Those of us with younger siblings know what it’s like to fall victim to our parents’ request to “talk to your sibling, you know she never listens to us.” In my case, my parents asked me to sprinkle in college advice throughout the summer to my sister, who started her freshman year this fall at Georgia Tech.
I never thought I would thank my parents for handing the task down to me, but until they did, I hadn’t considered how much my first year had actually taught me. So, young grasshoppers, if you want a cheesy article to tell you that “it goes by so quickly” or “it’s okay to cry,” you can check Facebook for those “18 Things Every 18-Year-Old Girl Should Know” posts. If you actually want to make the most of this year, read on.
1. No one has as many real friends as they do on social media.
Freshman year is basically a mad rush to take as many pictures as possible holding Solo Cups in front of American flags at frat parties, so you can show all your friends that you have friends (and weekend plans). There are actually scientific studies that show that Facebook increases anxiety and depression because it shows you – usually untruthfully – how much fun everyone else is having.
Freshmen: don’t be fooled. I thought I was the only one who didn’t have an eat dinner, go out, study group-clique for the first few months of school. When I started sophomore year, almost everyone I talked to said things like, “Yeah, I felt like I had no friends freshman year, and honestly, there were times when I wasn’t even sure if I liked it here.” If you feel awkward and left out every now and then, you’re not alone. Just keep your mind open to meeting new people, because chances are there are more people looking for friends than Instagram suggests.
2. Read the syllabus.
In my high school (and I’m going to assume most other high schools), my teachers reminded us about exams a week in advance, took class time to explain what was expected of us on projects and spelled out required readings. You could say I was used to a certain degree of spoon-feeding.
Public service announcement: The purpose of a syllabus is that professors won’t have to use class time to remind you of dates. During my freshman year, my professors would be teaching a lesson and casually throw in a hint about remembering information for the test in two days – to which no one else reacted to while I was breaking out into a cold sweat in the back of the classroom. It took me months to realize that everyone else had taken all their classes’ syllabi (never say that word out loud, it’s grammatically correct, but you’ll sound like a moron) and written down exam dates, required readings and assignment due dates. You’re expected to be aware of them. Even if you never read one textbook or a word of required reading, at least read the syllabus so you know what you were supposed to have done.
3. Boys are not toys.
I understand that to some, romance is all about the chase. To others, there’s no need for the chase because, well, Tinder. However, ladies and gents, no matter how long your personal affairs last, no matter what you do or whom you do, don’t play with people. Whether you’re going to hit it and quit it or try for a long-term relationship, you’ve got to communicate what you’re looking for. Guys: don’t sleep with the girl who thinks it will turn into something more if you don’t think it will. Girls: don’t lead on the guy who’s tutoring you if you know he’s destined for the friend zone. I’ll be the first to admit that a lack of communication ruined a lot of my relationships during my freshman year. Use your words. There’s nothing wrong with being a Tinder fiend, as long as you’re matching with someone whose intentions match yours.
4. Clubs on campus before clubs in Brickell.
There will never be another time in your life when your responsibilities are simply to study, make friends and do the things you enjoy. You will realize all too soon that there is absolutely nothing like college, so why not make memories that you can remember the next day? I’m not against a few nights every now and then when you and your wolfpack go a little nuts and piece together the night with some Advil the next day. But the majority of your time in college should be spent pursuing experiences that will shape you into a better learner, team member and leader. Although college is the only time that you can be forgiven for immaturity, the world is much less forgiving after graduation. Activities that require you to be over 21 will always be around when you leave college, but the chance to develop into a 21-plus adult will not be.
Nayna Shah is a junior majoring in biology.