By Roz Koff Unigo Campus Rep at UW-Madison Oct. 21, 2008 No matter how many times one has visited the campus, sat-in a large lecture, or made “friends” through online networking, starting college is one of the most stressful and anxious events in the life of a teenager. All college students seem to love their schools, but their ultimate happiness is found by taking a lot of chances; some chances proving themselves to be as mistakes, and others as successes. These successes are just a small part of what makes college the incredible experience that it is. At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, there are many open doors in which both missteps and triumphs are found. Many ¬mistakes made freshman year revolve around classes and study habits. Senior Alexa Rosenbloom recalls her assumption that all college kids, “sleep late and waste the day away,” so when scheduling her classes, she signed up for courses simply based on their late meeting times. “I ended up with awkward 6 PM classes,” ¬ Alexa recalls, “and I now realize how many beneficial classes I neglected simply of their starting time.” Sophomore Andrew Traverse, overwhelmed with the freedoms of living away from home, feels that his biggest mistake was, “ultimately wasting a semester of college.” Andrew – excited about the ¬ new people to meet, the places to go, and the large lectures where attendance is not mandatory – lost sight of his academic goal of applying to the Business school. “While the large lectures freshman year often feel irrelevant to your future, they actually are relevant. Everything counts.” Similarly, Junior Amanda Werner’s biggest mistake was, “not realizing the importance of actually sitting down and doing homework.” The excitement of freshman year allows, “school work to be pushed to the side too easily.” These three students did, however,¬ eventually found their path by getting involved. Amongst the tens of thousands of students on campus, joining a group allows students to find a home. The best decision that Alexa made freshman year was staying open to all new experiences. “Even though that sounds really cliché, I started with a lot of preconceived notions about college and once I let those go is when I started truly enjoying myself,” Alexa reflects. Amanda found her place on campus ¬ by joining her sorority. Because UW-Madison is such a big school, “it was really important for me to make it feel smaller; to find a community for myself,” Amanda remembers. ¬ Andrew joined the Associated Students of Madison (ASM)¬ where he not only established new relationships with peers, but he also was able to interact with established alumni including the former director for United Council, the student lobbying firm, and a political analyst for Wisconsin television¬. In retrospect, joining ASM was the best decision Andrew made freshman year. Being open-minded and ‘rolling with the punches’ is key. Personally, my biggest worry was that I was going to be the only freshman that was overwhelmed with the vast college grounds. In reality, I soon realized, everyone around me was adjusting, discovering themselves, and trying to find their own place on campus too. My biggest mistake as a freshman was allowing myself to become too easily frustrated by my surroundings rather than trying to improve a situation. I had a miserable roommate, and was upset that my resume had ultimately been erased – it was college and my high school leadership positions lost their meaning; I had to start over! I have learned that you have to fight for what you want, and sitting around complaining about problems you have does not solve anything. My best decision was trying new classes in subjects that I had never studied before. While some were truly miserable experiences, others have become true passions of mine. For example, I got “stuck” in a women’s studies course first semester freshman year, but I fell in love with the course, and am now planning to double-major in women’s studies and journalism. Freshman year is a year full of changes – in friends, in work habits, in interests, in lifestyle – and everyone is going through it together. So get up, get involved, and have fun!