You’re a boss. There’s no doubting that. I can’t wait to meet all of you and see you go through the roller-coaster ride that is Freshman year. I know at this point everyone and their mother (and their drunk uncle at the 4th of July BBQ) are trying to give you advice. I don’t know much, but here’s what I wish someone had told me earlier:
- Take the professor, not the class
Seriously, this one is huge. In fact, if I could only give one piece of advice, this is it: When registration time comes around, don’t pick the classes that sound most interesting; pick your classes based on who is teaching them. For example, can you think of any class that sounds more boring than “Accounting for Decision Making”? But it’s one of the best classes at CMC and every semester there are upperclassmen lining up trying to get into the Fresh/Soph only class just to take Professor “Dad” Massoud. When it came time to fulfill my religious studies requirement, I had almost no interest in South Asian religions, but signed up because Professor Michon was teaching. Whatever Valenza and Pitney are teaching will fill up no matter the titles. Shroeder and Hurley could offer “History of Certified Alloy Patent Disputes” and I would still try to blackmail Elizabeth Morgan into letting me in. The bottom line is that great classes are great because of great professors. 32 classes might seem like a lot now, but choose with care; they go by quickly.
- Freshman grades ARE important
You may have heard back in high school that your freshman grades “wouldn’t really matter” for college. Freshman year of college is different. Grades matter. They matter a lot. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying don’t have fun or don’t go out (See tip #3). Just don’t delude yourself into thinking that Freshman year is some sort of academic purgatory. The classes will be hard, your classmates will be smarter, and A’s will not be nearly as easy to come by (unless you take Pomona classes). Go out a lot, be social, make friends, but also keep up with your work. When the spring comes along and you’re looking for summer internships/programs/fellowships/etc, you will want a presentable transcript.
- Try to meet as many people in the first month as possible
Everybody’s new, no one knows each other, and the first month is the best time to meet as many of your classmates as humanly possible. After a while you’ll start spending more time with some people and less with others, but don’t just latch on to your roommate or WOA group and never meet anyone else. You’ll live with your roommate the entire year, you’ll always have the shared experiences of WOA to fall back on, so go out and meet the friends you’ll have for the rest of your life.
- The Scripps Pool.
I’m not going to explain this one, go see for yourself…
- CMC missing something? START IT!
Do you have a passion for something that doesn’t exist at CMC? So what, make it happen! Just because you’re a freshman doesn’t mean you should wait. Get some friends together, build something meaningful, have a ton of fun, and learn a lot along the way. Future employers love it, future students will benefit, and CMC will likely throw more resources at you than is reasonable for an 18 year old – which segways into my next point…
- Use da FREE Moniez!
There are institutes, departments, associations, foundations. and deans lining up to give you money to go do cool stuff. Literally, you will get emails all day, every day telling you about this scholarship, or that program. ASCMC has funds for students to go take cool trips. The Kravis Leadership Institute, the Dean of Students office, and the Robert Day School are always looking to fund great ideas. Ask any upperclassmen and they will probably start competing with each other to see who got the more ridiculous activity subsidized.
- Stockpile fruit from the dining halls
Pretty self-explanatory. It’s all you can eat. You may be hungry later. Always. Stockpile. Fruit.
- Go to the Ath
I’m sure you saw it on your tour, and have been including it in your explanation to grown-ups for why you chose a community college in east LA County instead of Dartmouth. But then you get here and all-of-a-sudden things seem so busy and you just can’t seem to fit it in… Stop making excuses. You’re never too busy for the Ath. It’s during dinner – you were going to eat dinner anyway. Just sign up and go. In fact, open this link, pick someone random, and sign up. You don’t even need to drag a friend along. When you get there, sit at a table with some professors and students you don’t know. The Ath, in a lot of ways, can sometimes even be more valuable than your classes. Just go.
- Don’t dual/double/triple major
You chose a liberal arts school, so get a liberal arts education. Don’t restrict yourself by trying to major in as many things as humanly possible. My friend’s Philosophy, Politics, and Economics & Economics-Accounting degree actually seemed to confuse more employers than it impressed. Major in ONE thing, then take all of the best professors in the other departments. You basically have 21 free courses (plus GEs), so don’t fill them with only a couple subjects unless those are really the only two things you are interested in. Leave room for a lot of electives, learn a little about a lot of things. I know, I know, this sounds hypocritical. I’m a dual Math and Econ major. That’s the point, these are things I wish someone had told me.
- Find study groups
You are blessed to go to a school where most of the classes don’t curve. If everyone does well, everyone does well. You’re not trying to beat the guy (or, more likely, girl) next to you. Freshman year, I remember a big test was coming up, and a couple days before, a guy I didn’t know emailed the entire class: “I made a study guide for the ______ test, and have attached it to this email. Hope it helps and if anyone wants to get together to study, let me know!” At first, I didn’t believe it. Why would he do that? He had no reason to do that. And then I realized that’s what makes CMC awesome. CMCers help CMCers. Be that kid. Find some friends, an open classroom, and help each other out. College is just better that way.
With that, enjoy the first semester of freshman year! Don’t blink, soon you’ll be whining about thesis.