My Advice for Incoming Freshman

The world is yours: you’re in college now. As you walk the paths of university campus between dauntingly beautiful academic buildings to the newfound comfort of your residence hall, keep in mind why you’re here: to learn.

The world is scary. You’re going to meet people with ideas and thoughts that you don’t like. It’s going to make you feel insecure, small, and maybe a bit weak. No more “emotional reasoning.” If you’re having bad feelings about anything, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to blame some other entity. You can either live your life having crises one after another every time you meet someone with different beliefs than yours, and, just as often, re-thinking your life whenever you receive a poor grade on an exam. It might mean that there are ideas out there that you don’t like. Stand up to the struggle.

Don’t expect others to serve you anymore. Develop an emotional and personal independence that is going to guide your decisions. Your academic advisers aren’t going to tell you what you should do in order to live a happy, successful life. Neither will professors, friends, or anyone who you might want to hold your hand. Choose your friends wisely. But be sure to make some meaningful connections with others. Otherwise, you’d be doing a disservice to the rest of us!

Be an active learner. It’s time to stop learning only material that’s going to be on a test. Question the dogma that you hear from advisers, upperclassmen, and professors. Avoid groupthink, neuroticism, and solidarity of opinion. Say “no” to head-nodding and “yes” to head-scratching. Don’t be afraid to offer criticism and dissenting viewpoints (as long as you do so in a justified, polite manner.) Make a statement. Express yourself. People will try to bring you down and tell you to shut up. People will take advantage of you. They’re not important. If you haven’t been asking yourself, “Seriously, what’s the purpose of college?” then you’re not in the right place.

Never stop learning. Everyone likes to boast that they didn’t learn anything useful or helpful while they were in school. But this might be less of a statement about colleges and more about ourselves. Don’t fall victim to the lazy mind. Read interesting, difficult books and highly-accredited journals. Spend some time writing introspectively and thoughtfully. Take courses in areas you don’t know anything about. Cultivate an earnest curiosity. You’re not here to prepare you for a future career, nor are you here to memorize lines out of textbooks. You’re here to learn. And you should keep on learning throughout your life.

Finally, just do it.

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