Somewhere in between when you received your acceptance letter and the trek to campus for move-in, you probably cultivated high expectations for your first year at Penn. You might have fantasized about newly-gained freedom, attending parties, making friends from your hall, getting dressed up in Penn gear for the homecoming game, and joining clubs. But freshman year is just as hard as it is exciting, and there are plenty of upperclassmen and professors that will give you unsolicited advice about how to make the most of your time here.
Here's ours: Ignore them.
The advice that you'll be bombarded with will inevitably be colored by the experience of the individual giving it. If a junior you're talking to failed math their freshman year, they'll tell you not to take MATH 104. If a senior you meet got cut from all of the fraternities he rushed, he will tell you not to participate in recruitment. The Daily Pennsylvanian Editorial Board might tell you that the way to make the most out of your Penn experience is to join the school newspaper. While that might be true, you are the one who is most capable of making decisions about your life.
You will have to make a lot of choices during your first year at Penn: what classes to take, which clubs to join, who you want your friends to be. Take things at your own pace, and think critically about what the right decision is for you as you. Try not to get bogged down by other people's ideas about Penn, and instead work on forming your own.
This University is a big and complicated place, but remember that you have time to figure out how to make meaning of your time here. You might join a club that gives you purpose or meet a new best friend or take a class that changes how you view the world. Don't let other people decide what your milestones at Penn should be. When you are unsure about something, take a minute and think on it. Try to determine what you want.
This journey of self discovery does not need to take a straight line, either. Give yourself the flexibility to change course and try to avoid feeling like you have to hit the ground running and get things right immediately. The feeling that others are outpacing you in just the first few weeks or months at Penn may make you feel compelled to join particular organizations or even transfer to Wharton. The truth is that almost no one ends up doing exactly what they thought they would during NSO, so don't worry if it feels like everyone around you has it all figured out and you don't.
The wisdom of more experienced people can be valuable, and you should take advantage of their knowledge, along with all the other resources at Penn. But let your Penn experience be framed by your choices, not half-hearted advice from people who don't necessarily know you.
Moving away from home and adjusting to college are stress-inducing experiences, but freshman year is also an exciting time. You are about to embark on four years at an incredible university. Take advantage of that time, and make your own decisions.
Editorials represent the majority view of members of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Editorial Board, which meets regularly to discuss issues relevant to Penn's campus. Participants in these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on related topics.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.