Fall semester is upon us, which brings two constants on campus: overwhelming humidity and a massive influx of wide-eyed, first-year students.
When I'm not wondering why these kids somehow look older than I, I'm feeling nostalgic, and thinking back to my first days at Richmond three years ago.
So, to start off this year, gather 'round and let me offer you some friendly senior-to-freshman advice.
1) College is a new start. You can be whoever you want to be, and you're pretty much on your own when it comes to making decisions. Sometimes that's going to be really great, and sometimes that's going to suck, but remember that your decisions are your decisions -- make sure that you are happy with them.
2) Meet new people while you're here and continue to do so. It's exciting once you finally have your good friend group figured out, and it's very easy to stay with that group for all four years. Push yourself to make new friends each semester.
3) Get involved in something on campus, or in the community. Volunteer, pick a club or a team, audition for a play, try a weird class or join Greek life. You don't have to feel obligated to stay with an activity you don't really enjoy for the sake of college applications anymore. Pick one or two that you're truly passionate about.
4) Don't be "that kid." If you find yourself trolling the apartments four nights a week entering random apartments and drinking the inhabitants' beer, then you are "that kid." You are also "that kid" if you strive to earn yourself a "cool" nickname, contribute to the disproportionate number of ambulances outside LoRo every weekend or speak loudly in 9 a.m. Friday classes. Everyone is "that kid" sometimes, just don't be "that kid" all of the time.
5) Take advantage of our school's resources. Go to Career Services. Explore the five million other free things offered on campus as well, from personal training to music lessons, networking events and speakers to reimbursement for cultural events. Look for mentors, whether these are professors or older students. Your connections with them can really help you over the years, whether it's with professional advice/recommendations or just someone to complain to about how old you feel as a senior.
6) Explore the city of Richmond. Our campus is wonderful, but you really need to get outside of it (past Carytown or Short Pump). It's a city rich with history and character.
7) Enjoy being in college. This is really important, and it's hard sometimes because college can be challenging and frustrating. Still, appreciate it. It's a four-year time in your life when you have the benefits of both childhood and adulthood. You don't usually have major real-world responsibilities. You are fortunate enough to learn for the sake of learning. You get to stay up all night and live with your friends. When it's tough, look at all the good things you get to do.
8) Last, and most important, if you do not want to be automatically pegged for a first-year student, do not, under any circumstances, wear a lanyard. You do not work for NASA. Thus, there is no situation when having your identity in constant display around your neck is truly necessary. I say this out of love.