Freshman Advice from a Senior

Scared. Excited. Anxious. Did I say scared? These are the feelings that come to mind when thinking about graduating and beginning adult life. Surprisingly, these emotions are almost identical to those I felt when starting college as a freshman (and again as a sophomore transfer!). College has been an emotional rollercoaster (that would have to be an article of its own!), but I can confidently say that I have grown a tremendous amount, not into a different person as many people say, but into a stronger, smarter, and more persistent version of the girl I knew in high school.

So here comes the advice. Take all of it with a grain of salt, because even at the same school, all college experiences are different and require distinct avenues of growth. However, I am graduating, so I did do something right.

  1. Do not come into college dead-set on a major.

I believe I am starting off with my most controversial piece of advice, but arguably the most helpful. I decided in high school that I would be an English major, and while I do not regret my major, I do regret never exploring other major fields. My art history courses have been some of the most compelling classes I have taken throughout college, and sometimes I daydream about writing my thesis on medieval cults of saints and reliquaries. I highly recommend that you spend your freshman year fulfilling requirements, but also taking courses in any subject you find remotely interesting. I spent my first two years of college focusing on requirements, saving all of my “fun” classes for junior and senior years, meaning I never explored a subject in-depth until I had already chosen my major. Which leads me to my next piece of advice...

  1. Minors are your friends!

One of the best decisions I made in college was minoring in art history. A minor is a great way to pursue a subject you love, but with a lot less commitment than a major. Do minors really count for anything out in the working world? That’s debatable. However, I do believe that when I pursue a career in writing or publishing, having an art history background can only benefit me in the application process. Similarly, if you’re majoring in biology but have a passion for dance, do both! College is the time to pursue the education you want, so do not miss the opportunity to study a subject you love.

  1. Introduce yourself.

As a sometimes-shy introvert, this one is hard for me. One of my main goals of senior year is to introduce myself more: in classes, dining halls, club meetings, social events. People tend to be incredibly friendly the first few weeks of the fall semester, especially first-years, so introducing yourself and starting conversations will not be too difficult. However, as the semesters (and year) go on, people tend to fall into friend groups and act less outwardly outgoing. Fight against the urge to keep quiet and continue introducing yourself! From brushing your teeth in the residence hall bathroom to studying in Milstein, you really can make friends in any situation.

  1. Think about your future career, but don’t agonize over it.

One of my biggest struggles in college has been overthinking. The job and internship search has only multiplied this tendency, and I have spent many a spring semester worrying about applications and interviews constantly. I am going to let you in on a little secret: I did not have an internship the summer after my freshman year. With the transferring process, I was overwhelmed and did not feel that pursuing an internship was the right move for me at the time. Flash forward to the summer before senior year, and I have an incredible internship I love. I did things on my own timeline and I am thankful I did. 

  1. Be open to growth and new opportunities.

This final piece of advice has shaped my entire Barnard experience. Of course, I am still the same person I was before Barnard at my core. I still love to write, bake, and do anything creative. At the same time, the amount of growth I have undergone is incredible, with the most growth occurring when I tried something completely new. For example, I had joined the McIntosh Activities Council (McAC) on a whim. The student activities board had never interested me at my previous school, but for some reason I was drawn to planning Barnard events. As a senior, I can say that McAC has been one of my most meaningful involvements at Barnard. I’m sure every student you encounter will have a similar story of discovering a new interest or passion, and that discovery starts freshman year.