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Monday, December 01, 2014

The College Experience: Lessons From A Freshman

Olivia Parks

Olivia Parks, Student Council
University of Pittsburgh

This past summer I believed that I had everything about college figured out. I knew what I wanted to major in, I knew that I wanted to stay close to home, I even started to look at what classes I wanted to take my first semester. My whole summer was consumed with graduation and then the ever-looming, ever-exciting prospect of college. I found myself wishing the long, warm days of summer away so I could start the next phase of my life.

Now, as a first semester freshman at the University of Pittsburgh Honors College, I am still in love with the campus, my classes, and have made some new friends. However, my outlook on college and my path in life has completely changed.

For example, I am taking an Honors General Chemistry course, which is incredibly hard, but a challenge I was willing and ready to take since I am on the PreMed track. However, this class has made me realize that although I walked onto campus in late August dreaming of a double major in Chemistry and Latin, I soon changed my mind after beginning this class. In high school, there is very little wiggle room in the courses you can take. In college, it is completely up to you. Yes, you have an advisor who will guide you and strongly suggest that you follow a certain set of courses depending on your major, but at the end of the day, it is up to you. I embraced this sense of freedom and chose a variety of classes for my first semester: a philosophy class, a music class, a chemistry class, and a Roman civilization class – I even joined a music ensemble. I found that this smattering of classes from several different departments led me to change my major at least four times in the short three months that I have been attending Pitt. At first, this made me upset and frustrated – I am not an indecisive person, when I make a decision, I like to stick with it. However, after a discussion about this with my Chemistry professor, he told me that this was the point of college. To try new things – clubs, classes, sports, friend groups, and realize what you like and what you don’t like.

I have finally settled on a double major in Neuroscience and Psychology with a minor in Latin, and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. I know that my college journey is only just beginning, and I don’t even have to declare a major until next year. However, I already feel like I have a sense of purpose, a sense of adventure, and an open mind to all that Pitt has to offer. If you only take one thing away from my personal experiences, take away this advice: No matter where you decide to go to college, what your major is, or whether you end up living at home or in a residence hall – always stay true to yourself, know your likes and dislikes, never be afraid to ask for help, and always be open to trying new things. With this in mind, you can make your college experience personal, fun, and rewarding!!