Things I Learned my Freshman Year at Stanford

I recently got the chance to help out at a Stanford sendoff event. In doing so, I transformed from the energetic freshman I was one year prior to a sagacious sophomore, ready to bestow wisdom on the incoming class.

Or something like that. The truth is, I’m still very early into my college journey as well. During my freshman year at Stanford, I have accumulated many nuggets of advice, encompassing lessons applicable to all incoming college freshmen and ones that directly relate to Stanford students.

For all college freshmen:

  • Take a risk – For many of you, this is the first time you are going to leave home for an extended period of time, or enter into a school where you know few, if any people. You do not need to reinvent yourself, but I encourage all of you to try something outside of your comfort zone. This could be as simple as attending your first football game, trying out for an improv group, plunging into an ice-cold lake with a group of people, or taking a class in a field you had never heard of before. During the first week of school, I encourage you to say “yes” whenever you are asked to go to some activity or do something new*.
    *Nota bene: Please use reasonable caution when taking a risk; don’t do anything incredibly dangerous and/or illegal.
  • Find your study spot – Many people develop a favorite spot on campus to relax or study, whether that be a desk in a library, an outdoor bench, or even your own dorm room. During your first quarter or semester, explore as much of campus as you can to find where you work best. Wherever it is, I recommend somewhere that isn’t filled with distractions.
  • Make sure you eat and sleep – This may seem like common sense, but people can be overwhelmed by the responsibilities that come with the freedom of college. There’s no pantry to open and snack at during midnight, so make sure you keep track of dining hall hours. Likewise, you set your own sleeping schedule, so make sure you adequately sleep each day. Remember basic hygiene overall, and you will feel much better during freshmen year.
  • Call your parents – Yes, I know this is the last thing on your mind when heading to college. Isn’t your freshman year supposed to be enjoyed away from your parents? With the exception of those who have attended boarding school far away, this is probably the first time you will not see home for months. Your parents will appreciate hearing all about your college experience, and it will be nice to hear about what’s going on back at home.

For the people just starting their Stanford journeys:

  • The people make the school – One of the best things aIMG_1738bout college is that you get to meet so many new people. In fact, learning about the amazing people on campus was one of my favorite things throughout the school year. At Stanford in particular, it’s amazing how down-to-earth everyone is. People will talk about some of their accomplishments when prodded, but no one screams their SAT scores or volunteer activities from the rooftops. I didn’t learn about some of my friends’ international-level accomplishments until halfway through the school year, and even then they were very modest about how much they had done.
  • Do not panic – For the first time in their lives, a lot of Stanford students discover that they are not at the top of the proverbial totem pole. There will be people who are smarter than you, more athletic than you, more sociable than you, and overall better than you at a variety of things. The important thing is that you don’t succumb to self-doubt and fear about not being on top. First A- on your transcript? Do not panic. Didn’t get the board position for that ultracompetitive club? Do not panic. Everyone else looks stronger and sexier than you? Do not panic (go to the gym instead). Stay calm and keep doing what you love to do to the best of your ability.
  • Collaborate with others – At Stanford, people are collaborative more than competitive, and competition never devolves into the backstabbing you see at other schools in the East. If you’re struggling on a problem set, find someone to work on it with you. It was a very common sight in my dorm to have a group of ten people surrounding the ping pong table working on identifying chemical compounds, or a dorm room stuffed full of people debating the merits of a particular philosophy. Stanford also has great resources to reach out to for academic and mental help. The Hume center deals with writing, professors always set office hours each week to help you out, and SPRC, the Bridge, CAPS and your friends are there for you if you need someone to help you with your mental health.
  • Take a rite-of-passage class – CS106A. Sleep and Dreams. MATH51. Wine Tasting. You’ll learn from upperclassmen about the many wacky, extraordinary, and notorious classes that Stanford offers. I highly suggest that you take at least one of those classes during your four years here.
  • Some final important things to know – Beware the Circle of Death. Go on Ski Trip. Don’t kiss the tree at Full Moon on the Quad. Career fairs will supply you with all the shirts you will ever need. Do not pet the mountain lions. Late Night dining is amazing. There is such a thing as a tesseract.

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