51 Lessons from My Freshman Year of College
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51 Lessons from My Freshman Year of College

Because 50 is too little, and 52 is too much to read

51 Lessons from My Freshman Year of College
Image by Bonnie Taylor from Pixabay

My freshman year was . . . quite eventful to say the least. I've been involved with almost a dozen student organizations, have had the honor of holding a few executive board positions and other operational positions, have been apart of several leadership programs and am insanely excited to do it all over again.

State Bus Trips are Really Cheap

To start off, this is something I learned during orientation actually. I took a $5 megabus across the state of Florida for orientation, and a $5 bus back home. It was insanely cheap and something I ended up using time and time again after.

You Don't Need Sh*t in the Dorms

Moving into the dorms was nerve wracking to say the least. I had a full car. And not just any car, I had a packed Mazda CX-5 Crossover. I really didn't need all of the things I bought, in fact I could have survived off two suitcases and a book bag honestly.

Greek Life is Not What I thought it Was

I've written two articles on my experience with Greek life specifically, you can read how my fraternity changed my life for the better here, and eight things about Greek life I didn't know initially here. But I vastly misunderstood its purpose and its people. It forced me out of my shell like nothing before and the acceptance I've gained from my brothers have done wonders for my confidence in both social skills and professionalism.

All Day Buffet Dining Halls Aren't That Impressive

During orientation I remember stuffing my face with three huge meals of pretty good food. I thought to myself I'd probably end up living in this dining hall once I attended. Turns out I used it about 40 times in total according to my online swipes. $1,900 dining plan isn't necessary I learned.

Assertion is NOT Aggression

This one is one of the more important lessons, and it is specifically how to be assertive and speak up without being aggressive or pissing someone off. Chances are if you have this deep gut feeling that you need to say something about something, then you probably need to say it. This is specifically in regards to your professors. I've got a handle on a nifty process that is efficient in how to get what you want from your professor, or at least work something out.

Disclaimer: The University of South Florida is a little bit easier to do this with

Step 1: Email your professor about whatever your concern is. BE DETAILED. DO NOT LEAVE ANY DETAILS OUT. Be thorough, even if it's a lengthy email. My number one tip is to not leave any sign of passive aggressive tones anywhere. Try to make the email rhetorically professional, while trying to gain a couple sympathy points. It's important to stress the need for your request due to academic needs. Ask your request, then ask "is there anything we can do?"

Step 2: If your professor responds with some bullcrap and dismisses you, email him again, be detailed once more, and CC your course coordinator and department academics head. If you don't know who they are just look on your school website under faculty for your specific department. If you still can't find their names, email the department and kindly request their contact information for something "academically necessary."

Step 3: In this second email, BCC the department head. At USF they're called Academic Dean for their department or respective college (USF has 14 colleges on campus). Step 2 ensures that the course coordinator responds, and if you're lucky the department academics head will respond for both you and your professor. Chances are your professor will not actually respond if either of these individuals do first which is what you want.

Step 3 ensures that if all else fails, your professors 4th or 5th boss up has all the information they need meaning they have no excuse otherwise. At USF however, there is a department specifically for advocating for students with regards to their academics called Academic Advocacy, and I always CC them in every email of any complaint so that everyone knows they're contacted.

Step 4: If you you did everything right, you should get the answers you require. If you don't, ask for more contact information until it stops. Go through every person if it really is a need. Persistence but not annoyance is key. Be assertive without aggression.

Paper and Pen Isn't Obselete

I was one of the students who didn't buy any actual office materials since I doubted pen and paper would even be touched in a classroom at college, but there I was for half a semester in Comp 2 and a Stats section asking to "borrow" paper from people. I think at this age we all know it's not "borrowing."

A Simple Google Search Solves All

Not just academic related things, but topics related to your university can easily be answered through google. For example, I wanted to get the contact information of several molecular biology researchers at the University of South Florida, and simply typed in "biology research USF" and there the website came up. Now some sites for certain colleges may not be as updated as USF's so it may depend.

Dark and light don't mix. Ever.

I don't care how experienced you are, or if you've consumed a higher volume of liquor before. Mixing a light and dark liquor is not the way to go. I made this mistake, and felt I was dying the next morning.

