An Open Letter to College Freshmen

Subject: An Open Letter to College Freshmen
From: Ryan Stears
Date: 9 Oct 2016

Congratulations on getting accepted into college! You are about to embark on one of the most important life-changing experiences of your entire life. Having just graduated college this past May and began my graduate school career this past August, I write this letter to share some words of wisdom that I have learned over the years during my undergraduate career. Whether you are attending a community college or a major research university, this letter will help your transition into college and guide you towards your degree. Let us begin.

1. Do not go into college cocky. Whether you graduated from high school as valedictorian or last in your class, you are getting a fresh start, and are, therefore, on the same playing field. Remember college is a lot harder than high school. Just because you may have gotten straight A’s in every class throughout high school, does not mean you can expect the same in college. In a lecture hall full of 500+ students, you are just a number.

2. Read, read, read! Yes, you have to read EVERY textbook for EVERY class. Remember, classes are not five days a week in college and you do not have the same core subject for 180+ days like in high school. Typically, there are 15 weeks per semester. What can easily be taught in one full-year of high school, has to be taught in just 15 weeks. Professors go over multiple sections in each class, and the only way to stay ahead is to read before class and try to master the material while reading. Annotate, highlight, use sticky notes and, most importantly, write down questions. That way, you can go into lecture or recitation knowing what you will be discussing and have questions at the ready.

3. Go to your professor’s or TA’s office hours if you are struggling. Professors and TA’s are required to hold office hours for students who need extra help. While it may have been “uncool” to go to extra help in high school, no one will judge you doing this in college. Office hours will provide you with not only extra help, but will help you foster strong relationships with the professors and TA’s and will also help boost your grade! Remember, they want you to succeed in their courses.

4. Speak with an advisor every semester so that you are on track to graduate on time. Finding out that you have one more course to take during the semester you intend to graduate is horrific. Not only does it screw up any after college plans (career, graduate school, exploring the world), but it will also screw up any federal loans or financial aid you use. If you fall short in credits, you have no choice but to postpone your graduation and finish up: there are typically no exceptions.

5. My last bit of advice is a very important one: get involved. Whether you’re a resident student or a commuter, getting involved is pivotal. Not only does it look good on resumes and when applying to graduate school, but it will also keep you sane and help you make friends. Using your free-time to just do homework and put yourself in seclusion will make you hate college. You will be miserable. So, go out. Join a club, go to on-campus events, and make friends. This will not only make you happy, but will also help you focus and get good grades in the long run. How? Hating college and being miserable will only hurt your grades. But by building relationships with other people and getting involved, you will be able to focus more in classes and get good grades. Remember, your true friends will help and support you in any way they can. So if you are struggling, talk to them. I met most of my friends by getting involved on campus. Not only did getting involved make me feel as if I were part of something really special, but I also made really awesome friends. We all helped each other get through the tough times. You will have some tough times throughout college, but your friends will help you make it through them.

I do hope that this letter was informative, and will help you throughout your years as an undergraduate student. While there is much more to say, you will learn everything else on your own. Don’t worry: you will figure it out.