Biggest Mistake College Freshman Should Avoid
Set yourself up for a successful and happy college life
Involve in everything or nothing is bad
Trust me, you can always see one or two all-rounders on campus. Star athlete, Instagram influencer, straight As, loving boyfriend/girlfriend, all in one person. One day they are talking about their latest dance show, the other day they tell you they had a good time being the president of the student union, and also how much they earned as a freelancer.
Somehow, they are attractive even though they aren’t. You always wonder why they could be everything. I mean, its our childhood dream to be everything, to have unlimited possibilities, to work on different things every day, but reality does not allows that. In order to be good at one thing, you need a lot of practice, and practice takes up a lot of time. So you have to specialize. This is the fruit of modern economy, that you don’t need to know how to farm, sew, make furniture at the same time.
You try to be like them. Join as much activities as you can. Try to compensate the loss of not being able to become the high school superstar. However, this does not work. You soon find yourself overwhelmed with tasks and duties. Monday you go to football training, Tuesday you have a student union meeting, Wednesday you have a non profit meeting, Thursday you go to band practice… Every per hours someone send you a message asking you to email a certain organization asking for partnership, or asking you to choose the day and time for next week’s boring meeting.
You try to do good at everything you do. You want to make sure you are the best footballer in your team, the one who makes beautiful pitches in your local startup summit, the Youtuber who tells everyone they are having a good time partying and decorating your dorm room.
However, you just can’t. People tends to show what they are good at, what they have achieved, what they are enjoying. They suffer alone in the darkness. But they never tells you. They had either done a lot of these things before college, so they are naturally good at it, that they do not need a lot of effort to study and practice. Or they are just pretending to be the cool kids who do everything. I know because I am the latter ones.
If you tried to duplicate them, you will only experience intense stress and failure. Mastering a skill, no matter it is academic or not, requires deliberate practice, which takes time, effort and also quick feedback from peers, mentors and teachers. If your participate in too much activities, you will lack the focus to learn a few things in depth, to a point that distinguish you from the mediocre public.
It is true that you come to college to explore more, and you can never know when your experience will be useful. But you have to do it in moderation.
My old English teacher has a good story to tell: her first language was English, but when she wanted to study English education in a city where English is not the most widespread language, she had to do a test. As English is her mother tongue, she has never done an English listening test like that. She missed all the points in the test and did really poorly. But at the end she got admitted — because she talked about fishing during the speaking test, which is the professor’s passion!
She had never imagine that fishing, as a hobby, would grant her admission to an university and pursuit her dream of becoming a teacher.
So, how to choose activities to optimize your college freshman year?
1. Choose a sport
Health must be your top priority. Regular exercise gives you energy and focus to work on your remaining goals. Whether you enjoy it or not, you must eat healthy and exercise regularly. If you do not have a habit of exercising, start by trying the sport your friends are doing. It would be a fun social event and also helps you to get in shape.
2. Your passion
If you are passionate about something, you will do well in it. If your college does not have a group for something you really like, no matter it is exotic sport or indie music, do start a club for that. Starting a club is never easy, you will worry that you won’t get enough members, worry that your events are disappointing, worry about the budget, but it is a good learning experience for you. You will learn to work with internal and external organizations, social media marketing, public speaking and so on. Plus you have the safe space of being part of the university. You can also learn these by running a business, but forming a school club is the risk-free option.
3. Your college’s strength
Some colleges has a particular field that they excel in. While it may not be your major, most clubs does not require you to major in the subject to join. You will have the chance to meet the brightest students in college, and expand your network to other organizations and alumni very easily in these activities.
Freshman year is the least stressful year. Class materials are not as difficult as future years, and you have the energy and the urge to try out new things. The most important thing is, remember your goal.