Freshman Year Biggest Mistakes and Best Decisions at UCSC
BY Tierney Werner
Unigo Campus Rep at UCSC
In high school, the idea of college conjured up numerous exciting, if not explicit, thoughts. College classes. College dorm rooms. College parties. College boys, etc. I was excited for the opportunity to evolve into the fabulous college self I knew I was destined to become. At the time, I assumed that the tried and true knowledge about college (i.e. that class attendance isn’t required, and that the freshman fifteen isn’t a myth) was all I needed to know to succeed as the rookie undergrad. Although my class attendance was scattered, and my freshman fifteen came and went, I could not have even imagined the invaluable information I was about to gain about both others and myself. I am about to enter my third year at UC Santa Cruz, and although I like to think that I am still morphing into the high school image of my college self, I can attribute a lot of my growing up to the choices, both good and bad, I made freshman year.
I will admit that I made many mistakes my freshman year. For instance, I barely attended classes and I infrequently washed my sheets. I rarely, if ever, communicated with my roommate. I frequently ate late night, what was often a second dinner, at the dining hall. I ordered books online two weeks after class had started; I didn’t receive said books until the day before midterms. Finally, and probably the hardest mistake to remediate, was the complete clearing out of my bank account. By the middle of winter quarter, I was dead broke. Although I consider these at the top of my list of never-to-repeat mistakes, I would say that my biggest mistake was not taking proper care of myself both mentally and physically. The belly I got from drinking, the sallow skin and bags under my eyes that came from lack of a good night ’s sleep combined with an Eau de last night’s party, (often comprised of cheap cologne and cigarettes) was not a good look for me. I still cringe thinking about it. While I made some very dear friends, and had some once-in-a-lifetime experiences, I am glad that I have returned to my familiar ways of working out, eating healthy, and getting a good night’s rest.
That is not to say that I didn’t make many good decisions as a freshman as well. In between not going to class and spending my hard earned money on only god knows what, I truly forced myself to get out and socialize with everyone I possibly could. I opened up to people in ways I never thought would be possible, and I like to think that that openness was reciprocated. I explored the campus, became a vegetarian, and got involved with the Student Union Assembly, our student government. I asked a lot of questions, and came to many realizations about how to cope under great amounts of stress. I learned how I deal with different types of people and personalities and became a better communicator.
Perhaps the best decision I made freshman year and the soundest advice I could give to incoming freshman is to remain close with friends and family from home. College will undoubtedly rock your world, but every once it awhile, it will rock it a little too hard. Having a strong support system comprised of people who not only unconditionally love you, but understand you on a level that can only come from years of experience, can be paramount to staying confident and focused. Lastly, and most importantly, have fun! College is a time to throw out your inhibitions, and truly find out what you enjoy doing. Take a class that interests you, regardless of your major. Talk to a stranger that you would have never approached in high school, and try to take as many opportunities as you can, because you never know, it might be the best decision you have ever made!
Many of my fellow peers had just a much advice to give in the way of best and worst decisions made as a freshman. Chelsea Snell is a programs coordinator at College Eight, and has been extremely involved in campus activities. Chelsea believed from the time she was in high school, up until her fall quarter of freshman year that she was destined to major in psychology. After taking the intro class in the fall, and hating it, she realized that she had better be a little bit more flexible and open when it came to deciding on a major. Chelsea took numerous classes that Santa Cruz had to offer, anything that peaked her interest. The variety helped her decide what she was truly passionate about. She has now found her niche in the environmental studies department and is happily ready to dedicate her future to saving our environment.
Although it took Chelsea considers exploring her options her best decisions as a freshman, she admits that her biggest mistake was not spending that much time taking classes seriously. Although she had always been academically motivated, she saw the biggest drop in her grades since middle school. She admits that her focus was shifted to adjusting to dorm life and making new friends, but regretted not being more diligent in her academic life.
Unlike Chelsea, whose biggest mistake was in academics, Molly McCormley, a junior at UCSC, says her biggest mistake made was in her love life. Freshman year it seems as if every new person you meet is a potential romantic interest. Everyone has that excited college glow about them, hormones are rampant, and drinking is heavy. It seems only fitting that realistic romantic interests might be muddled under the freshman haze of excitement and booze. Molly chose to date someone who not only had completely different views and opinions than she did, but had a very different lifestyle as well. Molly and her beau eventually called it quits but Molly confessed regretting the amount of energy she placed into her relationship, when it could have been productively use in other places. While many college relationships are wonderful and healthy, Molly is not alone in wanting to place her energy into self-discovery and learning, especially during her freshman year.
Although her romantic life freshman year was not all that satisfying, Molly found her one saving grace to be her mother, whom she remained close with even after moving away to college. Molly, originally from San Diego, had an extremely hard time adjusting to Santa Cruz lifestyle and experienced acute homesickness. She began experiencing severe panic attacks. Molly’s mom was there for her through everything, and flew up many times to see her in San Diego. Molly said communicating and staying close with her mother was the best decision she had ever made. She attributes having her mother fly up, combined with a healthy lifestyle, to what finally allowed her overcome her anxiety.
While Molly became very anxious when it came to school, Sepand Mashiof, another junior at UCSC, had no reservations when it came to college life. Sep’s most valued decision freshman year was to disregard of any self- consciousness in order to meet, and get to know as many people as possible. While Sep has never been a shy person, he knew he would have to step outside his comfort zone upon entering college, and he did just that. I can positively say that Sep was probably the most well known, and well loved person on our college campus.
Sep spent countless hours meeting and mingling with people, trying to get to know each and every person at college eight on a personal level. Although he poured a lot of time into meeting people, not as much time was spent on cleaning his room. Sep told me that he had very few regrets about freshman year, but the worst decision he ever made was leaving fruit that his parents had given him in his room for an extended period of time. Needless to say the rotting fruit smelled and attracted fruit flies, making his room less than desirable to hang out in.
My final advice is this: college is going to be what you make it. It is a very interesting time, and take it from me, you will make many, many mistakes. Mistakes you probably won’t even realize until much later. Be flexible, have fun, and try not to take yourself too seriously. You can always go to school, but the relationships and experiences you have your freshman year will never be replaced!