Advice to College Freshmen

Yesterday, classes started for the 2012-13 school year at The University of Montana. Besides the parking nightmare and the over congestion at the gym, I welcome the start of the new school year. I like the hustle and bustle on campus, the promise of a fresh start, the numerous welcome back activities, and of course the start of football season. On Sunday night as I became well aware that school was starting the next day based on the endless Facebook posts and Tweets I came across, something hit me: I am well removed from my college days. It is hard to believe but I was a college freshman on The University of Montana campus seven years ago. SEVEN YEARS AGO! I am definitely not getting any younger.

Besides the fact that I am now twenty-five and 2,555 days past my first day of college, I noticed something else as well. College students don’t look like me anymore…I am older and I look older. It sucks. But what really blows my mind is how young the freshmen look. When I went to cheer camp earlier this month our freshmen on the squad looked like middle schoolers! Some of the first year students I have seen over the past couple of days on campus look like they just got out of the crib. I am getting older and the college students are getting younger.

Because I am now so many years past my freshman campaign and because it looks like I could be the dad of some of these kids, I feel I am now eligible to give my advice to these students who step on campus for the first time. In this post, I would like to offer seven pointers (because seven is my favorite number) to this year’s class of college freshmen.

This was me on my first day of college at The University of Montana (August 2005).

Take Class Seriously – Go into your first year at college with a chip on your shoulder. Tell yourself that either you, your parents, or the taxpayers are paying a good amount of money for your education and you aren’t going to let that go to waste. Show up to class…every single day. Honestly, get every penny out of your investment. Don’t fall into the trap of skipping class or sleeping through it. Treat each day as a step closer to your ultimate career goals.

Use Academic Resources – There is no real reason why you should not succeed in college. Many professors will bend over backwards to help you pass class with a respectable grade. Utilize office hours, e-mail your professors, build a rapport with them. Not comfortable around your instructors? Go to the tutoring centers on campus, spend more time in the library, reach out to a T.A., join a study group. Universities want you to get your degree so they can include it in their statistics, because of this, they will do whatever possible to help you out. Take advantage of what is available and never make the excuse that enough help was not available.

Get Involved – It does not matter if you are going to a college with a bunch of your high school friends or if you are the only one in your hometown attending the institution, it is very important to get involved. College is about meeting new people, establishing connections, and branching out. I personally met a lot of people through intramural sports and through the UM Newman Center. But if you are not into sports or church don’t worry, there are tons and tons of other possibilities available. Join a club, gain campus employment, volunteer, speed date, attend events, look into student government, or just hang out at heavily populated areas on campus. The opportunities are boundless and if you really can’t find anything to do you might have picked the wrong college.

Eat Well – Most universities require freshmen to purchase a meal plan. As I encouraged you to utilize your academic sources, I also encourage you to utilize your food sources. Eat at the minimum two good meals a day. Many institutions have at least one buffet style dining area on campus. Get creative with the different options available and throughout the year create diverse and healthy-enough lunches and dinners for yourself. Avoid soda (poison for your body) and elect to go with milk or water instead. While universities will do a lot to make sure you don’t waste your education, they won’t do anything to make sure you don’t waste your meal plan. Colleges make lots of money off of unutilized meals that students don’t cash in on. At The University of Montana, the meal plan system runs on a weekly basis. You are given an amount to use at the start of the week and then at the end of the week if you have a balance left over then you are contributing those last dollars to the university as the next day you start off fresh with a new weekly balance. USE YOUR MONEY. Eat well but eat smart.

Enjoy The Gym – Before you enjoy the gym, actually find the gym and use the gym. Remember, once in college it is much more difficult to retain a respectable figure than what it was in high school. Many of us go from being three-sport athletes in high school to being zero-sport athletes in college. That is a lot of activity lost. Also, the indulgences go way up. We eat more, drink more, and disregard our bodies more. With this said, it is imperative to work out on a regular basis. Get in a routine. Once you get comfortable and have a good schedule nailed down you can really start to enjoy it. I think nothing is better than having the freedom to do whatever type of workout you want to achieve the body you want. All through high school I had to abide to strict workouts that allowed me no time to focus on what I wanted to. Once at the rec center at The University of Montana I set my own workout plans. Enjoy working on/molding the body you want. One more very enjoyable part of a college gym: the beautiful women (or men for my female readers). Appreciate the scenery but respect it too.

Develop School Spirit – Be proud of the school you attend! After all, the institution will be giving you a piece of paper the day you graduate that is supposedly your ticket to the money making world. As a token of gratitude, support your school. Attend as many athletics events as possible. As someone who works in an intercollegiate athletic department, I can’t advocate this point enough. Buy school apparel and wear it proudly. Make your school part of your identity.

Have Fun – Finally, just have fun. College can be the best four years of your life, so don’t hold back. There is nothing like being away from home for the first time, meeting new people, and developing a real sense of self. Don’t take this time for granted. Wake up each and every morning with a positive attitude reminding yourself that you are one of the privileged few in the whole world who has the opportunity at a higher education…there is no reason why you shouldn’t make the best out of it.
Good luck to all of the college freshmen this year. Make it a great a ride. Don’t Blink.