By: Mandy Pennington

Dear freshman,

I envied you sometimes this year. I envied how bright-eyed and bushy-tailed you seem, and how many opportunities lie before you in the next three years. I saw you grow throughout your first year, and I saw you learn and develop into even cooler people, and I imagined how much you’ll continue to grow. I sometimes wished I could be back where you are, and not about to go out into the scary world of unknowns, where there aren’t NSO gatherings to help you meet new friends, and there aren’t all-college hikes and junior/senior dances and homecomings and midnight breakfasts. I envied the classes you’ll take and the things you’ll learn, and the midnight McDonald’s runs and the 20-minute drives to Walmart. I envied the fact that if I could go back, I would change so much about my first year, and my second, and my third.

Then I realized that college is a stage of life, a stage that’s only meant to last four years, and a stage with which I’m almost finished. And if I could go back, yes, I would change some things. So here are some pieces of advice from me to you.

My freshman year, our class hashtag was #GCmakeitcount. All of the freshmen used that hashtag so much, but I didn’t really realize what it meant. So this is my first piece of advice to you: Make it count. You’re going to be a senior before you know. I still can’t believe how quickly my four years went by…the days and weeks and months seemed so slow at the time, but now graduation is here and I don’t know where the time went. So don’t waste your time sitting in your dorm. There are friends to be made and experiences to be had, even for the most introverted introverts. Your experience here is all dependent on what you make of it. You can make a choice to smile and laugh and be friendly and learn and grow, or you can make a choice to just get by and earn a degree. I would say that my first two years were spent the second way, and that’s a choice I dearly hope you don’t make.

Don’t feel like you always have to have something spectacular to do. Let’s be honest, there’s not much to do around here. Some of my favorite college memories were made just hanging out in the music building, and some of my deepest and most friendship-building conversations were had at a table at McDonald’s. Also, join activities. If you’re not on a sports team, join an intramural team, or do GSGA or choir (my personal plug) or band, or become an RC, or do anything that gives you a built-in family. Those relationships are the ones that will last.

Don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you need a relationship to be successful here. The upperclassmen always call spring “freshman mating season” because it’s entertaining to watch all of the freshmen get into relationships that probably won’t last. It’s new and exciting to be away from home and to hang out with people as much as you want. You can do whatever you want (for the most part). But don’t let Greenville’s ring-by-spring cliche get in the way of your happiness. Find the right person, not just a person. The wrong person can really put a dent in your college experience.

Find a mentor. It can be a faculty member or an older student — no matter who it is, benefiting from their wisdom is one of the wisest things you can do. Ask your RC to grab coffee with you sometime, or visit your favorite professor’s office to ask a deep philosophical question. Having friendships with your peers is so important, but having someone you can look to for advice, and even someone who is separate from your friend group, is a healthy and life-changing experience.

Take advantage of your classes. You’re paying for an education, not just for a fun experience. I know that some general education classes can be so frustrating and boring, and that homework seems tedious and pointless, but you’ll be surprised how much the material you learn in your classes can shape you. The purpose of a liberal arts education is to grow you as a person and give you knowledge in all areas so you can enter the world as an intelligent, well-rounded human being. Take advantage of it, even when you don’t want to study for your midterm or when you have a huge project hanging over your head. On the flip side of the coin, care about the learning and not the grades. I spent way too much time stressing and locking myself in my room and inhaling double espressos to study and freak out about my precious 4.0. It wasn’t smart. Getting an A in a class doesn’t mean you actually learned anything. You can laugh at me now, but you’ll be amazed at how much you can learn in four years.

This letter is fundamentally the result of a great amount of sentimentality in my last few weeks here at Greenville University. However, these are things I’ve said to my freshman friends, and wanted to say to anyone who has the patience to read this. I can say from the bottom of my heart that my years at Greenville University were the most formative ones of my life so far, and that they truly prepared me for what is coming next. I hope your four years do the same for you.



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