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Work & School A freshman’s guide to colleges, academic decisions, and your future

Jul. 1, 2019
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Illustrated by Hannah Kang

My college experience was very similar to my first boyfriend—I felt cheated by both of them, and it was nothing like the movies.

Instead of crazy fraternity parties and life-changing lectures, I spent the majority of my first semester telling my friends about the dumb things I'd done since my arrival. As we laughed about my mishaps, I realized I wasn't alone.

Throughout my first year, I deliberated on my choice of school and major repeatedly. Each and every time, though, I ended up dropping the idea after telling myself I couldn’t be doing any better.

On paper, it would’ve seemed like there was nothing for me to complain about—I was at a great school in a great city, surrounded by great people. But I kept managing to constantly compare my college experience to others’, and I kept feeling frustrated and defeated by how underwhelming mine was.

There are six times as many people in my major as there were in my high school graduating class, but I found myself shocked by what a strangely homogenous pool of people I was taking classes with. I still remember how a Chinese boy scoffed at me during orientation week when I introduced myself because he loathed my being Taiwanese. Immediately, I felt like someone had sent me back in time to my first day of third grade and called me a communist.

When I was applying to colleges, I thought of each school as its own person, someone I would like to become one day. I had so many visions of who I could become in college—would I be the sorority girl playing beer pong after a football game? Would I be the goth girl tattooing myself in my dorm bathroom? Would I be the artsy girl who cuts her own bangs? 

I always wanted to be a writer, and it was evident in my college applications; in every single essay I sent out, I mentioned it. But when it came down to deciding on a major, I was clueless. There was no major built for “people who want to be writers”—I could choose English, Political Science, Creative Writing, Linguistics, or Literature, and any of them could result in a career in writing. 

In the end, though, I chose Media and Information, which means I’m studying the modern-day medium of social media, investigating the news, and cultivating my writing abilities. I’m not limiting myself to only becoming a writer, but creating back-up choices—I can also work in entertainment, advertising, or publishing after graduation.

When you’re 18, these decisions feel like they can shake up your whole world, but the truth is that your choice of college and major don’t write your future for you. Having to decide your major right off the bat may be difficult, but if you feel like you’ve made a mistake with your major, you can always partake in clubs and jobs that interest you and change your path.

If you have yet to become a freshman, take my experience as a learning lesson, and lower your expectations before you arrive. I arrived at college feeling liberated because I could finally be myself, and that’s a mindset I try to maintain through thick and thin. In writing A Freshman’s Guide, I’ve really learned more about the kind of person I am and who I want to be.

I spent my first year of school filming documentaries about Tinder, writing about YouTubers, and making presentations about memes. And even though I enjoyed my freshman year, that isn’t exactly what I see myself doing in the future, so I’m glad I have passions outside of school—working with Lithium Magazine and Adolescent Content is really aiding me in becoming the writer I want to be.

I handed in my last assignment and ended my freshman year last week. With a sigh of relief, I feel prepared for my sophomore year. I can’t say I won’t struggle, but I can say that I will be better.

Now a sophomore,

Wen Hsiao