Like I always say before these sorts of posts, don’t take my advice.
Last year, I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. Since that time, I can look back on my time as a college freshman (and as a student in general) and think about what I did well, and what I wish I knew back then.
In college, I was very much an academic achiever. I learned a great deal about computer science but I gave up a lot of my social life. In retrospect, many of the things I worried about seem unimportant now. But if I had to do it all over again, I would change very little.
What I Did Well
- I studied a lot and earned good grades.
- I made a few real, lasting friendships.
- I used my 30+ hours of AP credit, which made my courseload much lighter
- I went to very few parties. (Alcohol is overrated.)
- I learned things from other students, especially course recommendations.
- I landed an internship each summer and accepted a full-time job at Google.
What I wish I knew
- Studying is good, but grades don’t matter beyond a certain point.
- Don’t be afraid of living in a dorm.
- It wasn’t as bad as I feared.
- Take a mix of classes each semester.
- For example, choose 2 or 3 major-specific classes and 1 or 2 core curriculum classes during your first semester.
- Understand prerequisites and where the “bottleneck” is in your major.
- Avoid registering for 8am classes.
- Rent your textbooks instead of buying. I would have saved a lot of money my first year.
- Visit professors during office hours.
- Even if you don’t need their help, they’re usually happy to talk to you about the course material.
- This will come in handy when you need a recommendation.
- Go outside your dorm and explore off campus.
- I could have made more friendships outside my major and experienced more of Austin.
- Get involved with student organizations.
- They’re a great way to meet new friends.
- I joined a few, but I could have done more during my first year.
Finally, since I was a CS student:
- Go to the fall (and spring) career fair during your freshman year.
- For CS majors, you can apply for internships even as a freshman.
What do you want to know about college? Feel free to leave a question in the comments.