Posted a year ago
Dear Freshman Leena
This is advice from the not-so-distant future.
By Leena Yin
This is advice from the not-so-distant future. You’ll probably have heard most of these already, and have chosen—or will choose—to disregard them. Don’t. This is coming from future you, who disregarded them and eventually regretted it; that counts for something, right?
Don’t buy textbooks unless you know you can’t find a PDF or borrow a copy from a friend.
Take written notes. Avoid phone/laptop in class whenever possible. Despite your best efforts, they will distract you; and you remember things better when you write them down, anyway.
Ignorance is not shameful. You’re at college to learn, not to pretend you know everything. “I don't know” should not be embarrassing to say.
Keep good track of your budget. It’s terrifyingly easy to overspend.
You don’t have to decide what to do with the rest of your life right away, but explore actively—go out of your way to try new things, ask people about their career choices, and pay careful attention to what you like and don’t like. Don’t expect an epiphany at the end of the school year; passion is finding something you like and working hard at it, not falling in love at first sight.
Go for the thing you think you won’t get. Stanford is full of applications — I know, I know, you thought you were done with those in high school — but it’s better to be disappointed than to regret not trying, and you may be pleasantly surprised.
Clubs are about people first. If you don’t get along with them, there’s no point.
Get to know your professors. Even at a private institution like Stanford, this is harder than it sounds. Make an effort to raise your hand in class—also, go to class, that’s really important—go to office hours, ask for advice or about their research… You’re paying an exorbitant amount of money to be taught by intellectual giants. Make the most of it.
Say no. If you have time for it, go for it, but make sure to recognize when you can’t. Tip: friends are often better at knowing when you’ve reached your limit than you are.
Don’t be afraid to be unhappy. The majority of the people around you will look like they have everything together, like they know exactly what they were put on earth to do, and like they’re having the time of their lives. Don’t buy into that facade; I can guarantee with 99.999% certainty that at least one of these three is false for everyone. Even your closest friends might put on brave faces while struggling behind closed doors (see: “Duck Syndrome”). So don’t feel pressured to have a great experience at college—it can be both the best and worst time of your life, and that’s okay. Take care of yourself: find alone time, sleep in, eat fruit, call home. Open up to others and they may open up to you.
Funnily enough, just writing this and reminding myself about what’s important was helpful to me. Hopefully, that means it’ll be helpful to you. Good luck — you’re going to need it.