About to be a College Freshman? My 2 Cents

It has been a busy August, and, today, I had an unusual day: many meetings, each of which was professionally interesting and personally rewarding.

For example, I connected last autumn with a local high school senior, who was accepted Early Action to Yale. Our deal was that if he chose Yale, I’d treat him to lunch. After doing his due diligence, he did so. We met today at my favorite ramen place.

He leaves for New Haven shortly and is incredibly excited and nervous. I’m envious.

He asked me for advice. Here’s what I told him:

You and your roommates should be the first ones to throw a great party. You’ll meet everyone very quickly and you’ll always be remembered for being gracious hosts.

My college roommates and I did this during the first few days of college. We ended up throwing many parties over four years. But, I still remember that first party and the people whom I met–and, who became true friends. The music was great, and we invested in a pretty impressive selection of “beverages.”

Quickly meet as many people as possible. I noticed in college that people were very eager to meet new folks during the first 30 days. They still were after, but were a bit more selective. I still find it incredible that many of the people with whom I was friendly for four years were those whom I met during the first month. So, to me, there’s something magical about the First 30 Days. So, get out there and socialize.

Meet up with your roommates for dinner every night, if possible. I had three roommates in college. Each of us is very different from the other. But, we all got along and stayed together for four years.

I think part of that is that we became friends and not just roommates. Social patterns get established very quickly. I remember my roommate, Jeff, casually asking everyone else early on when we should meet up for dinner together in the dining hall. So, we did. And, the next night and the next.

Soon, it was a room ritual to get together and share a meal together. I love those guys and miss them.

Re-create your identity, if you want. College is a great time. You no longer have to be the person typecast by high school classmates. You can be your authentic self. I went to a very “regular,” working-class, and homogeneous high school. I was viewed as “the smart Asian kid.” At college, I was just “Jo.” It was a relief and very liberating. I could be myself.

In high school, most of my social life outside of school involved other Asians. In college, I went with the flow. I noticed some Asian students nearly always ate meals with other Asians. I decided not to do that. I ate with everybody and tried to build relationships with everyone. It was really fun.

Be ready to be shocked–and to grow as a person. I told my friend that he will be meeting many people who will be very different from him. Embrace the differences. Learn from others. I told him to get ready to really change and evolve as a person. His view of the world will change radically as he meets more people different from himself.

I went to a very large all-boys school and was very naive. So, it was a “new” experience when, during the first week of college, a female friend jumped on me when we were studying in her room. I declined, and we tried our best to stay as friends. I do remember thinking as I left her room: “Well, you’re definitely not in Kansas anymore.”

Ditch your personal insecurities and rejoice in others. I told him that there will be many very smart and talented people in his class. Rather than compare himself to them and feel inadequate, take joy in their gifts. Go to the improv comedy show, football games, volleyball matches, singing jams, music concerts, and plays–and, rejoice that your friends have tremendous gifts that you may not have.


College, for me, was transformative. I felt “known and loved,” to quote Tony Jarvis. I really learned a great deal about myself. I know my friend will, too.

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