Skip to main content

If Only I’d Known

Posted by on Thursday, May 8, 2014 in Academics, College Life, Extracurriculars, Freshman Life, General Information, Student Life.

So now that I’ve been home for a few days and have had sometime to reflect on my incredible first year at Vanderbilt, I have figured out 6 major lessons I wish someone had told me this time last year. And then again in August. And probably reminded me throughout the year too.

Every first-year class takes this photo during orientation. I still have close friends that I met at that photo.
  1. You will make friends. Pretty easily. I came to Vanderbilt knowing essentially no one here. I had this admittedly insane notion that everyone else was coming in with their high school best friends and somehow I would inevitably be the only one with no high school friends there. Wrong. From my experience, everyone shows up in August ready and excited to meet new people and make new friends. Seriously.
  2. Academics matter and do require a lot of time and effort, but you should not be hesitant to branch out and get involved in other things. Join some clubs, take some breaks. I was pretty sure that my classes and the work they’d require would engulf my entire life and leave me with almost no free time. That is not the case. There is definitely plenty of free time for other things, especially if you can prioritize and schedule your days well. Don’t try to commit to 10 clubs and activities or whatever, but find a few you care about and stick with them. You’ll meet so many great people in the process and hopefully find some lasting activities to love.
  3. You are not inferior to everyone around you. It’s so easy to be intimidated by the incredible students that surround you. Yea, they’re super cool and accomplished, and they got into Vanderbilt. But so did you. Just because you aren’t the captain of two sports and head of three clubs at the end of the first semester like you might have been in high school does not mean you aren’t still talented, bright and capable. There’s that whole cliché about being a big fish in a small pond and then being a small fish in a big pond, but, in reality, you’re still the same sized, accomplished, awesome fish regardless of the pond. Ok, maybe I stretched that metaphor a little far, but seriously the point is: keep your perspective and don’t be too hard on yourself.

    Cornelius Vanderbilt believes in you. You can do it.

  • It is possible to succeed. If you’re anything like I was, you are probably this high-achieving, incessantly busy high-school student who holds yourself to remarkably high standards. So in the interests of your future sanity, there may be adults and friends preemptively warning you about the inevitability of some failure and disappointment awaiting you at Vanderbilt. They do it because they love you, but don’t take it to heart too much. Sure, Vanderbilt is hard and the transition is significant, but I promise it is possible to do well. You are not doomed to struggle through Vanderbilt just trying to pass. You might have to lower your expectations at first, but it is possible to succeed if you pick classes you are committed to and continue to dedicate yourself to doing the work. Trust me, you can do it.
  • Go to class. You might think, “it’s college, so I don’t actually have to go to my lecture classes.” No. Just, no. Luckily, I didn’t fall prey to this myth, but I know a lot of classmates who did at various points in freshman year. Vanderbilt hires first-rate professors for a reason: their lectures and office hours and teaching matters. If you could get the same quality education by just reading the book, you could save yourself a lot of money and our education system would look much different. It doesn’t. Regardless of the attendance policy or quality of your textbook, go to class.
    It's not hard to walk to class when this is your campus.
  • Time will fly by. Ok, another typical “time flies,” “savor every moment” nostalgia advice moment. But seriously. There will be a day, likely somewhere in October, when you start to think the year just might drag on forever. You might be just getting through your first set of midterms or waiting for the green leaves to change color (I’m a New England person. It seemed like Fall took forever to come.) You might even do the math and realize that you’re *only* 1/16 of the way through college. Don’t listen to yourself at these moments. Suddenly you’ll wake up, and it will be time for winter finals. Or spring break. Or the day you have to move out of your Commons house. Seriously. I am not the only person I know who felt this way. Once you get settled in and used to life at Vanderbilt, the year will be in fast-forward mode. Don’t waste too much time not taking advantage of Vanderbilt, Nashville and the incredible people around you. Make friends, go to things, take chances and don’t believe it when you try to tell yourself that the year will never end.
  • That’s my advice. Take it or leave it. If you are seeking any other gems of wisdom from yours truly, email me. {Yes, even if it isn’t eloquent life advice and instead just a restaurant or course suggestion.}

    Tags: , , , , , , , ,