Google Calendar is a Life Saver

I am the embodiment of productivity loving stress. I have a lot of natural energy inside of me that needs an outlet, and my outlet is being active on campus, going to meetings, events, and everything else. Though I noticed my grades suffering due to me forgetting about work during all of this, so I made a google calendar and put every single damn thing I do on there every day of the week including upcoming assignments and even lunch breaks. This is probably one of the more valuable things I learned from college.

The Diversity in Thought is Beautiful

I plan on writing a separate article on this, but part of what I mean here can be explained in my article about sonder and the human experience here. Essentially, the varying thought processes of people I've met at college has opened me up to so many different modes of thought and intelligence. It made me believe that intelligence isn't simple, nor can it be homogenized down to a test or grades or awards.

Creativity is Still Thriving

Growing up I would idolize the "older days" like the 50s and 70s aesthetic. My favorite shows growing up were Happy Days and That 70's Show. I used to also think that modern music was trash, I was an anti socialite. I despised the now and the popular. I was a bitter indie kid that believed true art and creativity was dead in this world. I'm quite happy to say I'm wrong. Since coming here I've seen and experienced incredible creativity in people and ingenuity.

Cliques Are Nonexistant

College is about overexposure to the new world. It's filled with young adults attempting to do just that: adult. There's no room for the stereotypical cliques seen in middle and high school. There's no such thing as "everyone is already friends with each other." You will be in a constant state of meeting new people you would have never met otherwise, and this synthesis of people melts these cliques into a mish-mash of groups.


I DO NOT CARE if you think you are doing well in the class. I do not care if you have an A+ and you barely even have to see your professor. I had one question about a GenChem II problem for my professor, went to his office hours, and learned an incredible amount information about research, getting a PhD, what to do after that, and so many other CAREER related things I would have never learned otherwise. I learned about career goals I didn't even know were possible. Going to the office hours of a professor, if you're an open and friendly person, is incredibly useful. You may even find out about a profession you never knew you could do and find a different passion.


Building off of number 12, office hours can lead to research opportunities. Research opportunities can lead to experience, newfound passions, academic and professional growth, and even job opportunities if you build a healthy relationship with your researchers and graduate students. Even if you're not in the hard science fields like engineering or medicine, look for other research opportunities anywhere on your campus.

Thrift. Thrift. Thrift.

After being on my own with my own money and financial responsibility, I realized how incredibly expensive clothing is. So I started to thrift, and I ended up getting fairly high end nice looking clothing for prices I couldn't believe. I'm an avid fan now of the store Uptown Cheapskate down here in Tampa.

It Pays to be a Guinea Pig

My second week at college I signed up to be a subject of a stage 4 acne medication drug. They paid me in total $450. That was a whopping price for something that takes 20 seconds a day to do. I got paid, got clearer skin, and built a newfound relationship with a researchers institute. That's what college is about: opportunity seizing.

College is One Huge Costume Party

Honestly, I don't think I would have gone to parties had I not joined a fraternity. I'm not really the type to do that, but I do enjoy help run parties. And if there's one thing I've learned, all of these themes absolutely require a flashy costume. It could be really simple, but creativity is where it lies in these parties. I have a separate garbage bag for costumes I've worn to parties now.

Music. Oh the Music!

Being exposed to different minds and creativity has also exposed me to music I never even knew existed. Genres like future jungle house and gothic opera just to name a few. My playlist has definitely grown.


At my high school there was no school pride. At my middle school there was no school pride. I hated both of these places, and while USF's football team isn't really good, it's an amazing feeling to shout our chants during one of our football games.

People Don't Go to Games for the Game

This one is probably common knowledge, but I myself didn't know this. Tailgates are why people come to games. Most students leave, which is actually a huge problem for athletes and the college itself. Read more about how some colleges are hiring DJ's just to get students to go to their games.

Importance of Dedicating Time to Study

Something that I found extremely useful when preparing for my first college finals was planning a dedicated study schedule with a specific time and space. I found that being consistent with how I studied improved my understanding and confidence in what I was studying. In fact, being confident in your test taking is the most important factor. When I would just randomly study because I was bored, I felt unmotivated and unproductive with the time. Leaving my phone in my dorm and heading to the library was incredibly useful, and I've yet to have a final that's below the average.

Free Sh*t is Everywhere

College is about alot of things as I've already mentioned, but boy is it also about free stuff. In your 4 years time you will accumulate an entire bins worth of random free crap the university may give out from shirts to pillows to lip balm and more. I even have a slinky with the USF logo on it. It's all useless but boy it's fun to look at your spoils of war later.

