11 Things I Wish I Knew As A Freshman

Posted on by Brian Hertzog

First, congratulations. You've made a wise decision. Second, what qualifies me to write this post? I'm a 2012 graduate of Wittenberg University. I was an Alma Lux finalist, was recognized with both University and Departmental Honors as well as graduating Magna Cum Laude. I then moved to San Francisco, CA to pursue my dream job. I have my dream job and have since helped three other Wittenberg students find work in Silicon Valley. This list is written to myself (five years earlier), and now it's for you. It's not absolute--merely my two cents if I had the chance to do it all over again.

1 - ROI (return on investment)
You've just made an investment in a stock. Here's the ticker symbol to look up: YOUREDUCATION. Looking good lately. But here's a tip. Great investors think about and attempt to maximize their return on investment (ROI). Essentially, for every dollar put in, how much will they return?

College isn't as boring as investment banking but it's similar in that you get back only what you put in. Want fat returns? Allocate your time properly. Don't piss away this opportunity. In fact, hack it. Be the Warren Buffett of YOUREDUCATION. Get two, three, ten degrees for your time.  Not really, (you'll only get one paper degree) but metaphorically, get as much EDUCATION for your money as possible.

2 - It will be alright
My top fears included: Will I "fit in"? Will I like my major? Will I find a job? Will I miss home? I could keep going but that's not my point. When you're stressed to the point of meltdown ask yourself, what's the worst that can happen? Chances are, if you play the scenario out in your mind, it's really not that bad. Tell yourself "it will be alright" and believe it. 

You won't have all the answers. But you will have your friends, family, and faculty as support. By now, you're smart enough to handle situations as the come, so don't freak out before you get to the hurdle. Trust yourself. Breathe, look around, and say, it'll be alright. 

3- No one cares
This is huge. If you take only one thing away from this post, this is what I want you to remember. No one cares. 

You're free. You make the rules. You can do whatever you want to do (to an extent). Doesn't that smell of awesomeness? I was pinching myself in excitement. But here's the catch. Some people can't handle this freedom. They'll mess up.  And, they'll be more than happy to bring you along for the ride.

That blunt. That extra shot. The keg stand. The power hour. Sorry to write this but you'll feel social pressure to do this stuff.  You might feel like a coward if you don't do something, but the truth is--no one cares. 

I've been out of school two years now and I still haven't wasted a single second thinking about who did what at parties. Most people will be too drunk to even remember, so.. if you genuinely don't want to do something. Don't. No one cares, I promise you. It will be ok, you won't die of social ostracism. You'll just look back at the people who are either failing, addicts, or both and think, was it worth it?

Don't confuse bravery with stupidity.

4- Learn to learn
So much energy is poured into content digestion. More stuff. Guess what, there's this thing called Google, it looks things up. You don't need to memorize anything ever again. 

In class you might have to reproduce theorems, but the most important thing anyone can ever teach you is how to learn. Become a student in learning and the grades will take care of themselves. Just be curious.

5- Don't over commit
I was an athlete all four years. I was a member of Union Board, the orchestra, entrepreneur club, finance committee, and probably something else. You'll be tempted to sign up for stuff. Don't over commit. Time is so valuable. Don't reject everything, try something each semester if you want, but don't spread yourself too thin.

Just follow your interests. Clubs won't help you get jobs--for the most part. More on this later. There's no medals for collecting titles. Instead, focus on your happiness and how much you're learning.

6- Ask more questions
This is related to number four. I was that guy in class. I sat in front and was engaged in the lectures (for the most part). Yet even now, I wish I asked more questions. Think back to ROI.  Now's your shot. No professor will judge you for asking too many questions, at least in my experience. Extract as much value as you can get. Faculty are here for you. Fire away.

7- Join student body government
I wrote that clubs won't help you get a job but this might be the only exception, and it's not really a club. Student body government is an opportunity for you to learn how a university functions. You'll meet the board of directors and the dean of students. You'll manage budgets and make real decisions. 

If you have the time, give government a chance. I'm not a huge fan of politics, but this may help you with your career, and at the very least open your eyes to the world of university operations.

8- Leave drama behind
College is a blank slate. You can be anyone you want to be. Everyone is starting over. High school status doesn't transfer credits to campus. So, leave the baggage behind.

If you have friends from home giving you crap about not calling, are they really your friends?  Drama is for people who have nothing better to talk about.  Don't get sucked into the conversation. Leave it behind, where it belongs.

9- Be mindful of who you hangout with
I actually knew this when I started school, but I think it's important enough to write anyway, because I saw some great people make poor decisions, and you will too--it's heart breaking. 

They say we're the sum of the five people we spend the most time with. If that's true, are you hanging with the right crowd? If you're negative, causing pain, making stupid choices, I'm sorry.  I'm cutting you out. There are too many awesome people doing amazing things to waste time with people who hurt you.

Don't take this too literally, just be mindful.

10- Ask your professor for a 1 on 1's
I rarely did this and now I'm kicking myself. Professors are people just like you. They like funny movies, partying (maybe not the same way you do), and coffee. Boy do they love coffee. 

Here's my tip. Ask your professor for a 1 on 1, maybe you can buy them coffee. Not only will they put a face to your name, but you'll have the opportunity to ask questions. How will I succeed in your course? Why did you start teaching? What interests you about this particular subject. 

This stuff is gold. You won't get this from any book, and you might make a few friends in the process. 

11- Take writing classes
I only took one writing class at Wittenberg. Now I write all the time. It's a skill that pays dividends your whole life. You might hate English, but you use it every day. Give it another thought.

There you have it. My advice. I wont ask you to follow blindly (remember to ask questions), just take it into consideration. If you're faculty or an alumn, what's something you wish you knew when you were a freshman?

To the class of 2017, the best is yet to come.