I've spent the last two weeks in Dallas taking care of some business things, seeing friends and family, and doing a little reminiscing. I graduated college three years ago. THREE YEARS my friends. I remember the day I moved in to my college dorm. I was wearing a pink v-neck polo t-shirt, khaki shorts from A&F, and rainbows. I had no idea what I was facing. I have no older siblings, friends, or even cousins. I had to figure it all out on my own. Last year a great family friend of mine started his freshman year at college and this year my youngest cousin is starting college. I sent them both an email with all of the things I wish I had known. Do you have any more advice to share?
I know that one of the things I loved the most about SMU was my small classes and the teachers who I really got to know. Once I had more experience and was in my Junior and Senior years I purposely tried to take a many seminar classes as possible and would without a doubt recommend the same to anyone else. At SMU seminars consisted of no more than 10 students sitting around a large conference table with a professor for 3 hours once a week. There was a ton of work to do but it was definitely worth it as I got to know my history professors and they got to know me in a way that would have been impossible in a lecture based class.
The other advise I have for Claire about classes is to take advantage of office hours. Even if she doesn't have an actual question use that time for the teacher to learn about her. Professors can be great allies at college and can give you the inside scoop about classes and professors in a way your friends never can. And they can give great recommendations after college!
And my last bit of advise for personal/social issues when starting college:
1. Your freshman year is golden. This is the perfect opportunity to meet as many new and wonderful people as you can. Don't be shy. The best way to not feel shy or nervous is simply to push through those feelings and go ahead and introduce yourself, start up a conversation, and try to make new friends. With exception of a few jerks every freshman is nervous and hopeful about making new friends. As a freshman you have permission to go anywhere, try any new thing, and meet anyone; social groups have not yet been set, clicks haven't formed, you can be friends with literally everyone.
And in that, I would encourage Claire to accept every social invitation she gets (after s he's done his homework of course) and use this time to establish easy friendships.
2. Get involved on campus! Join organizations as soon as possible. It's a great way to make new friends, build your resume, and get connected into campus opportunities. Student leaders find out about other leadership opportunities sooner and more often than students who are not involved. And it doesn't have to be anything as serious as student government. Freshman year I joined the "hall council" in my dorm and worked with another student to help celebrate students birthdays by putting notes on their doors and buying them a card. But, it was a great way to make friends in my dorm and a small time commitment.
3. There will be a lot of pressure to succeed (or at least there was for me- self induced) and the BIGGEST lesson I learned was that first and foremost your job is to be a student. If you weren't a student none of these wonderful opportunities, ie student extracurricular activities, intramural sports, friends, etc would be available to you. So, study, do you homework, talk to your profs when you have a problem, there is no shame in getting a tutor.
4. Don't feel like you have to be too involved (see feeling a lot of pressure from number 3) . I felt over stretched through out my college years between classes, sorority, extracurricular activites, and work. My mental and physical health suffered for it. Yes, Claire will be graduation one day and she will be competing for jobs; but she doesn't need to do so many activities that her resume and schedule is over flowing.