various old houses with 4 or 5 girls and had an absolute blast. Making friends with your neighbors is important too! Some of my closest friends to this day are people I lived right next door to over the past few years. It’s so cool to have close friends next door so you can go hang out whenever you want, or party with them on the weekends without having to worry about driving anywhere! It also comes in handy if you ever need help with anything (for example if you suffer through an ice storm and run out of power, it’s nice to have guys next door who will help you make a fire, and to trade food with…in my experience).
4. Get off campus and explore the city you’re living in
Find out as much about this place as you can. Be sure to partake in all of the fun college stuff, but also get out of the bubble and explore the city. Another lesson I learned is that you should take weekend roadtrips and visit your friends at other schools as often as you can. You have more flexibility now than you will after graduation, so go visit your friends at other colleges (and enjoy getting to stay with them for free and not having to rent a hotel).
5. Make friends within your major
This is one of the most important tips because it’s probably the most beneficial. It is extremely important to make friends with people in your major so you can have someone to study with, someone to sit with in class, someone to work on projects with, and someone to take notes for you if you’re absent. It’s also just nice to have a friend who knows exactly what you’re going through in school and has the same things to stress about.
6. Study abroad if you get the chance
Coming from someone who never studied abroad, I really wish I had. Out of all my friends who studied abroad, every single one of them had a positive experience and met so many different people who they have remained friends with (a couple of them even fell in love). Just be sure to heavily research the place you’re going!
7. Get to know your professors
This one is cliche, but just as important. It’s difficult in the really big classes, but once you get into smaller classes it’s such a good feeling to know that your professor knows who you are. This will also come in handy when you need recommendations after graduation. Just remember, if they know who you are, they will also notice when you’re absent!
8. Don’t be afraid to change your mind
This is the last time in your educational career that you can study ANYTHING you want! Expand your knowledge! Change your major if you want to. Learn as much about as many different things as you can! Be the most well-rounded person you can be (it will pay off when looking for a job after graduation). Most importantly, tuition is steep so get your money’s worth!!
9. Take advantage of your breaks (and classes that don’t take attendance)
While I stress the importance of going to class and learning as much as possible, it’s also important to take advantage of your free time. Once you graduate and make your way into the corporate world, you will be waving goodbye to spring break and Christmas breaks and will only get “unpaid vacation time,” so travel and sleep-in when you can!!!
10. Work hard, play harder
I feel like this is probably the golden rule of college. Tom Petty sums it up best in one of my favorite quotes ever:
“You have four years to be irresponsible here. Relax. Work is for people with jobs. You’ll never remember class time but you’ll remember time you wasted hanging out with your friends. So, stay out late. Go out on a Tuesday with your friends when you have a paper due Wednesday. Spend money you don’t have. Drink ’til sunrise. The work never ends, but college does.”
Do any of you current/former college students have any more advice to include? What are some things you wish you would have known about college? Let us know in the comment section!
I’m reading Organic Chemistry