The Miami Herald’s summer interns — all smart, successful navigators of college waters — offer advice on making a smooth transition from high school:
Hometown: Queens, NY.
Biggest challenge: Everyone warns you about being homesick your freshman year. But when I got to college, I wasn't generally homesick — that is, except on weekends. I’d wake up earlier than my roommates and friends and quickly forget about how much fun I was having and call my parents. They jokingly called it the weekend blues.
Best advice: One of the best pieces of advice I got about that was to be as friendly as possible and meet as many people as you can freshman year, because it’s the most open people will be to new friendships. I really took that to heart and went a little overboard meeting my classmates, but I’m definitely glad I did. You never know, that girl you met after a job interview freshman year could become your housemate senior year.
If I could do it again: I would have stayed involved in a lot more clubs and student groups. Some of the best friends I’ve made in college were from organizations I never thought I’d be involved in — my sorority, for example. It’s fun to get really into one particular extracurricular — for me it was my school newspaper — but you can learn a lot from trying new things. I’ll always regret never trying out taekwondo.
University of Missouri
Hometown: Tucson, AZ.
Biggest challenge: Moving to the Midwest gave me major culture shock. Coming from a fairly liberal city full of immigrants, I had never witnessed as much intolerance as I did my freshman year of college.
Best advice: Hold firm when it comes to your boundaries. Even if everyone else is drinking, smoking or following lecherous guys back to their fraternity houses, do only what makes you feel comfortable. I promise you’ll make friends no matter what.
If I could do it all again: I wish I’d developed a thicker skin. I’d get so riled up by every injustice on campus — racism, homophobia, sexual assault — that I often forgot there were also kind and wonderful people around me.
Hometown: Buffalo, NY.
Biggest challenge: Learning to ask for help. When I started college, I thought it would be a sign of weakness to ask for advice from my professors, teaching assistants or friends. The truth is, not taking full advantage of these resources is a huge mistake.
Best advice: Live in the moment. It’s the experiences you’ll remember. You probably won’t remember the difficult test you took in introductory economics, but you’ll remember the spontaneous weekend you spent with your friends.
If I could do it again: I would spend more time at dinner and less time on problem sets. I know it’s not advice that a parent wants their child to hear but in college you learn as much from your friends as you do from your schoolwork. Sometimes I’ve regretted intense weekends of coffee-crazed studying. The moments I spend with my roommates, on the other hand, I almost always appreciated.
University of Florida
Hometown: Cooper City
Biggest Challenge: Moving in and out of my dorm was the most annoying part of my college experience. After my freshman year, I learned to make sure everything I had could fit into my car.
Best Advice: Freshman year, I did not explore my college town of Gainesville as much as I should have. Now as a senior I’ve found all the quirky spots I wish I had known about before. Explore all the hidden gems of your college town before it’s too late.
If I could do it again: I probably would have taken a class that did not relate to my major. There are so many classes offered, but sometimes we stick to what we know best. Try something new — you might fall in love with that elective class and switch your major.
University of Florida
Biggest challenge: I had it too easy, that was my problem. I moved with my best friend, so it was just me and her in our sheltered little circle of friends and it took us a very long time to finally branch out and meet a lot of other people. Breaking out of that circle of comfort was difficult because we wanted to keep what tied us to home but we also wanted to enjoy this new experience. It led to a lot of uncertainty and meeting people we were distrustful of just because we didn’t have the experience to know otherwise.
Best advice: Do it all. People always told me to meet many people and try different clubs and I always fought that idea, but it was good advice. You only get a shot at this experience once and although you’ll be busy and at times it will be stressful, this is the only chance you get at really going out in the world and doing it on your own terms. Make mistakes. You’ll learn so much from them that they will stop feeling like mistakes and more like experiences. And don’t be so hard on yourself. Everyone is there to succeed and you will too, in your own way and at your own speed.
If I could do it again: I would have broken out of my shell faster. All of the experiences I thought would be part of my college years didn’t happen until the end of my college experience. Now looking back, there are so many things I missed out on because I didn’t let myself try more and be more.
University of Florida
Hometown: Wesley Chapel
Biggest challenge: I absolutely hate putting myself in uncomfortable situations, but freshman year is all about going outside of your comfort zone. My freshman year, I was so homesick that I came home every weekend to spend time with my boyfriend, who still lives in my hometown. I didn’t have very many friends besides my roommates, and I was absolutely miserable. I wish I would’ve put myself out there earlier, because I missed out on a lot of cool things because I was so focused on not doing anything that could lead to awkwardness.
Best advice: EVERYONE is looking for friends freshman year. Seriously, I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s true. The neat thing about college is that people aren’t weird and cliquey like they are in high school — and if you do meet someone who’s snobby, just move on! There are thousands of other awesome people out there. Also, it’s never too early to start developing your future career. I wrote for the University of Florida’s student newspaper during first semester of freshman year, and my friends were often confused by that. My philosophy is if you know what you want to do, why put it off? Get involved and make connections on day one!
If I could do it again: I would have made more of an effort to meet people freshman year. During my sophomore year, I met so many incredible people — people I can’t picture my life without now. I’d also be less afraid to get involved with organizations pertaining to MY interests. It took me a while to realize I could do things that were fun along with things that were related to journalism. Once I got settled in, I joined a Christian sorority, a connect group at a local church and a college ministry. Having these outlets and having people to do life with completely changed my college experience.
Florida International University
Biggest challenge: Picking a major. I started off as nursing major. I imagined myself doing all the fast-paced ER work while writing novels on the side. Clearly that would have been impossible and a year into it I came to my senses. But I see it all the time, my peers pick majors they think are safe fall-backs with the intent to maybe study what they really want if they have the time. That’s a road to getting stuck in a career you don’t enjoy. If you know in your heart that you want it, don’t be scared go for it.
Best advice: The best way to make friends is through your classes. I’m not the type to go partying or stay out all night, so I had few ways of making new friends when I started. But the second I started taking the classes I really wanted to take, I met so many cool people with my same interests. Working long hours at school, doing group projects and bonding over how stressed out you are is the fastest and easiest way I’ve ever made friends.
If I could do it all again: I would have taken a wide variety of classes in the beginning. My first two semesters I was so determined to power through and graduate early, I missed the time when you can take all sorts of subjects to learn weird and interesting skills. Maybe it’s not résumé-worth to say you’ve taken “psychology of film,” but when else will you have the chance to learn about that?