This past weekend saw dorms open up at Carolina, and tomorrow is the First Day of Classes. This is when it hits home for the Class of 2021 that...you did it. You are actually here. Now what?
On Friday’s podcast, our own Daniel Bayer asked a question that made me wish I had about 30 minutes to talk: what one piece of advice would you give to First Years about their college experience?
The problem is that it is tough to try to summarize four years of lessons into a short soundbite. Thus, for those of you looking for maybe a few more pointers, this guide is for you. Consider this a small “How To” in order to enjoy your experience at one of the best colleges in the country.
Don’t: Schedule 8 AM Classes (if you can help it)
This sage piece of wisdom comes from Jake Lawrence. Sometimes you have a major that forces you to get up and have yourself seated ready to open your mind at 8 AM, but you just did that for 13 years! The opportunities that happen once the sun goes down make those 8 AM classes even more tough to get through, and most importantly when it comes time to stay up all night studying, you’re really going to want that extra hour to get in the last little bit of information.
I took a total of three 8 AM classes...and dropped two of them. Do YOU want to try to learn about great philosophers when you don’t even have the coordination to hold a pen correctly?
Do: Take Classes Outside of Your Comfort Zone
One of the great things about UNC is that even if you know exactly what you are there to study for, in order to get that degree you have to take classes outside of that major. Languages, literature, history, math, science, art...all of it required before you get to toss up your hat in Kenan. Use this as a chance to learn about something that you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Even within your major, there will be a chance to learn about subjects in depth that, maybe, you got to just touch on before.
While at Carolina I took a Sports Business class, Creative Writing, History of North Carolina from the Civil War forward, learned about the Supreme Court, and took a lecture taught by Mick Mixon. You have access to a world-class education and YOU get to pick your classes. Take advantage of it.
Don’t: Just Go to Class
*Insert ABC’ers with a paper class joke here.
You aren’t just there to learn from books and professors, but to start to learn what it’s like to make your own decisions, good and bad. Going to school at Carolina provides you with an amazing opportunity to meet others who share your beliefs, introduce you to something you never thought about, or just will become your best friends for the rest of your life. Those social skills will be immensely helpful once you leave Chapel Hill and are ready to find that first job. Plus, life is about balancing responsibility and having fun. Just...not too much fun if you get my drift.
Do: Go to Games
Ask any alum who wants to go back for a football or basketball game, and they’ll tell you to cherish the time when your ticket is paid for with your tuition. My experience allowed me to see the likes of Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison, and Julius Peppers among others suit up for UNC. I also went to the infamous Snow Game in 2000 against Maryland, the main reason you have the risers on one side of the court.
Don’t: Just Go to Basketball and Football
But this isn’t just the main sports. Bubba Cunningham has done a masterful job of building up all UNC sports. As you set foot on campus, other teams start playing, many of whom have made deep NCAA runs, including national titles. The events are just as free as basketball and football, and who knows if you’ll be seeing a future Olympian, or a future Team USA player, or a future Major Leaguer. The environments are all fun, and trust me, the support is appreciated
Do: Find Your Favorite Place on Franklin Street
The landscape of Franklin Street has changed a lot since I was there, but there are still plenty of staples: He’s Not, Linda’s, Sutton’s, TOPO, plus plenty of new places that have quickly become legends in their own right. Experience them all and find the place that you love.
Don’t: Forget the Real World is Coming
That simultaneously means to enjoy the four years you have there, and make sure you’re getting yourself ready for that day you walk out of Kenan, diploma in hand. Be willing to say that if you aren’t enjoying your major, to get out while you can. Know that things aren’t just going to be handed to you once you are out here trying to get that first job, but that Carolina gives you the skills to succeed. Being a UNC alum is being a member of an amazing club, one that allows you to talk to random strangers from all over the country and all over the world.
Do: Remember How Lucky you Are.
There’s going to be that day, sometime, where the alarm goes off, you have a test, you’re...groggy, it’s cold or hot, and you want to whine about having to go to class. Trust me when I say this (and every adult is nodding): you don’t know how lucky you’ve got it. Even in the job that you love, it brings the rigors of a daily schedule without the benefits of being in the awesome environment you are in.
Savor this time of your life, there’ll never be another one like it.