As I’m starting my junior year after a long spring and summer stuck back home in quarantine, I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on my past two years at USC. I’ve been having an incredible time so far, and I’m so grateful for the experiences I’ve had and all the amazing people I’ve met. I’ve grown so much during my time here, and I am most definitely not the same person I was when I started my freshman year in August of 2018. Here are a few things I wish I could tell my freshman year self.
- Be more involved. Attending the club fair my first semester was very overwhelming. USC has so many interesting student organizations (around 1000!), and I wanted to join so many of them. I tried putting my email down with all the organizations I thought were interesting, and in the next few days my email was flooded with club meetings for all these organizations. I found myself overwhelmed and stressed out about attending all these meetings, and I ended up attending a lot less than I wanted to, and losing the dates of various club events and activities within my email. I wish I would have been more organized with when meetings and events were, so I could’ve met more people in these organizations early on and be more involved with them. Especially with everything being online, attending these club meetings and events will help you feel more connected, regardless of where you are taking classes from.
- Reach out to your professors. As a freshman I was so scared of going to office hours. For some odd reason I always had a fear that they wouldn’t be in their office, (spoiler alert: they are always there, unless they tell you they won’t be beforehand), and I thought they’d think I was dumb for asking questions, which is entirely not the case. And now with classes online, it’s as simple as joining a zoom meeting from the comfort of your own room! Your professors want to help you, and they hold office hours for this reason. Asking questions shows that you’re putting in work for the class and staying actively engaged. It can also help your professor remember who you are and form a more personal connection with them, especially in larger classes where it’s harder to interact with them. This can be especially helpful later on when you need to ask for recommendation letters. Also, if your professor runs a research lab you’re interested in joining, having that connection may help you get a position in the lab.
- One grade does not define you. College classes are much more difficult than high school classes. Because of this, you may find yourself getting lower grades on exams and quizzes than you’re used to. And this is okay, because you’re definitely not the only one. When I failed an exam for the first time ever my freshman year, I had a full on crisis moment, and began questioning everything and even considered changing my major because of one exam grade. Looking back, this was a severe overreaction. You should not try and change your entire life plan because of one bad exam grade. While it can be a bummer, it just means that there is room for improvement. Your professors do not want you to fail, and they will work with you to improve your understanding of the material if you’re struggling. After I eventually got over my crisis over this one poor grade, I worked hard and ended up getting a B+ in the class, which I am still very proud of. One exam grade does not define your entire class experience, and as long as you put in the work, you can improve your grade in any class.
- Say yes more often. This seems very vague, but when I reflect back on this year (and life in general), I find myself regretting more not doing certain things, versus regretting doing something. It never hurts to try something out! Whether it be going to a club meeting for something outside of your traditional interests, or going to hang out with friends you don’t know too well, you never know what’ll happen until you actually go and do it. You may find that this club is actually something you’re super interesting and had never really thought of, and you might become super good friends with these people you normally don’t hang out with. You never know until you try!
While I obviously cannot go back in time and tell myself this advice, I hope it can help others as they start their college experiences.