A Letter of Advice to College Freshmen

Dear College Freshmen,

Congratulations on being accepted to the university of your choice and making it through your first semester! I’m sure it feels great being out on your own, and that you’ve already made tons of great friends and had many exciting experiences. I’m writing because I want to tell you a few things I wish I’d known when I was in your position as a freshmen; four short years ago. These are things I learned, regrettably late, that make me wish I could redo college. Hopefully, you can learn from my mistakes.

Find what you really love

It might not seem like it, but the choices you make now affect the rest of your life. We’ll all be working for a long time; having a job you love is essential to happiness. Think about it, people spend more time at work than anywhere else. Do you want to spend your life bored and indifferent, counting the minutes until the end of the day? Right now is the best time to find your passion. You have the free time and resources at your disposal.

Waiting too long to find mine was a huge mistake. I chose an easy employable major. I thought I’d be happy doing anything that paid well. Trust me, this doesn’t work. Unless you fit into a predefined category, you have to investigate many different options to find the right fit. Start looking now and you’ll be much better off. I set myself back a couple years by wasting this opportunity. Now I’m busting my ass to catch up.

Follow your whims. Talk with students and professors who share your interests. You’ll meet a thousand dead ends, but finding the right path is priceless. Don’t expect it to find you and don’t think that it doesn’t matter.

Don’t Sweat the social circles

It might seem like getting into the right frat/sorority and hanging out with the “cool people” is a huge deal, but realize that none of this will matter at all in four short years. The people that are concerned with social circles are insecure. They feel a need to validate themselves with an outside authority. Have the confidence to validate yourself and people will love you for it.

At the end of college those circles evaporate and what remains are the lasting friendships you’ve made. Don’t chase coolness at the expense of real relationships. I wasted a couple years being frustrated by my social position when I should have had confidence in myself.

Neither studyin

  • http://nickoli.name Nickoli

    >It might not seem like it, but the choices you make now effect the rest of your life.

    Should be “affect”.

    And yes, find what you want to do, not what’s employable. I made that mistake when I was 14 and am still regretting it now, 9 years later.

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    Thanks for catching that. I tend to get the two mixed up occasionally.

  • http://unfilteredcontent.blogspot.com/ Erik Greene

    Good advice John. As a second semester freshman at Grand Valley State, I found your letter refreshing. Many schools are so focused on shoveling you into a major that you lose sight of what you really love to do.

    I would recommend joining a few clubs from the areas you are interested in, you meet the types of people you will be working with and can get a feeling about the career options. If nothing else, you can find out which professors to take later on…

    • Shari

      oh my gosh u go to grand valley state?!
      what is it like/??????
      im from Barbados and
      i want to apply there but michigan….a tad far

  • bob dylan

    Here’s my cynical version:
    Attention College Freshman,

    You’ll likely become a soul-dead conformist, who is average at best by the end of your lot.

    Sorry. Did I interrupt your “Spike TV” marathon? Did you spill that Mountain Dew and Taco Bell over your iPod and Razr phone? Let’s stop and think.

    Are you doing anything productive with your free time or does your plasma screen and DVD collection, own you? Do you watch random videos, of random people, doing random “funny” things on YouTube? You think that’ll ever amount to anything? Or does that “hax0r pwnage” in Halo/CS/WoW that boosted your player’s rank to #54733, get you into yet another pointless argument, charged with racist/homophobic remarks. What your illusion?

    You can avoid this fate, and reading information like this is a start but lets face it, the urge to emulate the kids on Laguna Beach, is too great. Why be an intelligent individual, who proactively educates and strives to build a fulfilling life, when society demands that you be happy with pointless material possession, money and social prestige?

    Do you think I’m being too harsh? Well, give up now and conform, you’re not serious about making it. You can keep at your unproductive activities but your punishment will be mediocrity. Only people who make it that easy, are the people born into it. If you’re an average middle class kid, you’d better be busting your ass. You probably think no one is this serious. Good, fail. Get those easy girls aren’t they too hot, don’t you want them, with their plastic surgery, fake tans, oversized sunglasses and “my shit don’t stink” attitude? Are you going to let your biological urges get the best of you? Give up, ’cause it’ll make it easier for me. But get use to it, you’ll be running on automatic, obeying commands for the rest of your life anyway. More illusions.

    For the serious contenders, learn to be an individual. Apply your intelligence to everthing you do and watch out for ANYTHING, that takes you off your goals. Most people who get this far, fall for some illusion, fail to realise it and end up mediocre.

    At the least you could drop out now and take a stab making it. If you fail you can always have your fat, philistine, dull middle class parents pay for it later, you’ll end up like them anyway.

    • steve

      holy hell bob dylan im going to print that off and use it for motivation when ever im having trouble thats awesome…john i like yours too hah sorry

    • trevor

      very very well put

  • http://www.bsnl-help.blogspot.com Samip Shah

    That was wonderfully said, and well articulated Bob Dylan.
    Say do you have a blog?, coz i can hardly do a google search for “bob dylan”….

    Man, I’m of the internet now, and heading right away for the study table – now that i realize, my prelims are going on, the Arctic Monkeys have to stop now…

  • grayblur

    I should read you post four years ago!…

  • http://www.pickthebrain.com John Wesley

    I feel the same way, that’s why I wrote it.

  • http://sanethinking.com Paul E. Coughlin

    It’s one of the cultural failings of the West.
    The idea is that you will have a career.
    But it ignores a simple fact.
    man does not exist to have a career (or even a car)
    But to have more of a care..
    Whoa, on a roll here..
    If you think about it, its the same from the word ABC, you know, when you start school, isn’t it? Lucky you if the word FUN came into the picture; wasn’t it all about something else? And what for? No, you are spot on, find what you love, but 4 yr olds already know so how come young adults don’t? Because it is ‘taught’ out of us. So don’t beat yourself up too much over that one cos it’s pretty well ‘universal’ at least in the Western culture, mostly. Bravo for touching upon another serious point.