Learn the History of the University

This sounds really boring, but I looked into the history for USF and what I found was incredibly fascinating. USF was the fourth state college created in Florida following World War II because returning soldiers were going to college in massive numbers. Additionally, the civil rights movement was peaking and college wasn't limited for white Americans anymore. Florida couldn't support the projected student increase, so they required USF to be built over a former air base. USF was the first university in Florida to allow full racial integration right out of the gate, and was a defining Florida college during the Civil Rights Movement.

So digging into your colleges history may prove to be useful, and you may gain a newfound respect for your wonderful institution.

Take Pictures

But don't post them.

Don't get caught up in the lie of social media and vain self projections. Capture the memories that matter when you can even if it is just a pretty sunset on the roof of a car garage. i have an entire album dedicated to random college moments and looking back on it during quarantine has helped me alot.

Silence is Better than Drama

I've learned to hold my tongue more often than not, which is something I struggled with since I was in pre-school. I would always say something back, try to irate the other person or do anything to show that I'm right. But I learned that being petty when something frustrates you may give you immediate relief, but the realization and regret will soon follow. In a limited lifetime, regrets need to be limited to.

Never Let an Emotional Person Make a Decision

There was a few situations in my first year where a friend or someone I know had gotten upset, frustrated, mad or whatever, and would make a very rash decision. This decision either couldn't be changed or was soon retracted. Emotion is a powerful thing, and humans are very reactive. So never allow someone in a destructive mood make a permanent or even semi-permanent decision, and give them the opportunity to rectify it if they do anyway.

Stop a Chain of Reactivity

Going off the last two, reactivity and emotion is contagious, especially in group settings. Don't be the echoing sheep, be the one control in the room, and everyone will not only look up to you, but see you as a directive when things get tough.

Be Comfortable with Your Flaws

My insecurity is my biggest flaw. It's very hard for me to like anything about myself, and I've been like this since I was four years old. I eventually grew out of self pitying and bitterness, but it's still a major struggle almost every day.

People with huge insecurities aren't going to listen to other people. It's part of the insecurity. We cannot be convinced out of it. All we can do is accept how feel. If it's a flaw you can't control, only accept your feelings around it. If it's a personality issue or something you can work on, accept how it makes you feel to have this issue, but don't accept the issue as fact ever, and don't hold yourself to standards higher than you hold others.

Growth is Constant

There are defining moments in a person's life that define them and the individual will see massive personal growth. However, many don't realize that micro growth occurs every day through decisions, choices, things you see. It's not just select memories that change you, it's the accumulation of all of your memories and life experience.

I'm getting old

By old I mean my behavior is getting old. I'm doing things that child-me thought was boring and drab. I'm getting excited by traditionally "old people things" like cleaning and organizing my socks. I guess the little things really do matter.

If Someone on Campus Runs Into You, Ignore It

One time some girl hauled ass right into me as I was walking to class. I'm okay with the bruise I just hope she got to class on time.

Actually Watch Out for Bikes

I was walking to a hotel on campus for a religious service, and someone biked their front wheel right into my pants. Needless to say I'm keeping 10 feet away from all people on wheels from now on.

Mac n Cheese Is Still Gas

I don't care if your dining hall is complete garbage. Unless your Mac n Cheese is watery and bland there's no way to mess that up.

Tuna. Mayo. Bread. 20 Meals for $10

I learned this at the beginning of quarantine when a friend of mine and I went to the store to stock up on essentials. We both got enough food for over a month for just $250 together.

He taught me if I ever need a lot of food for a long time but have minimal funds, find high carb, high fat, small portion foods. They give you the illusion you're full very fast and the small portions sustain you fairly well. So I lived off of Tuna, Mayo and Bread for that entire month before money started coming in from the University.

The Fallacy of Involvement

As someone who is very involved, and loves my high level of involvement, I think there needs to be a small spoken word on why it is completely okay, normal, and good to not be involved as well.

Oftentimes people feel they're 'wasting' away if they're not being vocal, extroverted or high geared involved in their job or college. There is a fallacy in the belief we need to achieve a higher place in the world to satisfy . . . . something. I'm here to say that is false. It's a myth and a lie construed by egotism in society that says you're lesser if you're not in some recognizable reputable place of power.

Learn the power in simple.

