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Advice to Incoming Freshmen

With less than two weeks standing before me and the end of my academic career, I've begun to reflect deeply and frequently. What would have I done differently if anything? What were the highs? The lows? Which moments do I most wish I could preserve and take with me? Several memories come to mind despite my certainty that there are more that I just can't recall. I can't change the past, and I'm not sure I would, but I can only imagine what I'd my younger self before she enters into the most transformative and challenging four years of her short life.

Put your phone down and listen

Yeah, I know you got a snapchat notification and your roommate just sent you a cute picture of a puppy, but prioritize the real life people and places around you. It'll help you remember these moments. It'll also make the people around you feel as if they have your full attention. Believe it or not, that makes a difference in whether or not they stick around.

Sometimes, disappointment has positive consequences.

So, you didn't get that internship, and that can be a huge blow to your ego. You have to understand that everyone – and I really mean everyone – faces rejection. Think of it this way: you just got experience in writing a cover letter, going through the interview process, and marketing your skills. Take these lessons and keep applying until you find a match. Someone is looking for a candidate just like you, and you'll only become a better candidate with more experience in applying and interviewing.

Or, say you didn't get the solo you wanted or weren't selected for that honor you worked toward. You really thought you had it this time, and things didn't work out in your favor. It'll feel like your talent and effort isn't being recognized. Please, keep working hard and stay determined and humble. Your time is coming, trust me.

Send that text. Heartbreak is worth it.

You want to message that guy in your house you met one time sophomore year, but you don't know what to say and you're afraid he won't reply and you don't know if he has a girlfriend and – just do it. At the end of your four years, you'll only remember the things you didn't do and the risks you wish you would've taken. What could happen if you do the risky thing way outweighs whatever fleeting sense of rejection or disappointment you'll feel if you get turned down.

Or, maybe you've already fallen for someone. You could either be honest with yourself and the other person about how you feel, or you could play it cool and keep your distance to protect your heart. Why not let yourself feel it all? The feeling of giving or receiving affection, love, and time is fulfilling, valuable, and important. Even if your heart hurts at the end of it all, those moments of deep connection are worth the pain that can come as a result of vulnerability.

Be there for your friends

When you're at your lowest and need someone to turn to, the same friends that you supported and uplifted will return the favor. This isn't to say that you should do good just to get it back. Being reliable, loyal, and empathetic is inherently beneficial. You learn and gain a lot by sacrificing yourself for others. The more you commit to the different parts of your life – the social, the academic, the romantic, and extracurricular – the more you'll get out of them. So make time to be there for the people you care about, you don't want to leave college wishing you had strengthened those bonds sooner.

This is only the beginning.

Despite tropes on college being "THE BEST FOUR YEARS OF YOUR LIFE™," life does, in fact, go on. No matter how these next four years pan out, you still have the rest of your life to find your passion, refine your skills, develop deep and lasting friendships, and learn more about yourself and the world. Don't take these four years for granted, but don't feel that your chance to live your best life is dependent one small chunk of a life still in progress. That being said, consider this the jumping off point for adulthood. With this newfound independence and agency, you may find what moves you. While you have all the resources and connections at your fingertips, make use of them.

Ultimately, your experience will be unique and transformative regardless of the path you choose. Enjoy every second of it, because once you reach the end, you'll wish you had more time.

Kat is a senior at Harvard concentrating in Social Anthropology. She's an a cappella nerd, a hip hop dancer, and a lover of any and all Mexican food.
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