Freshman year is a weird time. For some it is a time for self-discovery, for others it can be a time for reinvention, and for many it’s a chance at a clean slate in new place.  However for almost everyone it is a time of seemingly endless uncertainty.

For me, freshman year was a pretty tumultuous time. I worked two jobs to put myself through school, was living on my own for the first time, had absolutely no idea what I wanted to study (since the film school wouldn’t have me!), and all this while going to a school in my home town. I made mistakes, lots of them, as pretty much any nineteen-year-old will but I also learned a lot. I learned a lot about myself, probably more in that year than my first 18 combined, and I also learned a lot about other people and the way of the world. There is a lot that I wish I had known before entering college, and there’s a lot that I wish someone had filled me in on once I got here. So during this time when we advisors are starting to conduct our Nole Calls and meeting our new rosters, I’d like to share some of the things that I wish someone had told me freshman year – and who knows, maybe you’ll find yourself sharing one of these with your students.

  1. You don’t need to plan out the rest of your life right now, start with the next few days. Seriously nobody knows what they want to do with the rest of their life freshman year, and the thought of that is TERRIFYING!  When you were a freshman did you see yourself working as an advisor? How many people do you know that are working in the field they studied? The answer is probably less than you would have ever assumed when you were a first year. Share this with your students. Life is full of twists and turns that you never see coming, so reassure them that it is ok to not have a concrete plan yet. Instead show them the importance of just planning out the next few days: showing up to classes, getting to any appointments or meetings on time, taking care of the things they need to take care of (i.e. not procrastinating), and just making the most of their time. Freshman are more or less dropped into a brand new world that offers more than they could ever imagine, so they probably can’t plan more than three days in advance with all the things that are constantly going on around them. Make sure that they are managing their time correctly, but also make sure that they are not stressing themselves out over the uncertainty of the future.
  2. Your first few classes will probably be a breeze, but don’t think the rest of college will be that way. The fact of the matter is, if they made it to college, your students are probably pretty good at passing classes. Their first few classes probably won’t challenge them too much by way of difficulty, but make sure they don’t fall into the age old trap of starting out great, but then underestimating the rest of their courses, and possibly losing Bright Futures. (I know from personal experience.) Instead encourage them to push themselves for excellence. Give them a goal of graduating with honors or a degree of distinction.

  3. Call your parents, they want to hear from you, and trust me you want to hear from them. The classic “call your mother” line. Yes, it seems cliché, and yes this doesn’t apply to everyone, but more often than not it’s something that needs to be said. I didn’t grow up in a family that talks about serious issues, or is overly affectionate, but at the end of my first week of living alone I remember talking to my mother on the phone for two hours. Easily one of the longest continuous talks we have ever had, and it mostly had to do with her making sure that I was eating ok. I never knew how great it would be to hear her voice, and oh yeah did I mention that I’m from Tallahassee? She was a fifteen-minute drive away and yet it felt like halfway around the world. Most of your students don’t have the luxury of being able to go home for dinner if they want, so have them stop playing Pokemon Go for ten minutes and give their parents a call.
  4. High school is over, you don’t need to pretend to be someone else anymore. This one may seem obvious to you now, but think back to the person you were trying to be when you were nineteen. Many freshmen will still be in the mindset that they have to try and be someone they aren’t for the benefit of others. Encourage them down a different path, one of self-honesty. Have them try something new, discover their passions, talk with people different than themselves, because who knows they might learn something about themselves (shocker right?). Again, from where you’re sitting I hope you have figured this out by now, but no-one likes to be around someone who is lying to themselves, and sure most of them will figure this lesson out in time, but help them figure it out sooner rather than later.
  5. Start holding yourself responsible for your actions, because everyone else will. Are they kids or are they adults? Well in a lot of ways they’re both, I mean they aren’t old enough to rent a car, but they can choose the leader of the free world. They are going to make a lot of mistakes, and that is ok because mistakes cause us to learn. But making mistakes alone is not enough for sufficient growth, they need to also own up to them. Right now they are coming from a place where their actions, good or bad, are mostly held in check by the safety net of adolescence, but as we all know that safety net isn’t sturdy enough for adults. Let them know that they will stumble, and let them know that sometimes they will fall, but the lesson starts when they stand back up.

Content for this post was written by James Marujo, advisor for the English department.