So the world didn’t end after all, and 2012 is over. By this time next year, you’ll probably be halfway through with your first semester or trimester of college, taking a well-deserved Christmas break. By January 1, 2014, you’ll be resolving to fix all the things that didn’t go well and pursue more aggressively everything that made you happy.
I obviously don’t know what your first year of college will be like, and it would be stupid of me to make a set of resolutions for you. But I can tell you what I would tell myself if I could go back to that first year of college.
For those of you taking that next big leap to college, here are a few things that I hope will happen to you in 2013. May you…
Change something fundamental about yourself, even if you change it right back in a month. This could be as simple as your fashion or your diet, or as complex as your ethical assumptions. When I was a freshman, I was a vegetarian for a few months. Some people I know took salsa dancing lessons. Other people reconsidered their religious beliefs or attended protests.
Learn to enjoy writing papers. No matter what you study in college, you’ll be writing more papers than you ever wrote in high school, and most of them will be held to a higher standard. Paper writing doesn’t have to be a chore: it can be a tool for organizing your thoughts and expressing yourself to a wider audience. If you treat papers as an opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about something you care about, Sunday night deadlines won’t be quite so nerve-wracking.
Read a book that will change your life. Invisible Man. A Brief History of Time. Infinite Jest. The Signal and the Noise. At some point during your freshman year, you will read exactly the right book at exactly the right time.
Take a class in something you couldn’t care less about. For me, an English major, this class was Physics. If you’re an engineer, it could be a class in English Literature or Gender Studies. It’s amazing how two seemingly unrelated disciplines shed light on one another. Worst comes to worst, you can now speak with more authority about why you completely dislike an area of study.
Think about publishing your work. Seeing your work in print is exhilarating, even if it only appears in a college newspaper or an underground rag. That being said, there’s no reason not to try sending a paper or poem you’re proud of to the Yale Review, just to see what happens. Not to mention the fact that a publication looks really good on graduate school applications.
Hate everything for a little while. Just for a little while. Moments of existential crisis prove that you’re really learning.