I can still remember my first day at Cal State Fullerton. First-day jitters were accompanied by the stress of sitting in traffic for an hour and a half. I wandered around campus in search of the Education Classroom at 8 a.m., which quite frankly was a little overwhelming for this first-time freshman.
But I found it. Eventually.
It’s been almost four years since that first day and now graduation is just around the corner. As a result, I’ve been reminiscing about my time at CSUF and realizing just how much I grew as a student and as a person.
I could go on (and on) about tidbits of information I’ve learned over the years spent in my classes, but it seems kind of minute in the greater picture of being a Titan. What I was taught in classrooms and books seem to fall short of lessons I learned as an individual making mistakes and growing from them. While the history of youth rebellion in the 1960s is interesting, I thought I would offer some advice I wish someone had told me on that first day of school:
1. Join a club.
I know it’s cliché, but it’s true. Attending a commuter school can sometimes feel like an isolating experience. Many CSUF students drive to school, attend class and go home. I was one of them for the first few years. I finally got around to taking part in student life during my final year and regrettably realized this was something I should’ve done on day one. Joining a club will help you feel like you’re part of a community and will enrich the time you spend on campus.
2. Talk to your professors.
Professors are hidden gems of knowledge and advice on college campuses hidden in plain sight. Visit their office hours and get to know them — especially if they have experience in your chosen field. They can offer plenty of insight and guidance, from finding the right graduate school to dealing with final exams. From my personal experience, professors are always more than willing to talk to students, even students from different majors.
3. Don’t stress yourself out too much over an exam.
During my sophomore year, I was standing in line to buy scantrons at The Yum in the Titan Student Union. The cashier asked me how midterms were going. I’m sure my haggard appearance and lack of energy answered her question, but I told her the three exams I had later were already kicking my butt. She smiled and told me not to worry too much. She said her sister couldn’t even remember the tests she took when she was an undergraduate student.
It’s important to do well in exams and classes, but don’t be so focused on passing that you lose your sanity. Pass or fail, remind yourself it’s just one test or class in the greater scheme of your semester and life.
4. It’s never too late to change your major.
It’s terrifying to realize the major and career path you’ve spent years imagining for yourself aren’t the right ones for you. It’s another level of anxiety when it’s your final year of college. I knew someone who sat through classes the first week of his senior year before realizing the major was not for him and so, he changed it.
I know there are some circumstances beyond our control, but don’t limit yourself because you’re scared of disappointing your parents or delaying graduation. A degree in four years is a wonderful accomplishment, but a degree in something you genuinely care about is the real goal.
5. You’re not going to have it all figured out.
And that’s okay. Some people might have a plan after graduation, but most people won’t. I know it seems like the years spent in college are where the big moves and defining moments in our lives are meant to be made. However, I assure you, that is so incredibly false.
It’s OK to feel a little lost and unsure of the future or even present plans. Those first-day feelings of confusion and stress didn’t just come from not knowing where my first class was, but from the pressure of thinking that the next four years of my life would irreversibly shape the following 50.
Work hard, don’t settle and most importantly, have fun. You’ll get where you’re meant to be.