To a Freshman, From a Senior

By Lauren Johnson

The University of Tampa has been my home for nearly four years now, and as a senior, I’d like to share some advice that could have saved me from a few mistakes along the way. Over these three years, I’ve grown and learned immensely, and I believe that as I approach a new chapter in my life, it’s essential to remember that change is challenging for everyone. However, college is a place where we can lean on each other for support because, despite our differences, we all share one thing in common – we’re here together. So, without further adieu, here are five things I wish I knew as a freshman.

Professors aren’t as intimidating as they may seem. While it’s hard to believe that these seemingly robotic creatures are human too, I’ve realized that they’re navigating life’s challenges just like us. While you shouldn’t take advantage of their kindness, you should feel comfortable asking questions, attending office hours, and seeking their help, both personally and professionally. Professors genuinely want the best for you, and they’re not here to make your life miserable. If you’re struggling, remember that professors and advisors are there to guide you or connect you with the right resources.

Please be authentic to yourself. College is the time to discover who you truly are and embrace your uniqueness. With a change in scenery and, for many of us, a new city or state, you have the freedom to be yourself without the baggage of past perceptions. Someone once told me, “Don’t go through life wondering who you are; instead, be someone you’ve always wanted to be”. We often get caught up in titles and stereotypes, and although life may seem short in the long run, it is full of moments that contribute to a lifetime. You have time to evolve or stay true to yourself, so take it one step at a time. Give yourself a chance to breathe.

Embrace your individuality and get involved. Starting college during a pandemic made this challenging for me, but a sense of community can ease the transition into this unfamiliar environment. Although it may seem like you’re instantly part of a family when you’re accepted, much of that sense of belonging depends on your efforts. Like any relationship, you need to invest some effort. Join a sorority, fraternity, club, or research group. If nothing on campus suits your interests, explore volunteering or off-campus opportunities. Remember that you can also create your own club at UT and find like-minded students eager to join.

Attend your classes consistently. Skipping class only hinders your own learning, as you miss out on vital course material. Of course, if you’re unwell or need a mental health day, take the time you require to get back on track. However, unlike high school, professors typically won’t track your attendance or be on your case if your head isn’t in the classroom. Your education is your responsibility, so make the most of it. Plus, someone, whether you or a loved one, is investing a significant amount of money in your education, so take full advantage of this privilege.

College isn’t meant to be miserable; it should be enjoyable. While you should work hard in your studies, take time to explore this new chapter in your life and pursue activities you’re passionate about. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and remember that even if you feel judged, you are the one living your life. Live it on your terms, while always being respectful of those around you, as we all share this planet.

Enjoy the next few years; you’ll be a senior before you know it.

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