June 14, 2020 Students University

Navigating First Year

Night at the Cafe by Vincent Van Gogh Night at the Cafe by Vincent Van Gogh

I went on a walk wearing my university’s hoodie and a student stopped me in the park.

You go to Carleton? I’m going there too! You study Computer Science? Me too!.”

I did my best to answer his questions and provide value. The gist of what I said is written here.

This will not be the traditional talk to your professors or don’t take 8:30am classes advice. All of the points listed here are things that I found to be particularly useful. They were all derived from my own experiences, so keep that in mind.

1. Meet as many people as you can

The people you meet in university will be your biggest asset. Put yourself out there and create weak ties. Go to hackathons. Go to the career fairs. Go to conferences. Go to events on campus. Meet people, they will take you far.

2. Don’t be intimidated by exceptional people, embrace them and understand how they think.

My first hackathon was Big Red Hacks at Cornell. When I first got there I was scared. I was intimidated. I felt like I didn’t belong. All around me were these extremely bright and talented individuals. However, after speaking to them I learned:

  1. They are all students, just like me.
  2. They are all kind.
  3. They are extremely useful sources of information.

The famous saying you are who you surround yourself with is true. Spend time with exceptional people and you will grow.

3. There isn’t a timeline for anything.

Upon reading What You’ll Wish You’d Known by Paul Graham I realized that there isn’t a set time for what you can and can’t do. There isn’t a rule that you have to get x internship first, or that you can’t get a job after first year. You aren’t limited to anything because you’re a student. If you want something try and get it. This sounds cheesy, but a lot of people will attempt to discourage you. Don’t listen to their bullshit. Just try.

4. Your Grades Will Not Drop.

Getting good grades is a skill. I did way better in first year than any year of high school. People will try and scare you by telling you how hard everything will be. That isn’t the case. School will not be as difficult as people make it out to be. Put the work in and you will do well.

5. Pursue Your Interests, and Don’t be Afraid to Look stupid doing so.

It is easy to get caught up in the interests of others rather than of yourself. Use this time to find out what you really care about. This sounds obvious, but a lot of people don’t end up doing this. If you screw up anything you attempt, there are little to no consequences. Take advantage of that.

6. Shoot Your Shot.

Apply to everything that interests you. Rejection is not the end of the world.


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