7 Ways to Make Your Freshman Year Worth It

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                                                             By Timothy Wong

Image from http://www.fotopedia.com/

1. Don’t isolate yourself.

In every sense of the statement:

     Try out all the organizations and activities you think you might possibly have some interest in (try at least 4 or 5; go to their meetings and inquire about their activities) and then try out 1 or 2 that you don’t have interest in. Stay dedicated to your top few, because you may find something you like. You won’t know immediately or even in the first couple of weeks whether you want to join, but give it time to see if the connection is there. Freshman year is the time to do this because it only gets harder from here to find a solid place in a group and schoolwork.

     Make new friends - there is another person rooming with you, 200 people in your classes, several thousand freshmen just like you, and 50,000 people on this campus. If you must, talk to the guy who asks way too many questions in your chemistry class. You already know he likes to talk.

     Be open and responsive to people’s ideas/opinions/experiences and share your own- Don’t use one word answers, use facial expressions appropriately and frequently when speaking/listening, and do not degrade or criticize others in any way unless absolutely necessary (which is never; just ignore). Every other freshman is in the same boat as you; they’re all trying to find their place on this campus. Do not be afraid to talk to other people. I read somewhere once that 20 seconds of courage is all it takes to lead to something amazing. Just remember, 20 seconds of courage.

2. Work out/exercise.

     This is probably one of the most important things on this list. Gregory Gym. The Rec Center. Clark Field. IM Fields. 40 Acres. Hike and Bike Trail. Wherever you choose to complete your fitness, just do it (as Nike says). I know with new experiences and new responsibilities that come with entering college you can get very stressed out. There is no need to prolong this. Let your endorphins flow through you as you run around the track at Clark Field, lift weights at Gregory, or play racquetball at the Rec Center.

     The fitness habits you develop now will affect you in the present and in the future. You will become happier, more agile, more attractive, smarter, cooler, and healthier. Don’t have time to exercise? Find time. Even 20 minutes (the length of a quick jog) a day does the body and the mind wonders. You won’t regret it. If you can, get involved with IM sport because they build camaraderie amongst your team members and add the competitiveness that people often seek from physical activities. Anything that you do that gets your body moving physically in space at fast speeds or against great resistance is a good way to measure whether what you are doing is considered exercise. 

3. Explore Austin.

     As students at UT, we are fortunate to have a great environment for learning not only here on campus, but throughout this rich and eventful city. There is always live music playing somewhere, the people in this city are some of the nicest in America, and the natural attractions we have are never boring. It would be a bit redundant to list out all the different things I love about this city, but if you are not from around here and would like to get acquainted, I suggest the following website to you: http://365thingsaustin.com/.

I’ve lived here for 12 years and I’m still getting to know this city and what it has to offer. Get started now; this will be your home for the next four years.

4. Start looking into prospective careers.

     Yes, the dreaded part of college - the part where you have to graduate and then live in the real world and find a job. That is, after all, one of the main reasons people come to college, right? I hope so. Your education is only as useful as you make it. Start by visiting the Career Design Center in Painter 5.03. They can help you get focused on what you want to do after these four years, and in addition to this, they are all very nice people. You can talk with a peer counselor or a career coach who will discuss with you your plans and help you achieve your goals, and there are plenty of supplemental materials they provide (info. sheets and such) that can help guide you along. Last that I’ve heard, they were still giving away free T-shirts just for checking the place out. They’re worth that 5-floor climb.

5. Plan out your semesters.

     Once you’ve developed a solid idea of what you want to do with your time here at the University, plan it out. When are you going to complete that application? When do you want to study abroad? When is the best time to take neurobiology? Before, during, or after you’ve taken physics? Does it matter? When do you want to do research? What kind of research do you want to do? When and where can you volunteer?

     These are all questions that should be running through your head. Make a plan and have each semester planned out to your best ability of what you want to accomplish that semester (include things such as courses you will take that semester, internships/fellowships, volunteer work, studying abroad, etc.) Also, have a secondary and tertiary plan because not everything will always work out in your favor. You can go to the Career Design Center mentioned earlier to help you with this.

6. Talk with your 2 favorite professors at least once a week.

     I cannot stress this enough. I rarely spoke to my professors personally last year and that is something I want to improve upon. Professors are there not only as your teachers, but also as leaders in their field and on this campus. Professors love to talk about their field. They’ve dedicated much of their life to it, so when a student approaches them with a question, they’re immediately intrigued that you took interest and would love to answer your question, and subsequently find out what your name is.

     Additionally, if you don’t have any great questions about how their field affects the world, ask them about college matters, like when to take a certain course or how to improve your performance in class or where you can find more information on the subject you are discussing in class. Keep it relevant though, and do not ask questions that are inappropriately personal. All in all, keep calm, cool, and collected when you are talking to them, but also be enthusiastic.

7. Keep your grades up.

     You’re at an academic institution. As much as people hate the fact that everything bears a grade, even when the purpose is to understand and learn and create, you have to get good grades. A good GPA never looks bad, and if you are a pre-health student like many natural sciences students are, a good GPA is mandatory. What’s a “good GPA”, you say? Check what the average GPA is for the students who were accepted into the programs you are aiming for. You should aim for at least .2-.3 grade points above this value. Work hard, play hard, right? Don’t forget to do the first thing.

After pulling in rank as #6 on Playboy’s Top 10 Party Schools, it’s no secret that UT students know how to have a good time. Just remember, you are here to get an education first and foremost, and even though grades are just one measure of how well you are understanding what you’re taught, it is often one of the only measures outsiders, the people who see your application, can gauge your abilities against that of other applicants.

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