Really Make Sure that Tattoo Parlor is Hygenic

One day I was inspired to join my friend to the night city of Tampa, being Ybor, to on a complete whim get an industrial bar ear piercing. As someone who has never had a piercing or tattoo, it hurt like hell. Having a huge bar being shoved through two ear holes hurt like a b*tch as a first time.

Though while I was lucky in terms of hygiene of this place, always ensure the place you're going to, even if on a complete whim, is reputable, safe and sterile. Ask simple questions before you even say what you're looking for.

If you're blacked out, well I'm sorry you shouldn't be anywhere if that is the case.

It's OK to Not Go to Class

We are raised through 12 years of schooling (half of it being worthless in my opinion) and conditioned to always be in class, do this, do that.

While this message is thrown away by many entering college, some do-wellers still hold these rules in their head. To ask to use the bathroom. To always go to class.

There have been times where I straight up accepted losing points for attendance to do homework or a project in lieu of.

College is about time management and discipline. Be disciplined to know when to make time sacrifices whether it be a party, or an actual class.

Don't Give Up Hope on the Dream Schedule

POV: It's before registration. You have made a perfect schedule that's only three days, 2 hours tops per day and doesn't interfere with social life or . . . well lunch.

Then bam. Half of your courses are already filled. You despair and languish at the fact your dream has been ripped out of your hands by upperclassmen and preregistered students.

However, realize the reality that several courses go from being completely full to nearly empty during the drop/add period. Take advantage of this time, since most students are too lazy to fight for their dream schedule. Keep and eye on your courses constantly to see if people are dropping. Chances are given enough tenacity and hard work, you can get that dream schedule four times out of five.

Never. Do a Lab. During. Mealtime.

Sitting through three hours of staring at chemicals or squid guts is not a pleasant thing to do in the morning or afternoon on an empty stomach. Make time to eat. Seriously. This IS NOT FUN. IT'S HORRIBLE.

A s k Q u e s t i o n s

Timidness is even worse in college when you're speaking in front of 600 students apparently. You'd think it would be remedied but people don't ask questions for some reason. Before, or after class. Risk sounding stupid for the sake of your grade. Please. No one cares anyway. Worst case scenario people laugh and forget about it the next day.

Do your online work.

I don't care if you have to make your computer go DING every hour. It's so easy to just forget or . . . resign to not doing it. Please do it. You'll need those extra points come finals week.

Invest in a Powerbank 

"Oh sure I'll put that down on my schedule right now"

"Can I get your number"

"I'll email it right now"

These are three very different scenarios that can occur, and you'll be damned if you let them occur with a dead or dying battery. Always bring an extra charger. Always bring a power bank. ALWAYS CHARGE THE NIGHT BEFORE.

I have notifications every night telling me to charge my phone and other devices. A dying battery is a dying soul.

If You're Going to Do Drugs . . . 

And I mean IF, then ensure you're in a safe place, around people you trust, with at least an experienced/sober individual.

note i'm not condoning. only hoping you're being educated. do your research beforehand. DO YOUR RESEARCH.



Read This Book

This is a phenomenal text to help with the beginning transition to college. It's called "101 Things to Do Before You Graduate College" by Jullien Gordon. It's a great compilation of both practical and beneficial goals to complete before you're handed that degree!

It will actually help you get opportunities you had no idea were possible. And when I say actually I mean LITERALLY.

Also this one!

This is a personal one. My uncle gave me this book before I entered high school. It's a book that uses Babylonian parables to teach basic healthy finance habits, like saving 10 pennies for every dollar you receive. Being opportunistic and knowing when to take financial opportunities. It helped me frame a different mindset regarding finances, and I overall believe it will benefit most people.

The book is called the "Richest Man in Babylon" by Samuel Clason.

You Have Food At Home

Yes that macaroni and cheese chicken jalapeno bowl DOES look delicious but it's also NINE DOLLARS!!! WHAT ARE YOU DOING? NO DON'T GET A DRINK WITH IT.

Apply For Abroad

it doesn't matter if you can't afford it. It doesn't matter if you don't want to go. It doesn't matter if it's impractical. If there's one thing I've learned about abroad, take the opportunity and life may work out in your favor. You can always just decide to not go, and the administration will give it to someone on the waiting list. I applied, and then was put with a scholarship mentor to help me get a massive international scholarship called The Gilman Scholarship. With her help and my hard work, I managed to get $5000 off my abroad trip.

