August 17, 2015
Dallas (SMU) – Do not wash red shirts with white socks. Get plenty of rest. Answer the phone when Mom calls. New college students know the parental advice mantra.
SMU junior Olivia Varah has spent the summer giving incoming students advice their mothers haven't given them, like "Try something new, go skydiving with SMU's Outdoor Adventures." As one of ten student orientation leaders for 1,400 incoming students this sumer, she has conducted tours, led discussions, performed in skits and answered hundreds of questions from students and parents.
"Students want to know about roommates and what it's like living with so many people," she says. "Parents want to know about academics and – the location of the laundry rooms."
To help both incoming students and their parents, Varah compiled a list of lessons that can help any college student have a successful first year.
Ten Things I Learned My First Year of College
- Everyone knows you’re a freshman. Even trying as hard as you can to be discreet while checking your schedule on your phone, people are going to know you are new. With dozens of buildings and hundreds of classes every day, chances are that even some of the seniors are a little confused about where their classes are.
- Join clubs and organizations. Trust me, everyone telling you this is 100 percent right. Getting involved is the best thing you can do to meet new people and to try to figure out what you might be interested in. Even if you don’t end up enjoying whatever it is you signed up for, you are bound to leave with at least a few more people to wave to on the way to class or sit with for lunch.
- The library is cool, and so is being smart. That’s right – nerds are the popular kids in college, so grab your books and that trusty highlighter. Believe it or not, "work hard, play hard" means that you actually have to work hard. These students around you came to college for more than just late nights and Saturday football games.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s with study skills, clubs or finding out which professors to take, don’t be afraid to ask. Your college is just one big community and everyone is trying to make it, just like you. Some of the best friends I made were those upperclassmen that helped me through my first semester.
- Sit in the front. Professors are people too, and they are way more likely to help you if you actually show up to class and look like you are taking notes near the front. And trust me they can tell when you’re scanning Pinterest.
- Meet the people in your residence hall. Your hall-mates are your family. These are the people you’ll end up knowing way too well and who are basically your extended roommates.
- Make friends with your residence adviser. Trust me – you just want to. Otherwise, getting locked out of your room at 3 a.m. in your towel is that much more awkward.
- Try new things – take a chance! Do something that you never would have done in high school because now is the time to reinvent yourself and go for what you really want. Don’t be afraid of what other people think because they’re all just trying to figure out who they are too.
- Don’t go in knowing exactly what you want. Chances are you’ll change your mind at least a few dozen times and that’s not always a bad thing. Stick it out when things happen, like not getting into the organization you thought you would. It just means that something better is on the horizon.
- Have fun and experience everything. Make mistakes and learn from them, put yourself out there, take risks, follow the dream you’re afraid of, and most importantly, make the most of it because the four years at college will fly by.