By Kristin Kirlew Bent
Unigo Campus Rep at Dartmouth
Freshman year has a reputation as the most memorable year of college, not just because of the new experiences, the new friends or 15 pounds gained. Freshman year has become immortalized because it’s when students are prone to make countless errors.
And that’s perfectly fine; no one always gets things right on the first try. But, it is always nice to have a heads up, right? Freshman year is undoubtedly a very difficult and stressful time for college students because it not only entails all the pressures of academic adjustment but also those of social and mental changes. As many college students may feel (or the way I certainly felt) coming out of senior year of high school, memories of being a freshman in school are a far cry from the past and actually being in that position again may come as a little bit of a shock. After working so hard, achieving so much, and finally feeling as though you’re at the top of your game, you’re suddenly back where you started and have earn everything all over again.
It is often said that wisdom comes from age and experiences, so as an upperclassmen that went through what most of you will experience in a year or two here is an account of common freshman mistakes courtesy of myself and some of my fellow Dartmouth undergraduates.
My biggest mistake by far was that of hubris or more plainly said: overconfidence. I really regret to say that for me as well as other students, who did very well in high school, I was far too cocky in some of my courses and my grades suffered for it. For anyone who took Advanced Placement (AP) classes or honors classes in high school (and presumably did well) take caution that you are not too over confident in your skills during college to the point where you feel that studying needs to be done minimally or in some case not at all. You may need a reality check and a nice warm piece of humble pie. Taking AP courses are most definitely a good way to prepare for college and expand your horizons, but trust me when I say that that is just an ice cube made from the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Courses in college are much more detailed and extensive and no matter how hard or challenging your AP course may have been all of its material may fill up week one of its college equivalent, so always keep on top of your studying no matter how “well” you think you know the material.
Sometimes the mistake of freshman year can haunt you for the next three years to come. Marisa Rodriguez (of 2010) said that one of her biggest mistakes was not taking enough advantage of everything the school had to offer. “I really wish I had done more to take advantage or at least find out about the programs/opportunities like writing for the law journal or joining the women’s rugby team, so that I could have had more time to explore my options early…..… freshman year is meant to be full of experience and I just felt that not branching out made me miss out on that aspect.” Although the freedom aspect may sound great, and to a large extent it is, not having anyone there to structure your academic schedule like in high school is really something that can function as a double edged sword. On the one hand you finally have no restraints and can do whatever you want, however the choices can easily become overwhelming. Faced with this problem most students find comfort in what they know, and take courses or choose activities that seem familiar to them.
While Marisa fell into familiar patterns, Julia Tse (class of 2009) was confronted with an equally troublesome problem —she completely disregarded the familiar. Julia believed that trying something different her freshman year was a mistake because it took her away from the things she really liked. “If you’ve already found something that you’re passionate about don’t feel the need to have to do something different, just because that’s allegedly what people do in college, that was my big mistake and I’ve always regretted it cause I never got to really go back to doing the things that I loved”, said Julia.
Knowing what you want or what you like is never a bad thing as long as you keep in mind your interests might be subject to change. As can be seen from Julia and Marisa’s answers the decisions you make freshman are purely subjective and what could be right for someone else may not necessarily work out for you. The bottom line is that no one can be prevented from making mistakes because something just doesn’t work out the way they are planned. All you have to do is carry on and learn from your mistakes and the advice passed down to you from people who have been there. Freshman year is an experience and whether it is wonderful, terrible or mediocre, just remember that you weren’t the only one and there are three more years of opportunities ahead.