My Advice to Freshmen: Take A Chance!

Patrick-2016 Viterbi Life Leave a Comment

Howdy everybody! As finals are rapidly approaching and the year is winding down to a close, I thought it would be a good time to recap some college survival skills I’ve learned thus far.

Now, I’m a computer scientist, so I’ll put this in the best way I know how: code.

1) Get Ahead

bool Student::handleEvent( event *e ) {
     if( freeTime == true ) {
          return true;
     }
     else {
          return false;
     }
}

In other words, if you don’t have free time, you can’t go to every fun event that pops up! I know that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with class projects and extracurriculars and then miss out on the cool activities going on around campus, whether those be a career fair, a festival, a free pre-screening of Game of Thrones (which was incredible, by the way), or even just heading out to Santa Monica with your friends.

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How can you avoid this feeling of being overwhelmed, though? In my experience, the answer is simply to get ahead.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of ignoring assignments until two days before they’re due, at which point they become much more difficult when you have such a short time frame. Instead, I urge you to start your assignments the day they’re assigned, and finish them a couple days before they’re due. By staying ahead in this way, you will always have time to consult the professor if you run into trouble and you have leeway to attend events without abandoning your work.

In the words of my AP Literature teacher: “It’s called a 9 to 5 for a reason.” He told us how it can be very helpful to structure school just like a 9-5 job. Rather than taking lots of breaks while you work and spacing out your homework into 3 blocks during the day, set aside time from 9-5 for work and simply work during that time. I started doing this, and preventing myself from taking a half hour break here and there helps me to stay focused on my projects and often finish earlier than I expected! Setting aside this time helps prevent stress and procrastination.

2) Take a Risk!

if (riskTaken == false)
{
     return false;
}
else
{
     return success;
}

To translate: if you don’t take a risk, you’ll never know what you’re capable of.

Personally, I always liked challenging myself, but even then I would stay in my comfort zone: leading group projects, taking AP and honors tracks, and things of that nature. When it came down to it, I picked challenging tasks that I already knew I could do well. This semester, however, I am working on a project for my Mobile Games Programming class. Our game needs to be fully functioning and at a polished state for submission, but can rely on repetitive and relatively simple gameplay. Instead of going with a simple one-player game like 2048, my group and I decided we wanted to go above and beyond what was required to build a fully functional multi-player networked game. None of us had ever worked with a server based game before and it is a topic not even covered in this class, so we were entirely out of our comfort zone. Boy has it been an experience though!

A glimpse into the server itself

A glimpse into the server itself

I took on the server communication aspect of our project, designing the data layout in the server and implementing all communication to and from the server to convert data from the server representation to the client representation. Through this process, I have learned an incredible amount about implementing a rudimentary server-client structure and handling the challenges inherent in networked systems, such as inconsistent internet service and thread/order dependencies. It has also encouraged me to add a Networked Games class to my degree plan as well as a database management course, so it has helped me discover an area that I want to learn more about. I highly encourage branching out and trying something new and challenging; it’s a great way to learn and build new skills.

 

In summary, manage your time wisely to work on assignments when they’re assigned and take a risk with trying something new. These two themes work together wonderfully, as managing my time allows me to explore these new topics and take these challenges. To all incoming freshmen, college is one of the best times of your life, especially because you will have so many opportunities available to you. Find what interests you and jump at it!

~Patrick

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