The first time I watched “Mean Girls” (which was, honestly, not that long ago), I remember my jaw dropping when the bus crashed into Regina George. For me, my freshman year of college was a lot like this scene. The first year of college is full of unexpected, unprecedented changes, and when you’re hit with the change, you’re hit hard – like Regina. Now, as a third-year student, I realize that there are principles I wish I had known that would have made the transition easier. If you are an incoming freshman, especially in UF’s College of Journalism and Communications, here are some lessons I learned as a first-year student:
First, your major isn’t the be-all and end-all
When I was in high school, I remember people asking me what major I wanted to pursue in college. I bounced between many fields of study: psychology with a pre-law track, journalism, political science, you name it. When I actually applied to the University of Florida, I applied as a Communication Sciences and Disorders major. Though I still find the field interesting, I changed my major to Public Relations during my freshman year and have fallen in love with the career. So if you get to college and realize that you and your major don’t vibe, that’s okay. Changing your major isn’t a big deal, and no one will think less of you. (Friendly tip: The further you get into your degree, the harder it is to change your major. If you know that the field you’re studying doesn’t align with your long-term goals, reach out to your advisor to talk about your concerns!)
Second, your professors are really cool
As a college student, I have been able to learn from awesome, accomplished people. In the J-School, there are professors that have been a press secretary in the United States Congress or an owner of an advertising agency. Several of my instructors have worked in their field internationally, and one was a part of a research initiative that greatly impacted the field of public relations. Your professors are knowledgeable and experienced, so don’t hesitate to reach out and ask questions about the class or the field!
Third, your classmates are also really cool
Your fellow Gators were (like you) probably one of the top students in their class, but many students specialize in things besides academics, too. I have been in classes with models, actors and business owners. Getting to know the people around you can grant you a fresh perspective on the material and allow you to make new friends!
Fourth, the College of Journalism and Communications has a ton of resources
Whether you are looking for a summer internship, a post-grad job or study help, there is someone who can assist you! I cannot stress enough how much reaching out for help my first year altered my experience for the better. If you don’t know where to start, simply contact your advisor. They can connect you with the right person or the right department.
Fifth, get started early
Whether you have an exam to study for, an assignment to complete or a video to film (any MPMT majors here?), start on your assignments a day or so before you think you need to. During my freshman year, my time guestimation for completing assignments or studying was usually inaccurate. On several occasions, I found myself thinking, “If only I had one more day to complete this.” Save yourself the stress by starting a bit earlier.
Sixth, don’t compare yourself
Seriously, don’t. I know it’s hard to log onto LinkedIn and see another “I’m so excited to announce I am accepting a role at [company name]” post and not feel like you are behind in your career journey. In other words, celebrating someone else’s big win can be hard to do without wondering if you are inadequate. Spoiler alert: you’re not. As cliché as it is to say, your journey is your journey. Keep working hard and focusing on what you want out of your degree. When you do, you will find the perfect opportunities for you! (In addition, congratulate other people on their wins! We’re all on the same team, after all.)
Last, but certainly not least, you cannot please everyone
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you simply cannot simultaneously make your parents happy, your professors happy, your roommate happy and your secret library crush happy. Some days, you’re going to have to say no to going out because you have an exam to study for or a paper to write. My advice? Prioritize, plan, prioritize, plan, repeat. If you need to prioritize schoolwork one day so that you can tailgate the next, do it. If you want to prioritize friends today because next week is packed, do it. Plan to see what you need to prioritize now.
Class of ‘27, welcome to Gator Nation! Adapting to college can be a hard transition, but it is definitely achievable. Reach out for help when you need it. Make new friends. Call your mom. Be gentle with yourself (and those around you) as you settle into your new routine. Rewarding things take time, and college is one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. You’ve got this!