Dear freshmen, life is about to get a heck of a lot more awesome. You are going to college! It’s like high school, only great. I know it’s impossible to not take things for granted, but I feel compelled to tell you anyway — do not take this amazing time in your life for granted!
Since I graduated two years ago, I’ve visited many college campuses. Each time, I’ve found myself wanting to run up to random strangers, put my hands on their shoulders, give them a good shaking and ask them loudly, “Do you realize what you have?” But as a matter of common courtesy, I have yet to do so.
It is therefore my hope that you know and deeply cherish how lucky you are to be here. If you do not, I will come up and shake some perspective into you. Anyway, here are some thoughts from this CSU alum.
Explore Fort Collins — you will soon fall in love. Buy an old-school cruiser bike at a garage sale. Meet as many people as possible. The relationships you form now will be more important to you later on than anything you study.
Hang out at the Alley Cat. Get the heck out of the states — take the opportunity to study abroad. Live frugally and well within your means. Start a Roth IRA as soon as possible. Don’t become too enamored of railroads. Read some Kurt Vonnegut. Lay in the Oval and look up during fall. Streak the Oval in the spring (but don’t get caught!).
Live in an old college house north of campus. Build a compost pile. Frequent the local breweries as often as possible. Tube down the Poudre in the summer. Stay in Fort Collins during the summer. You won’t regret it.
As far as school goes, choose to be here. If your parents chose for you, get out now and come back on your terms or you’ll likely get burned out. Give yourself an easy semester to start with; take 12 credits of easy and interesting classes. Get the partying out of your system.
At the beginning of every semester, register for as many classes as possible and drop the ones you don’t like. Introduce yourself to your professors, and get to know them. Introduce yourself to your classmates, and get to know them. Only do work that makes you proud.
Use the library and the recreation center every day. Become involved in a club, group or cause that you enjoy. Don’t get too riled up over people who are doing their thing in the plaza.
Take great care of your body and your mind, especially around finals. Remember that except for grad school, grades are mostly a matter of personal pride in college. Use Wikipedia, but don’t cite it. Keep in mind that books and papers are best digested over many consecutive days, not many consecutive hours. If you’re in danger of graduating, change your major immediately.
And as far as life after school goes, anticipate leaving Fort Collins being really tough. Realize that unless you’re studying engineering or computer science, you are very likely to not have a job offer when you graduate, let alone a high-paying dream job. Plan on people with Bachelor’s degrees being ubiquitous in the job market.
Read the book “How To Win Friends And Influence People.” Learn how to win people’s confidence. Plan on having to use effort to find satisfying social networks and things that mentally challenge you — they will no longer just drop into your lap.
Stay positive. Stick with your family. Live by your values. Go on crazy adventures. Don’t forget to be awesome.
I’ll close with a favorite quote of mine. A Chinese proverb states, “Don’t listen to what they say. Go see.”
Neil DeMuccio is a CSU alumnus. He graduated in 2007 with a degree in economics. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.