Since many of you have admissions offers in hand and are nervously awaiting the beginning of your first year in college, we at College Compass put together a list of 5 Things College Freshmen Should Know
Don’t schedule 8 AM classes. You think that because high school starts at 7:25 AM that you’ll be able to wake up for an 8 AM lecture course. You’re wrong. Just trust me on this one. About two weeks into college, you’ll develop College Student Syndrome which has the debilitating effect of not being able to wake up earlier than 10 AM on any given day. Seriously, just trust us on this one because if you don’t, you’ll curse your past self because you really needed that extra hour of sleep.
- Take a variety of courses your freshman year. If you know what field exactly you want to go into, that’s great, but if you were like me and floated around multiple majors, I would highly recommend taking a wide variety of courses your freshman year. One, it’s nice to not constantly be doing problem sets or writing essays—variety is the spice of life, after all–, and two, by taking courses from a variety of disciplines, you expose yourself to experiences you might not otherwise have found. Though you might be going into civil engineering, you might discover your passion for Victorian literature and add that on as a double-major or minor. Though you thought your heart was set on sports management, you might find that you’re in love with the wonders of transition metal chemistry. So freshman year, take whatever you can, whatever piques your interest, because realistically, most freshmen don’t know what they’re doing, so if you’re floundering about with a mish-mash of different courses, you really won’t be all that different from anyone else.
Take your AP/IB credit and run. Some people suggest re-taking courses you have AP or IB credit for, but my advice is that unless you have a really good reason to (i.e. some medical schools not taking AP credit for their pre-med requirements), don’t re-take it. You might think that AP material is college level, but in most instances, it really isn’t. The material that you’ll encounter in General Chemistry I is leagues beyond what you found in your AP class, so unless you have a burning passion for general chemistry, I would advise against re-taking for “an easy A.” As an AP credit holder, you’ll certainly be ahead of the curve, but by no means does this mean the course will be a breeze. You’ll still have to put in a substantial amount of work and have to undergo the stress of exams all for a class you technically had credit for. Further, there’s a common misconception that you’ll need these intro courses for higher level coursework. What actually happens is that general concepts are pulled from (i.e. differentiation, molecular orbitals, kinematics), but the minutae that composes most of an intro-level course is hardly ever touched on again. As an AP 4 or 5 holder, you’re obviously well-versed in the broad, important, topics of that course, and any strange concepts you might have forgotten would be easily recalled through a brief review. I would advise not directly jumping into higher level courses like Organic Chemistry because you still need time to adjust to college study habits and exams, so what I would recommend is taking core classes and other courses you don’t already have credits in. This way you can maximize your time at school without running the risk of overburdening yourself with classes you aren’t logistically ready for.
- Sample the different clubs and social opportunities at your school, but don’t overcommit. The biggest mistake I see people making in college is trying to do what you did in high school and holding multiple officer positions and being involved in every club at school. From a practical standpoint, this is a terrible idea because employers and graduate admissions officers can immediately detect shallowness and insincerity—it’s highly unlikely you did anything of note in this club if you were simultaneously enrolled in five others. However, more importantly, if you’re involved in too many clubs, you won’t be able to grow as much. The reason these organizations exist is to help you develop leadership skills and to mature. “Depth, not breadth,” is commonly touted by admissions counselors, and the reason this has become a mantra is that only through serious and involved work can you as a person truly develop. By focusing all your efforts into a select few clubs, you’ll gain so much out of your involvement, and this will reflect on any essays and interviews you have. Again, this is only a tangential benefit because the main goal of extracurricular involvement is precisely that—an education beyond the normal confines of a classroom.
Chill this summer. So if you’re about to graduate in May, you might be tempted to take courses to get a leg up on your first semester in college—DON’T. This summer is quite possibly the last summer you’ll ever have where you’re not expected to do anything. You can hold internships or conduct research, and you could certainly add that onto your newly formatted college resume; however, you have three more summers to do all that. This is a summer that you’ve earned, a break after twelve years of continuous schooling, so take it! Go explore the world or even your backyard. Rank up in DOTA or finally clear out your backlog of books. Do something you enjoy, and don’t feel bad about it. Your childhood is waning, so enjoy every second of it without any regrets.