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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Thursday, June 08, 2023

Words of wisdom from a senior to first-years

The general hysteria at the end of high school is profoundly unique. College decisions, prom season, and graduation all come in rapid succession, only to be followed by a summer filled with excitement and slight anxiety. As people take trips to Europe and work summer jobs, everyone’s mind is focused on what is to come in the fall. Some people are elated at their school decisions, while others are underwhelmed. High school relationships are either stretched through a long distance arrangement or are reluctantly ended in August. There are plenty of different ways people come into their freshman year, but one thing is universally true: no one has any legitimate understanding of what is to come.

Accepting this fact would have served me well my freshman year. Instead, I was paralyzed by indecision in the face of a seemingly endless sea of opportunity. After all, I already made the gigantic step of attending a school 2,000 miles away from home; how much more adventure did I truly need? The truth, it turned out, is that going to a big college two thirds of the way across the country is not that fulfilling on its own. You need to do more than simply go to class and hang out with the friends you made in the first couple of weeks to get the full University of Wisconsin experience. My reluctance to explore resulted in an underwhelming freshman year, which is not all that uncommon.

Although I salvaged this unsatisfying first year by getting involved in a variety of organizations over the next few years, college is only four years, and wasting time only leads to regret that is impossible to fully recover from. This is not meant to scare incoming freshmen, but rather meant as a lesson to learn from. I know it sounds repetitive and hackneyed when tour guides say they “wished they had gotten involved on campus earlier,” but it is so true.

At risk of sounding like a pompous upperclassman who dishes out unsolicited advice, here are three recommendations for your freshman year. Take it or leave it.

Firstly, research organizations over the summer. Whether it’s clubs or Greek life or something else entirely, it’s important to have a clear idea of what you want to explore before you get on campus. Otherwise the organization fair or rush will be incredibly overwhelming.

Secondly, don’t feel too attached to the first people you hang out with. I know you want your high school friends to think you’re having a blast, but you don’t have to latch on to the first person you have a conversation with. Everyone wants to make friends quickly, and going to parties with your floor is fun, but don’t be afraid to keep putting yourself out there.

Last, but not least, keep an open mind about people’s backgrounds. Yes, people from northern Wisconsin have a funny accent, New Yorkers can come off as abrasive, and kids from California may complain about the produce. Everyone is meeting and living with very different people from their hometown friends, and that’s okay. Embracing people’s differences and learning from them is all a valuable part of the experience.

Having your entire college career ahead of you is something that every student is envious of. It may be tempting at times to sit back and be content with just being here, but remember that you are attending a world class institution filled with amazing people, minds and resources. Take advantage of them early; your future self will thank you.

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