College kids


What Advice Would You Give Yourself as a College Freshman?

If you could go back in time and give just one piece of advice to yourself as a college freshman, what would it be?

That’s the question the staff here at America’s Promise answered. As millions of young people prepare to enter their freshman year of college this summer, we wanted to reflect on what we wish we had known. 

So here are a few pieces of meaningful advice we would give ourselves —and by extension, to all the nervous and excited soon-to-be college freshmen out there right now.  

1. Remember that you’re ready.

melinda“What still sticks with me all these decades later was how I felt my first day of college. Everyone looked like they knew what they were doing and where they were going. I felt like an awkward, uncool, clueless, not-smart-enough loner. I was afraid to ask, reach out, and look vulnerable.  

“It took me a while (years), but I now realize that no one else knew what they’re doing either!  Just know that whether or not you feel capable and ready, you are.  You are bringing your own set of gifts and challenges as is everyone else.  

“So, do yourself a favor and ask for help and direction. You’ll get some insights, and maybe some new friends. You may go faster alone, as the saying goes, but you’ll go farther together.”   -Melinda Hudson, Vice President and Senior Advisor to the Chair & CEO

fin'2. Explore your school library and find out how you can get access to course books for free!

“Prior to the end of sophomore year, I had no idea that university libraries kept a reserve section for course books. The reserves section was essentially where professors placed one copy of the books for their courses for students to use. Most professors placed books on reserve automatically. For those who did not, however, I found that it was typically an oversight and that many were willing to do so when I took time to ask them.
“My school library was particularly awesome because it let students check these books out in two-hour increments. Books could even be kept overnight if checked out right before the reserves section closed! For schools that do not allow students to take these books out of the library, I would recommend scanning and/or making copies of the pages needed. I found myself making countless copies between my junior and senior year of college—but I sure did save a ton of money!” -Omofehintola Akinrinade, Manager, Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships

3. Make a real friend in the financial aid and the registrar’s office. 

dh“Once you’re in college, you have to seek out adult relationships. They won’t just come to you like they may have in high school, and your parents won’t always be there to guide you, especially if you’re attending a college that’s not in or near your hometown. This is the time to start building your professional network.  

“As a fresh face on campus, some of the most important relationships you can make are with people in the financial aid and registrar’s office. These are the contacts that can help make your college experience bad, good or great. They’ll help you change classes, fill our your FAFSA, provide insight on scholarships, offer guidance on work-study and jobs, and more than anything, just be there to give advice.  Don’t overlook them.” -Daria Hall, Vice President of Communications and External Affairs

4. Work hard, but make time to experience life.lg

 “The first priority of college is to learn, whether that is in class, an internship, or work experiences that you can grow from. But don’t forget that college is also about learning who you are as a person and what role you want to play in the larger world. 

“Spend your free time making new friends, exploring the new city you’re calling home, and grabbing the opportunities your campus and your extracurriculars present to you.” -Liz Glaser, Manager, Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships

5. Don’t stress about the “plan.” 

 den“When you start college, there is significant pressure to make every decision based on which path you will take in life. Don’t succumb to that pressure. Your time on campus is a time to try different things on and see what fits. Take classes that interest you, push yourself to learn things outside of your comfort zone, experience everything that your university has to offer.  

“There is plenty of time to determine your path, and that path will change as you move throughout your life.  Don’t feel the need to have all the answers; the truth is, we never do. That’s what makes life fun. Enjoy the freedom of learning and soak up all that you can.” -Dennis Vega, Chief Operating Officer

6. Be open-minded about who your friends might be. 

mk“In college, you may meet peers of different races, ethnicities, religions, and immigration status than you. You will meet peers who came up in life richer than you and poorer than you. You will meet peers who are artists, entrepreneurs, writers, math brains, and committed scientists. There is something to be learned from them all and all of these kinds of people can become incredible friends. 

“They will influence you in ways you cannot predict, which is why open-mindedness is key. The social aspect of college is surprisingly important for growth and learning. Think of your friends group in college as part of an important network that will stretch into your 20s and beyond.” -Monika Kincheloe, Senior Director, Strategic Initiatives and Partnerships 

What advice would you give to yourself as a freshman in college? Let us know on Twitter with #GradNation!