After finishing my freshman year at Olin and observing some of my first-year college friends succeed, some roll under the radar, and some struggle, I have come to realize that much of the college experience is determined by a person’s mental attitude. The more prepared you are when you step foot on campus, the better the first year can be. I’ve taken my experiences and observations and put together four things to keep in mind when preparing for freshman year at Olin:
1. Understand that you’re in the same boat as everyone else
Nobody knows anybody. Toward the end of my first year I asked one of my friends how he had so much success socially throughout the year, and he responded like this: “When people got to school they didn’t know anybody else. They’re looking for anyone that will talk to and make an effort to relate to them. So making connections upon arrival are incredibly easy. ”
That’s such a good point. Sure, you might know a friend from high school or an older sibling on campus, but for the majority, everyone is going in cold. So make the effort. Put yourself out there and be friendly with other people. It can be scary, but at worst you talk to someone and don’t connect with them, while at best you are meeting new best friends. And if you do it enough, you’ll surely meet people that you enjoy being around.
2. Realize the full opportunity cost of business school
College is expensive. WashU is expensive. And even if you’re on financial aid or scholarship, going to college means four years of your life that you’re spending at school instead of doing something else (i.e., working).
That’s not to say that college isn’t worth it, but if you don’t go about those four years in the right way, then it certainly might be a waste. Spending, for example, $200,000 to squeeze by academically with a degree that isn’t worthwhile, partying, or, on the flip side, not becoming involved, is a waste of money. But spending that money to connect with teachers, get mentors, engage yourself in the classroom, make best friends, and get involved on campus, while also making time to enjoy everything college has to offer, can be worth it.
3. Use your freshman year at Olin to prepare for the real world
Regardless of what happens over your next four years, you’ll be expected to enter the real world by the end of your college career. It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone, rely on others and not take on new experiences–especially during your freshman year. But if you do that, you’ll face harsher circumstances after you graduate because you won’t be as prepared for what life has to throw at you.
Instead, get out of your comfort zone. Have fun, meet a lot of people, and learn a lot. Gain the life skills that you need to be ready for the real world, so that by the time you leave you will not only be ready to do so, but you’ll be confident and prepared for what’s ahead.
4. Repeat this mantra: It’s about how you respond, not what happens to you
Starting on day one you’ll have your ups and downs. You’ll meet people you don’t like, you’ll get a bad grade on a test, and you may not get the leadership position in the club that you wanted. But you’ll also get that A in your toughest class, meet best friends, and secure a killer internship.
And when these things happen, good or bad, how you respond will be critical.
If you really want to be in an acapella group and don’t get in, you have two options: You can either dwell on it, fear failure and let it define you, or you can take it as an opportunity to do something else. On the contrary, when you are elected president of the group you’ve always wanted to lead, you can either be content with what you achieved and stop working, even getting cocky, or you can keep working hard and show people why you deserved the position.
If, regardless of your circumstances, you’re able to treat every opportunity as a learning one and focus more on the journey than the destination, then when you face downs you’ll be able to recover, and when you face ups, you’ll be able to keep going.
I’ll give you an example. When I got to WashU I tried out for the soccer team. I had spent 2-3 hours each day over the course of the previous 3 months in preparation, and when I got to school I was cut from the team. But I turned around and took on the next opportunity, which for me was getting ownership of a Cardinals baseball blog. And then even after the blog, I could have been content, but I kept pushing forward. I continued joining new organizations, getting involved, and pushing my limits. Not only did this keep me busy and engaged, but it also helped me meet new people and learn from new meaningful experiences.
So what’s the point of all of this?
When new freshmen get to school it can be overwhelming. There’s a lot going on, it’s a completely different life than they’re used to, and while it’s incredibly exciting and fun, it’s also scary and hard. So keeping these four thoughts in the back of your mind throughout the semester can help guide decision-making and emotions in a positive way to help really make college the best four years of your life.