Editorial | Make your freshman year a foundation to build on

If you’re starting your first year at the University of Illinois, remember this: Not everything will go as projected. 

As you navigate the University, plan on parts being scary and parts being hard. Plan on mistakes. Plan on losing. But it’s essential you keep trying and work to build a solid foundation for your coming semesters during your freshman year. Stable roots will mollify impending failures and make springing back from them far easier.

As with most foundations, the platform from which you will construct your experience has four corners. 

The first corner is friendship. (We know this sounds like something straight out of a Teletubbies episode, but bear with us.) No one can stand alone. To truly succeed — and avoid the desire to ram an iClicker through your lonesome skull — you have to surround yourself with people who prop you up. 

These fellow students will help you erect a magnificent structure on top of your foundation. They are your construction workers, and you are the project manager. Don’t be afraid to give them a hammer and a few nails and tell them to start building. 

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However, this is a two-way street. You must also be willing to put on a hard hat and pick up a few tools for them. Every one of your construction workers is also the project manager for their own collegiate magnum opus. 

If you are now thinking to yourself, “Well, I already know friends are important, but how in the name of Alma Mater do I find people ready to join my construction team?”

It’s easy to meet people on a campus with over 40,000 enrolled undergraduates. The hard part is finding the true gems or, to continue our tiring metaphor, those who know their way around an Allen wrench. 

The only advice we can give you is to meet as many people as you can. Introduce yourself to those you sit next to in class. Spark up a conversation with some rando on the quad. Say hi to your 80s-rock-blasting neighbors in the dorms. Some of them might just end up in your wedding party.

The second corner is academics. Yes, we’re all here for this one, and a lot of you are probably wondering why it isn’t the first corner. Well, friends make life livable. (If this doesn’t satisfy you, be secure in the knowledge we’re building rectangular foundations and thus each corner is technically equal to its counterparts, regardless of which one we list first.)

Academics are a critical part of a student’s college experience. You should have fun, but you should also learn what you came here to learn so you can become a productive member of society upon graduating.

You will regret blacking out at The Red Lion the night before your exam. Maybe not in the moment, but you definitely will regret it when you’re staring down at the essay question and you realize you have no idea how to analyze the changing archetypes in 18th-century poetry and compare them to reminiscent themes in contemporary literature. Oh, yeah, that’s forehead-sweat worthy. 

Doing well in your classes your freshman year will set a precedent of good grades, one that will help keep you on the straight and narrow all while promoting positive study habits.

Extracurricular activities make up the third corner. No college experience is complete sans involvement in something other than school and friends. 

Joining an organization on campus will help you develop time management skills, provide a much needed break from your studies and is a great opportunity for lateral networking. Leadership in these clubs and activities also looks great on a resume and can be a great way to augment your education.

The last corner is family. While here, you should do your best to remain in contact with your loved ones from home. They are permanent members of your construction squad, not just for your University project but on all of them. Sometimes it’s good to check in with your workers and inspect their work; make sure all the nails are in the right place. 

Call your mom once in a while. Text your sister to see how she’s holding up. If nothing else, video call home so you can tell your dog how much you miss them.

So get out there and build your foundation, Illini! We can’t wait to see your masterpieces.