It’s officially August, which means in a couple weeks I’ll be headed back to USC for my sophomore year and just over 3,000 students will be starting their first year as Trojans! Exactly a year ago, I was a graduated high school senior getting ready for my freshman year at USC by obsessively reading every freshmen advice column and watching every college vlog I could find. Here’s eight things I don’t remember seeing on those lists that I wish I could go back and tell myself:
1. Don’t be off put by going to the same school as your sibling or people from your high school.
My twin sister also goes to USC, but when we first decided to go to the same school I was less than thrilled. I had been so excited for so long to finally “be my own person” (whatever that means) in college and experience something completely new, and for some crazy reason I was convinced that having my twin with me would prevent me from doing that. I quickly found out, however, that with our busy college schedules and the size of USC, we actually had to make time to hang out if we ever wanted to see each other. Now, I love knowing that my sister is there if I need her and I am so thankful for the way things worked out. Although going to college with your twin is probably a pretty unique situation, I know a lot of people felt similarly apprehensive about going to school with an older sibling or with a lot of peers from high school. College is an endless stream of new and exciting experiences, and having a couple familiar faces around will not change that. In fact, you might even enjoy spotting some high school peers on campus every once in awhile.
2. College is really just more school.
I heard over and over again, as I’m sure you have too, that college is a whole different ball game: more rigorous classes, more demanding professors, and far more independence. Yes, absolutely, college is different from high school and it’s definitely harder, but it’s not this mysterious, daunting new place that you’re completely unprepared for. The past 12 years of schooling have prepped you for it, and I am fully confident that if you were admitted to USC, you’re ready for the challenge. (P.S. In college the tests are all called “midterms” but don’t let this freak you out, they’re just tests!)
3. Join everything that interests you (at first).
In order to find what you want to invest your time in, sign yourself up for everything that sounds interesting during your first semester and narrow that down to the handful of activities you end up really enjoying. The more things you try out, the higher chance you have of finding the clubs and organizations that you really love. Also, try not to just create a high school 2.0. Just because certain activities were your “thing” in high school doesn’t mean those are the only things you should continue to do in college. You might end up regretting not involving yourself in different organizations. Keep an open mind and don’t cut yourself off from opportunities just because they aren’t what you’re used to.
4. Be busy with the things you like.
In the coming years you will be very busy, but if you’re busy doing things you enjoy, spending time with people you love, and being in classes you find interesting, that isn’t at all a bad thing! Make sure you’re in clubs and organizations you like and if you realize you don’t like something, don’t feel obligated to continue. Drop it and find something better! Also, remember you don’t need to live and breathe engineering 24/7. Having hobbies and interests outside of just engineering allows you to lead a more balanced life and do things you really love just for the fun of it! There are so many incredible organizations out there and no one is forcing you to do anything.
5. Go to SI sessions!!! *infinite exclamation points*
Somehow I didn’t fully grasp how wonderful this resource was until the end of my second semester. SI stands for Supplemental Instruction and this program organizes weekly peer led review sessions for most math and introductory science courses. Each session, the peer instructor works with the professor to prepare a concise and informative worksheet for that week’s material. Having these worksheets makes studying for tests and working through homework so much easier. Going to the sessions also gives you a better idea of what specific information your professor wants you to retain for that week and forces you to dedicate a little more time to the course. Obviously, you don’t have to go to every single session, but if you start to feel behind in any of your classes immediately take advantage of this!
6. Buy textbooks from the USC bookstore only as a last resort.
Buying all of your books from the bookstore can be expensive! Instead, try to find your books on Amazon or the USC Free & For Sale Facebook group first. This is an extremely easy way to save quite a bit of money. Also, if you don’t plan on highlighting passages or take notes in the margins, just rent your textbooks or get the online version instead of buying them. It’s usually much cheaper and you probably don’t need to own 4 years worth of textbooks.
7. Make time to exercise.
Coming from playing year round sports in high school, I just assumed I would continue to stay active in college. I came in with the naive expectation that I would go to the gym (it’s just a couple minutes away from my dorm!) in all my free time. However, this past year I was swamped (in a good way) with classes, extracurriculars, and spending time with new friends. In other words, at any given moment there’s always something to do, so in college you don’t find time, you have to make time. If there’s something important that you want to be doing, like exercising, you have to block it into your schedule, hold yourself accountable, and make it happen.
8. Make time for your friends because they’ll make time for you.
This is just life advice that’s always important, but I think it’s especially important for people to keep in mind during the beginning of college. Have I mentioned yet that you’ll be busy in college? Even in times where you’re feeling a little stressed out, remember to dedicate time to being a good friend. Grades and classes aren’t the only things that matter; a huge part of college is also making friendships and forming relationships that last a lifetime.
Truthfully, everyone has completely unique college experiences, so hearing my advice can only be so helpful. You’ll make your own mistakes and learn lessons for yourself, but that’s part of what makes college so exciting! Good luck, can’t wait to see you guys on campus, and Fight On!
P.S. Check out the USC welcome week schedule (i.e. involvement fairs, info sessions, free food) here!Meet Siena