Four Ways to Make the Most of Your Freshman Year of College (and Beyond!)

University Life

Four Ways to Make the Most of Your Freshman Year of College (and Beyond!)

For a lot of you out there, summer is quickly approaching and, in a couple of months, you’ll be making a big transition in your life. With all of the changes that you will face in your first year of college, it is very easy to get overwhelmed, to bury yourself in your work, and to forget to actually make the most of your college experience. With this in mind, here are four things you can do your freshman year (and the rest of your college career!) to make sure your college experience is a worthwhile one:

Sign up for classes that you want to take purely for interest. If you’re anything like how I was when I was a freshman, then you’ll enter college with the mindset that you have to be focused on your future goals 24/7. This mindset led me to only take courses during my first quarter at Stanford that directly related to my future career goals. However, as I got to know the other students and professors at Stanford, I realized that I was missing out on the main objective of college. College isn’t meant to be a place where you only learn what you will need for your future. College is a place where you also learn for the sake of learning. When else will you have access to professors who are experts in their fields and who specialize in diverse topics ranging from nanotechnology to French cinema? My advice is to take full advantage of this time while you have it. Don’t be afraid to take courses that are outside of your normal scope of study. In my case, this meant taking classes on subjects like ethical dilemmas of modern electronics, controversial issues in women’s health, and issues of human migration. While these classes did not directly relate to my future goal of becoming a physician, they have been some of the most thought provoking and interesting classes that I have taken in my time at Stanford. So, the main lesson here is to do your best to expand your love for knowledge while you’re in college and to grow not only as a scholar in your main field of study, but also academically as a whole.

Answer and ask questions in your classes. When I first began classes at Stanford, I was very reluctant to ask and answer questions in my classes. I thought that I didn’t have anything worthwhile to say and that other students would look down on me because my comments would not be as “smart” as theirs. If you feel this same way, I have some news for you: most of the other students in your classes feel the same way as you too. College is a time to make mistakes, voice your thoughts, and to learn. It’s much harder to accomplish any of these things very well if you don’t ask and answer questions in your classes. This simple act has more important implications than you think. Actively participating in class gives you a chance to become more confident in your academic abilities. It gives you the opportunity to learn that your ideas are worth pursuing and that everyone makes mistakes every once in a while. But, you won’t recognize your mistakes and learn from them if you never give yourself a chance to voice your ideas in the first place. So, when you begin college, take the first step towards reaching your academic potential by actively putting yourself out there and by consistently participating in your classes.

Spend a few nights simply talking with friends. College is more than just a time to devote to your studies. It’s also an important time to make connections and to form bonds with your fellow students. As such, you should try and make time every once in a while to simply spend a night talking with your friends. Some of my best memories from freshman year actually involved having late night conversations with my friends in the dorm. It doesn’t matter what you talk about; your dreams, your ideas, or even something as mundane as what you ate that day. What does matter, is that you spend this time with people that you enjoy being around. These conversations can serve several purposes that you may not immediately recognize. In my case, they gave me a chance to step back from my hectic schedule and to connect with other students who were going through the same thing as I was. After each of these conversations, I always felt more relaxed, refreshed, and ready to take on another day.

Venture outside of your dorm hallway. During my first quarter as Stanford, I attended a talk given by a very well know physician and entrepreneur. In his talk, he said something that challenged me to reconsider the way I socialized with other students. He advised everyone to venture outside of their dorm hallways to make friends because “what are the chances that the people you need to meet in college live in the exact same hallway as you do?” Three years after hearing that talk, I can confidently say that this piece of advice has had a lot of impact on my time here at Stanford. Whether it’s been through volunteering events, social gatherings, or even office hours with professors, I’ve done my best to meet students that I may not have encountered otherwise in my classes or in the dorms I’ve lived in. By actively trying to expand the group of people that I interact with, I’ve met students and professors that have done a great deal to shape my academic and personal growth (whether they knew it or not) and that is exactly what college is for. So, during your first year of college, keep this advice in mind and begin expanding the range of people you meet as early as you can.