A College Graduate's Advice for Incoming Freshmen

By Tamiera Vandegrift on January 10, 2018

I’m another step closer to the end of my college career. It is with bittersweet joy that I begin to write this article. It is the first week of my final semester at Florida State University and I could not be more excited, more proud, or more misty-eyed.

I knew Florida State was my home from the time I was a kid. I was in love with the garnet and gold long before I watched my first football game. As my career here at Florida State comes to a close, it seems only right to reflect on my four years here and share what I have learned with all of you.

My first Florida State football game

To the incoming freshmen, of any and all universities, who have stumbled across my article, you’re about to have some of the greatest years of your life. Use them wisely.

With that being said, here are some things I learned or wish I had learned sooner while I was a student at Florida State. While this list will be numbered, the numbers are not indicative of importance or ranking. Each tidbit is just as important and worth considering as the last one. So, here we go.

1. If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough

This might sound extremely corny, but it’s true. It’s too easy to take the simple road in life and do the bare minimum that’s required of you to arrive at a safe destination. Safe doesn’t equal success and it certainly doesn’t equal confidence. As the old saying goes, a smooth sea has never made an accomplished sailor. If you’re going to pay for four years of higher education, you might as well get the most out of it as humanly possible. Apply for an internship or leadership position that intimidates you. Sign up for a belly dancing class or an outdoor excursion to the Appalachian Mountains. Do anything and everything you can to grow into someone you’re proud of. Never, ever tell yourself that you aren’t smart enough, strong enough, pretty enough, or capable enough to do something. Now is the time to forge yourself into the person you’ve always wanted to be.

2. Always stand your ground

The transition from high school into college life is a tough one. Before we attended our first college orientation session, we were required to ask permission to use the bathroom. It’s difficult to find your voice when you first start at a new place, especially a place as broad and overwhelming as a university. You will find that many people will have different views than you do and that some of these views might upset you. I’m here to tell you that it is definitely okay not to agree with everyone and it is absolutely okay to defend yourself when necessary.

Story time. I am half African-American (among a million other things) and I grew up in the south. As you can probably imagine, I’ve encountered a lot of less than positive comments about my race. Before going to college, I just learned to accept that as normal. However, once I came here, I regained that power. I learned that it was okay for me to tell people that I was uncomfortable with race-related jokes or that I was offended by racial slurs and insults.

Something that always resonated with me was when I was touring another university with my parents and a female student nonchalantly walked through the tour group, forcing me to step into the street to get out of her way. My mom, having noticed my response, told me: “You belong here, too.” And she was right. You belong here, too. Your feelings, opinions, and experiences are right where they need and deserve to be. So, thank you for sharing yourself with us.

3. Trust your gut

I know this is going to sound like another after-school special, but please hear me out. Once you’re away from home, you’ll be around a completely different, liberated environment. Some students use this freedom and lack of supervision to get into trouble and sometimes this trouble will find you, too. College is definitely a time for exploration and new experiences, but these experiences should NEVER come as a hindrance to your physical health, mental health, or academics.

Do not feel pressured to give in to a romantic partner who wants to take your relationship to the next level. Do not feel pressured to go to a party or an event that makes you uncomfortable. Do not feel pressured to be silent about something that you know is wrong. Chances are if whatever it is that you’re doing makes your palms sweat and your stomach twist into knots, it’s probably not something you should be doing. We would all like to think that people have your best intentions at heart, but unfortunately, this is not always the case. Trust your gut. It will always have your back.

chalkboard, writing, text

Image via: www.pexels.com

4. Do all that you can

Trust me when I say that once senior year rolls around, you might be hit with a major case of FOMO if you’re not careful. To avoid this, use all of the time you have to do everything you possibly can. These four years will go by faster than you think so make the most of them. If there is a club that you’re really interested, go to their interest meeting and introduce yourself. If there is a class you’re really interested in taking, but it doesn’t count for your major, find a loophole to take it! If there’s a seminar or a leadership position that even SLIGHTLY piques your interest, jump on it. Don’t make excuses or sell yourself short.

Story time, again. When I started at Florida State, my mom insisted that I go through sorority recruitment and I continually refused. Why? Because my friend group had convinced me that sororities were pretty much the equivalent of “buying friends” or “joining a cult”. As it turned out, I went through the entire college process feeling as though something, somewhere was missing. It wasn’t until the end of my junior year that I realized what that thing was: belonging. I found that the type of sisterhood that a sorority would offer was exactly what I was missing. Again, I know it sounds corny. You can join every club, you can apply to every internship, and you can join every study group, but that doesn’t mean you’re a step closer to finding your family. This was a lesson I learned the hard way. I should definitely add that I did still join a sorority my senior year and that I’ve definitely found my friends for life. I just wish I had found it a little sooner so I could hold onto it a little longer. Don’t make that mistake. Also, (My mom will love this part) listen to your mom. She knows more about you than you might realize.

5. Follow your dreams… wisely

Speaking as an arts and media major, I’m about to give you some life-changing advice. Ready? Major in whatever the heck you want. Seriously. You read that right. You probably have relatives, high school guidance counselors, and friends all telling you to follow some “correct” path, but honestly, they are all wrong. When you start at school, be absolutely fearless in the pursuit of what makes you feel alive. If that’s writing, write your butt off. If that’s dancing, be the best dancer there ever was.

The important thing is not what you major in; it’s how you market yourself. Research job opportunities and requirements in your dream career field ahead of time. Look at what employers are looking for in an applicant and find some way to mold that dream of yours into a realistic situation. There is definitely a way for dreamers and artists to make their way in the world. You just have to be smart about it.

6. Work hard!

You’re going to hear this a million times so let me be one of the voices in your life when I say: You are in school to study. I hated hearing this all throughout college and I low key hate myself for saying it to another human being. You aren’t here to party and drink. You aren’t here to fool around and watch Netflix 24/7. You aren’t here to waste your time. You’re here because your university saw something in you that it wants to see to fruition. Make your four years a testament of how your university made the right choice by accepting you. When you’re neglecting your studies and your responsibilities, remember that there were students that were denied acceptance letters and that they might have taken their education more seriously. This isn’t to rain on your parade or make you feel guilty. Just be sure that you respect your university and that you use these four years as wisely as possible.

Once a ‘Nole, Always a ‘Nole

If you’ve been accepted to Florida State and you’re looking forward to starting in the summer or fall, congratulations! I hope to hear about your accomplishments someday. I wish you all the best of luck in all of your pursuits no matter which university you decide to attend (Even if it’s the University of Florida!). Be smart. Be safe. Be adventurous. Be ambitious. Most of all, be kind to yourself. Make the most out of these four years. You’ll remember them forever.

With the sincerest love and best wishes,

Your Fellow ‘Nole

Tamiera is a senior at Florida State University, studying Editing, Writing & Media and Digital Media Production. When she's not geeking out about movies and puppy videos, she's on her way to a career in screenwriting, while working intensely to finish a few novels before graduation. Besides writing, Tamiera is otherwise obsessed with Coldplay, feminism, dystopian novels, and various types of junk food. She hopes to see one of her works on the silver screen and eventually finish an entire tube of Chapstick.

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