The Advice I’d Give My College Freshman Self

BY Bridget Shirvell  August 23, 2013 at 1:44 PM EDT

Student at Regis University. Photo by Glenn Asakawa/The Denver Post via Getty Images.
Student at the Regis University Library. Photo by Glenn Asakawa/The Denver Post via Getty Images.

Things always look differently in hindsight than in the moment. It’s almost as if you should have been able to predict what would happen if you signed up for that 8 a.m. class instead of the 10 a.m., if you sat at one table versus another in the dining hall, if you studied abroad somewhere a bit more exotic than Europe.

This year’s crop of college freshmen are in the middle of moving into school, so it seems only appropriate to ask: What advice do you wish you could give your college freshman self?

It may be too late to change your experience, but hopefully your advice will help out a nervous college freshman, give high school students something to think about and give those us out of college something to remember fondly. And because it was only fair, we asked a few NewsHour staffers for their responses as well.


Duke McAdow, Web Designer, Cal State Northridge, Class of 1991

Trust your heart — choose the course of study that interests and inspires you, and throw yourself into it. Don’t choose a path merely because it satisfies the expectations of others, or because it seems prudent. You’re a good kid … take a chance on yourself.


Andrew, Financial Analyst, University of Wisconsin Madison, Class of 1993

Go to class! College isn’t that hard if you actually, you know, show up!


Rosalie Dech, Virginia Commonwealth University, Class of 2007

“The fruits of my freshman year,” graduation from VCU in 2007.

Just worry about being who you are. Talk to and do what you need to do to feel happy, and comfortable in your new surroundings. Also doesn’t hurt to go to your student union and speak to employees there, they are all students and have tales and helpful less overwhelming advice to give.


Courtney Thanos, Stay at Home Mom, Kent State University, Class of 2002

Pick a major with which you will be employable. If you want to learn about art history or English, make it a minor


Ruth Ann Pilney, Retired, De Paul University, Class of 1970.

Keep your faith and nourish your faith. Don’t abandon your values. Do not look at college as preparation for a job, but rather as preparation for life. So, prepare yourself to be a good person. Be studious, but also take time for leisure and socializing. Also eat healthily. In other words, live a balanced life. Choose friends who share your basic values. Do you homework and finish your assignments on time.


Gwen Ifill, Co-anchor PBS NewsHour, Simmons College, Class of 1977

Relax a bit and enjoy the moment. Study hard, but also say yes to opportunities that take you out of your comfort zone. You never know where exploration will take you.


Brian Buffett, United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Berea College, Class of 2007

Learn the importance of building and maintaining relationships with people. You never know when you will need to reach out to someone for help or if they will need you one day.


Lee Robinson, Finance Associate, Pace University, Class of 2008

Forget football. It will hold you back and cost you tons of money for years. Instead of going where you can play, go to the best school you can get into (Cornell) and get involved with the community.


Judy Woodruff, NewsHour Co-Anchor, Duke University, Class of 1968

Spend more time studying than you did in high school; get to know a few professors really well; pick campus activities that matter to you and get involved; go out of your way to make friends with classmates who are quiet, may be struggling; and leave time to have fun!


Abraham Alaron, Assistant Principal in the Englewood Public Schools District, Rutgers University, Class of 1992

Remember who and what helped me get to college because when the challenges come, and they will come you will need to draw from these for wisdom, strength, discipline, and endurance to excel and reach your goals. This is a time to explore, question, analyze and test while expanding upon the talents and skills you have. Be curious. Be imaginative. Ask lots of questions. Be patient with yourself and make lots of friends. Get involved in campus activities. Give back to your community through service. Learn your native language well. Being bilingual is a must in today’s world and will make you marketable. Finally work hard and never give up.


John Black, Manufacturing Project Management, Lewis University, Class of 1983

Prioritize and focus on the studies. Fun can be addressed throughout your life. Education is now.


Warren, Small Business Owner, State University of New York at Buffalo, Class of 1987

Self portrait taken in my studio-The Digital Eye, LLC

Don’t attend as many keg parties, get involved in a church community, and get serious about my studies.


Jason Kane, NewsHour Reporter Producer, George Washington University, Class of 2007

Study abroad and do it somewhere other than Europe. I may not have done much studying, but the sixth months I spent at University of Cape Town was the most educational, enriching and action-packed part of my college career.


Kirk Hazlette, Public Relations Teacher, University of Georgia , Class of 1968

Kirk Hazlette.

Pay attention to what your high school counselor told you about your field of study interest area. (Learned this one the hard way!)


Jackie, Graduate Student, Purdue University, Class of 2005

Allow yourself a tad bit of free time. Maybe you don’t really need 3 minors, be the head of every club and take on all the extra projects.