What My First Year of College Taught Me

    The summer before I left for college, I thought I had it all down. After finishing up my senior year in the top ten of my class, graduating with honors, and placing as a finalist in an international competition for my favorite high school club, I had no doubt in my mind that I would be met with nothing but success as soon as a came to UW. I spent the summer obsessing over picking out decorations for my dorm room, choosing the most interesting classes for my first quarter, and browsing through the RSO catalog to figure out what I wanted to get involved in. The three or so months before I left for college were the longest of my life, and I could not wait to leave my hometown in Colorado for the beautiful city of Seattle! As I now wrap up the last week of my first year at the University of Washington, I can honestly say that I made the best decision to come here; that doesn’t mean that my freshman year didn’t come without any hardships, however.

    If I could tell my past self one thing, it would be to prepare myself for some disappointment, and to humble myself on my abilities and strengths. I don’t mean this to sound negative, but it is the truth! Most students at the University of Washington were the top students in their class, involved in their communities, and were passionate about everything they did. In high school, it’s a little bit easier to be that special student, but at such a large university where everyone holds these similar values, it can be a little bit harder to stand out. You may not get every job, leadership position, or grade that you want the first time around here. This may seem discouraging, but the best part is knowing that you will be surrounded by a community of students who will force you to push yourself to be the best that you can, and to re-analyze why you are doing what you are doing. Your first year might come with some painful rejections, but it will only make you stronger and force you to work harder to be the best leader, the best employee, or the best student. Coming to the University of Washington prepares you for the real world where jobs and internships are competitive. When you are forced to channel your energy into the things that you care about the most, you will grow into the best you that you can possibly be! It is going to be tough to deal with rejections at first, but as long as you keep pushing yourself, you will find success here at UW. 

    This mentality applies to the classroom as well. Most students come out of high school with an inflated sense of what their grades might look like when they come to college. I refused to listen to older students who would say that you will fail a test your first quarter- I thought that could never be me! As cheesy as it is, I wish I had listened sooner. My first midterm did not go as well as I had planned, and I was absolutely devastated. I was not used to the grading scale at UW, where many early classes are designed to “weed out” students, and where grades are based on a 4.0 scale, which can sometimes make it harder to achieve your desired GPA. However, this one bad grade taught me how to truly study in college before I took any more classes that might be even harder! I learned that I needed to make use of office hours, spend more time studying, and that I needed to practice problems rather than just reading the materials over and over again. If I had never made this mistake, I would have learned that tough lesson even later on, in a class that may have been even more important to me. Despite that one bad midterm, my GPA was just fine. If this situation happens to you, don’t panic! Many students run into this situation, but it is not the end-all for your GPA, college experience, or future career. 

    Finally, I would tell myself that college is the best time and experience of my life, and that I should cherish every moment while I can. Literally every moment: from the late nights studying in Odegaard, to attending Husky Football games with my best friends on Saturdays, to watching movies and eating snacks from the DM in the dorm with my roommate. There is truly no place or time in your life like college, and I can honestly say that this past year has gone by so, so, fast. Even more, the University of Washington is truly filled with the best people I could have ever hoped to have met, and I am so lucky to be able to experience college with everyone at this school. Spending a quarter at home due to quarantine has not been ideal, but has made me realize just how important the experiences and people at the University of Washington are to me. College is already flying right before my eyes, and I cannot wait to get back to campus to live out the rest of my three years at UW to the absolute fullest. Pre-freshman year me was not ready for all that UW had to offer, nor the challenges that I would have to overcome. Regardless, I am so happy that I chose this school, and so happy that I can look back on my first year with happiness, memories, and so much more knowledge than I did when I started.