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Year One. What not to do: a guide from someone who’s been there, done that.


Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Year One. What not to do: a guide from someone who’s been there, done that.

Year One. What not to do: a guide from someone who’s been there, done that.02-02-2016


Kolby Keo
UC Irvine 2015
NSHSS Fellows Program Vice President of Special Events

“According to American College Testing (ACT), one in every four college students leaves before completing their sophomore year — and nearly half of all freshmen will either drop out before obtaining a degree or complete their college education elsewhere.”

I was one of these students.

Starting as a freshman at Georgetown University, I felt on top of the world. Little did I know that in less than a year I would be dropping out from my dream school.

What happened? I finished high school with a 4.4 GPA, as president of the student body and several clubs, and a significant record of community service.

I treated my first year of college like I did high school. I joined 10 organizations and was elected class president. I took two language courses simultaneously, one being a daily, 8:00 am Arabic course.

I know what you may be thinking: Why would he do this to himself? It’s very easy to look back and see what a disastrous recipe I had concocted for myself; but, I caution that this is a widespread phenomenon among first-years. The excitement of freshman year and being surrounded by other ambitious students led me to test my limits.

By the time spring semester ended, my sleep schedule was abysmal, my health on the downhill, and I had failed three courses. I was embarrassed and ashamed. After deliberation with my academic advisor, I dropped out from Georgetown. Returning home, I took weeks to reflect upon what happened.

I never let anyone know I was struggling. I had failed to admit to myself that I needed help.

My story is a common epidemic among college first-years. Here are five seemingly obvious, yet important tips to managing stress, achieving balance, and mastering the freshman experience:

1. You cannot control everything. Accept it.

Professors will not coordinate assignments or exams to fit nicely into your schedule. Hundreds of pages of reading and multiple 10-20 page papers will be the new normal. Perfection isn't possible. Do your best, and remember this school accepted you for a reason.

2. Seek balance.

Get involved, but be careful to not go overboard. College is a place to explore interests, learn skills, and build networks of friends. Don’t feel pressured to join 7-10 groups based on what schoolmates are doing. Rather, pick two or three to devote your time and energy.

3. Don’t procrastinate; prioritize. 

As a self-proclaimed master procrastinator in high school, I can assuredly say that these tendencies will not serve you well in college. Prioritize: Remember where you are and why you are there. Then, fill in the holes with the extras: friends, activities, socials, etc.

4. Seek help when you need it. 

To ask for help is not weak and does not mean you are incapable. Everyone needs a helping hand at some point in life; we’re human. Speak with friends and family when you’re feeling overwhelmed. For more serious cases, speak with professionals; there are an abundance of resources on campus.

5. Don’t forget to sleep.

Simply put, always put you and your health first and foremost, or none of the rest will matter.

When you’re seemingly at your lowest of lows, remember that plenty of people have been there and done it all before. Do your best, push forward, and never give up.


Kolby completed two years at a local community college and went on to graduate summa cum laude from the University of California, Irvine, finishing in the top 0.7% of his class. He now serves as a Congressional Aide for U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal (CA-47). Kolby is Vice President of Special Events for the NSHSS Fellows Program. For questions or more tips you can reach him at