Note: Obviously coronavirus cancelled my plans, but here's to Summer 2021!

Courses with Low Pass Rates

I'm talking about your 44% Organic Chemistry 1/2, your 36% Applied Engineering III, your 32% Calculus III with Integrated 3-d Utilization

1) Don't take them in the summer

2) Always join the class groupchat if available (I'm in an Orgo groupchat with everyone enrolled in the course)

3) Prioritize this class. Get ahead. Stay ahead. Take advantage of week 1 by going over at least 3 weeks ahead of material because week 1 work is usually light and non existent. If these classes really have most people failing, then you cannot be like most people. You want that degree? That pension? That 401K? Open that book then and stop crying.

3) Cs get Degrees (excluding all pre/grad students)

Cs Get Degrees

This point needs to be expanded on a little bit I think.

Some majors will have difficulty with using this mantra regularly, as future med/law/grad students need to keep their grades top tier to get into their next 4-6 years of education. I unfortunately fall into this group, because if I have any hopes of getting that John Hopkin's acceptance letter, Bs don't even get me degrees.

But if you're like the other 90% of college students, congratulations! You don't need to stress as much about grades as you did in high school really. Take it slow. Pace yourself. Schedule your time. Dedicate time for YOU.

I literally just said f*ck my physics exam to focus on much more important assignments for classes I know I will probably stay enrolled in. It's okay to drop a class. It's okay to fall behind. It's okay to say "I cannot do this right now". Adulting is about taking care of you while chasing what you want to do. Life isn't as stiff as everyone around you wants to make it out to be.

Never Compare Yourself

Theodore Roosevelt famously said "comparison is the thief of joy", and he said it during his presidency.

Teddy was president for 8 years, and was the youngest president in the history of the United States. He lost both his first wife and his mother on the same day in the late 1800s. He fought in the Spanish-American war becoming an esteemed colonel. He championed natural conservation, meat industry regulation, facilitated modern football regulations, and his diplomacy during the 1904 Russian-Japan war won him the first Nobel Peace Prize gifted to a president of the United States.

And his quote means so much more because of these accomplishments. He said it in consideration of himself and everyone hearing it. Here is an individual so accomplished, so esteemed, and so important in the world and he coined this term that has changed lives to date. The individual that people would compare to says, do not compare for your happiness in life will be destroyed. And it is so true.

The Highlight Reel

Consider your typical scroll through social media. You see smiling faces. Funny things. Eventful activities. And everything that consists of the best and brightest of peoples lives. Endless happiness. Euphoria.

And it's exhausting. It's gross. Fake

These are the moments of an individuals vast nearly infinite impossibly complicated lives that they choose to show you. It is not their lives. It is not what they do everyday. You want to know what they do everyday?

The same as you. Scrolling through the same social media you utilized to see their highlights.

It's a conglomerate of false euphoria. A storage of specifically chosen media in an algorithm all made to market to you.

It isn't real. But it is one thing to say this, and another thing to believe it.

Of course there are dozens of other schools of thoughts all related to this idea of not comparing yourself to others for the sake of enjoying your own self. When we compare, we discover discrepancies. Gaps. Things that we want, and desire is a sin of humanity as old as humanity. This conditions us in so many harmful ways and convinces us to commit to this process of comparison and feeding into the industry that wants us to. These markets have one goal: to make us unhappy, and tease us with supposed "happiness" behind a pay wall.

Think of advertisements in your life. That beer can in that one photo. The adidas in the other. Even more obscure things such as housing, paid photo-editing apps, and the entire mechanism of Apple's iMessage games: to convert people to buy/use one thing by making them feel inadequate for not participating.

This is the cycle that is force fed to us everywhere.

If you struggle with this incredible difficulty many of us subscribe to in life, I urge you to do a break of it. Do whatever you can to separate yourself from it. Save your happiness, cherish it and love. Realize the significance of you, your individuality and uniqueness. Feel the incredible phenomena of your existence. You exist from an impossible mixture of organic material and four billion years of evolution. Your very presence defies the natural laws of thermodynamics. You exist above all else on this remarkable blue dot in an endless vast universe of infinite unknowns and non-guarentees. Nothing in this universe is stable, consistent, or predictable. Realize that, and realize your place in the much bigger picture. That is my final, and biggest tip I can give to anyone entering college or anyone in life.

Don't fall into the comparison trap laid out.

Thank you.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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