  • Anson

    I think one thing that should be stressed is that college (or university) is a fabulous way to meet like-minded people. College is not a 4 year hurdle on a path to a career, it’s a chance to get involved with people who are smart and interesting.

    Concentrating on a career is fine, but getting lost along the way is better.

    • nuo-dreams

      I really agree with you.

  • teresa

    Very well said!
    I have to mention the fact that many people don’t take advantage of most of the resources you have access to as a University Student, be it Career Services, Seminars, Guest Speakers, Writing Workshops, any Workshops for that reason, the GYM!! etc..etc…
    Most of these services are included in your tuition, and many students fail to use them! They should be taken advantage of, see what they can offer you!

  • Andi

    In regards to the first point made…How, then, should the students feel when they can’t pin down the career path they’re going to enjoy for the rest of their lives? This is what I found especially frustrating during my time at college. I spent years, not to mention thousands of dollars trying to find a passion and all the pressure to do so led me to feeling like a failure….SO what do you say to those kids???

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  • sachin

    To some extents it sounds realistic, but at the same time no one learns without going throgh the same. You goof up and you get to know, that’s what life is all about.I couldn’t really match my college education with my professional life, so why so much of time wasting?
    One learns with his experiences, so let one feel free do so.

  • Jessica

    My advice would be to consider taking a few years off between high school and college, if you can. Work at a guest ranch in Montana, at a hamburger joint in Ohio, or as a clerk in a library in Florida. Look into internships if you can swing that financially. Try to see a few different parts of the country. Feel completely overwhelmed by the change. Feel what it’s like to be in the workforce doing the 9-5 grind, and feel what it’s like to be doing something different. Listen to what the people you work with talk about. What are their lives like? Do you want your life to be like theirs? Maybe take a few community college courses that interest you. Maybe volunteer a little. Try to build your sense of self in whatever way you know how. Try to have some varied experiences. Make a contract with yourself to return to school at the end of two years, unless you truly know at that time that you’re not ready yet.

    My point is that it can be good to be in the world a little bit before you begin college. It gives you context, it opens your mind, it lets you think your own thoughts on your own terms for awhile, it gets your butt out of the classroom chair it’s been in for so long, and hopefully it helps you forge a bit of self reliance. Self reliance is invaluable in college, where you’ll suddenly have more freedom than ever to determine your own direction. If you’re really confused during college, you’ll be unable to take full advantage of a rich opportunity that you will never really have again in the same way.

    Taking time off might not be the right thing for everyone–but from someone who struggled with feeling stifled in college, it could be the right solution.

  • Julian Salas

    Jessica, thank you so much for your reply, it is exactly what i needed to hear.

  • Helen

    This is really great advice that I wish I had had going into school. There’s this book coming out called the Freshman Survival Guide which talks about stuff like this and goes even further in depth. It hasn’t been published yet but they have a downloadable pdf on the website: http://www.thefreshmansurivalguide.com

    My advice for incoming freshman is to read as much of this stuff as possible to mentally prepare yourself before and during your first year experience. If you really look, you will find really good answers to all your important questions from people who want to help.

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  • kristin

    Kids are turning to the internet for advice on their freshman year at college. Check out some tips here http://wp.me/p1yzb4-18m

  • http://whattoinvestinnow.com What to Invest In

    Very well said! College is fun and both a big step for everyone. It is important that you make the most out of your whole college experience so you can brave through life after it.

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    My advice to college freshmen would be to discover what your interests and hobbies are. Join different clubs and organizations so you can explore and meet people who will be helpful after your college experience!

  • http://screw9-5.blogspot.com/ Screw9to5man

    I wasted a lot of time studying something I had no passion for. If only I had realised sooner. Still, I count myself lucky that I still have the time and resources to change paths and do what I really want. 

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    Freshmen may be confused after attending to college.Your advices are very useful!

  • Rinopjoseph06

    God bless you

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_M2BNYKYINMQ7A7Y37Q6ISEPZHQ Jerry Hsiang

    haha

  • Srbaase

     http://shaunabaaseblog.wordpress.com/
    heres my blog, feel free to take a look at it :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/GamezGoddess Joanna Osborne

    My biggest regret is listening too much to other people and
    not to myself. While all advice is given with the best intention, most people
    are of the opinion that the best route in life is to get into a well paying job
    ASAP. When I try to explain to people that I want to enjoy my work because a
    good part of my life will be spent there I tend to get laughed at, ‘nobody
    likes working, this is the way life is get on with it.’ I just find this
    attitude so negative though and I’d rather live holding onto and chasing my
    dreams than giving up and taking any job I can get my hands onto (I do realize
    that in a lot of situations you don’t always have much of a choice.) I also
    live by extremes a lot in my life. I tend to be a bit of a workaholic, but when
    I do finally tire myself and take a break I feel guilty for it. During times
    when my motivation is lower I tend to punish myself for it. The truth is I’m
    still putting a lot of work in, it’s just that I feel like I’m slacking in
    comparison to what I usually do. It’s not a great feeling.

  • CREZUS

    thanks for your advices these are really helpfull to me, but i have a question. I’m 25 years old and i decided to go back to college and get my degree in business.
    am I too old to get that done and enjoy life ?

  • http://www.financial-lessons.net/the-top-earning-college-degrees/ Morgan @ Financial Lessons

    Being a Junior in college and looking at this letter directed towards freshmen, I think it is very good advice. I especially like the part about not becoming one-dimmensional because I know people that can be put into that category! 

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