The advice I'd give my college freshman self

  • Article by: AIMEE BLANCHETTE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 2, 2014 - 5:20 AM

Older pros offer hard-earned wisdom to help incoming college students navigate their new world.

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Illustration by Eddie Thomas

Photo: Eddie Thomas, Star Tribune

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Each crop of freshmen hears it a bazillion times: The first year is a really big deal.

That statement is usually followed by a string of obvious suggestions from parents, grandparents and teachers. Study hard, get involved and keep the partying to a minimum.

Solid tips? Sure. But to get down to the nitty-gritty of college life in the first year, we hit local campuses and picked the brains of some former freshmen. Their advice covers everything from how to get along with your bizarre roommate to not freaking out about gaining a little weight.

Here are the rules for how to survive, thrive and not feel overwhelmed as the new kid on campus.

Do something crazy

Studying is important, but don’t be a 24 / 7 bookworm. “My biggest success was storming the court during the Indiana vs. Minnesota basketball game at Williams Arena,” said Barflaan Tedoe, a junior at the University of Minnesota. Seize opportunities to try something new. “You’d be surprised at how easy it is to get involved in really cool projects,” said Zach Simon, a junior at the U. “Think DJ’ing at your college radio station could be fun? Try e-mailing them and asking how you can get involved. It is exactly that easy.”

 

Leave the door open

“Dorm life is tricky; it’s almost like a sick science experiment,” said Ryan Bennek, a junior at Minnesota State University, Moorhead. Indeed, your fellow dorm dwellers are curious about you — so invite them inside. “My biggest success was leaving my door open while I was in my room,” said Ally Sevold, a senior at the U. “It may sound like a silly success, but it introduced me to a lot of my neighbors and started that conversation, which eventually led to a friendship.”

 

Join the club

Whether you join the ski team, a sorority or a people-watching club (yes, Campus People Watchers is a real club at the U), immersing yourself into a campus community is a surefire way to get the most out of your college experience. Isaac Howard, a senior at the U, said, “My biggest regret was not finding a church immediately upon arrival — a place of tight-knit community — that would invest into me and I into them.”

Don’t be an overachiever

College is tougher than high school, so don’t spread yourself thin. “My biggest mistake was probably taking on too much at the beginning. I signed up for a lot of clubs and tried to attend every meeting while also working on research with a professor and taking 17 credits, including piano lessons,” said Alexandra Kennedy, a senior at St. Catherine University. “Pick a few activities that you are really passionate about and put your all into those few.”

 

 

All you can’t eat

Unless you’re a heavyweight on the wrestling team or have a tapeworm, there’s probably no reason to get the unlimited meal plan. “It’s nice knowing you can eat every meal at the dining hall if needed, but it’s highly unlikely you will, and, therefore, it’s a waste of money,” said Cameron Mailhot, a senior at the U. “Fourteen meals a week was completely fine.”

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