First things first: this is part of a much longer "brain-spew", the full contents of which can be found on my personal blog (brettrowley.blogspot.com). I didn't want to overwhelm you with information, so here is the bit I think is most useful. It's all in disconnected blurb, but the numbers don't correspond to importance. Sebastian kindly added some comments (in red) I found interesting, so I've included those. Here goes:
- Learn to be independent. Please don't get clingy. Don't shrivel up and mumble incoherently if your group of friends is not around. Please learn to become a person who can entertain themselves and function independent of other people. It'll make your social interactions a lot more enjoyable and will benefit your academic career, too. You've probably heard of "taking initiative". Do it! Be proactive. If something is not working out like you hoped or an opportunity isn't just dropping into your lap, don't take that as an excuse to give up. Send endless emails arguing for yourself (but don't actually argue - that just annoys people). Make yourself known.
Yes, go and meet people. They are amazing (it's generally a safe assumption that most people at Olin are amazing).
- You need a BHAG. If you got into Olin, you probably have a good idea of what you want to do in life. But you need a clearer definition than that. You need a big hairy audacious goal. The point of a BHAG is that even if you don't achieve it, you will have done significantly more than if you just went with the flow. College is ultimately a business, selling you the resources and opportunities you need to do something. It's up to you to figure out what that something is and what resources and opportunities you need to consume to get there.
Existential crises are okay though. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do later on? Having them is okay. Just don't have them every day. :)
- But don't forget to enjoy the little things. It's often said that college is the best 4 years of your life. That can be true, but it can also be very very false. There's obviously a difference between being productive and having fun, but it's important to balance the two. Olin is nice in that a lot of your work is going to be fun. But it can consume you, too. Don't let your hobbies slip. Go to movies. Sleep in on weekends. Read books outside. Get to see places around Olin. Go on trips with friends.
- College will come in floods. There will be times whenever there is hardly any work to do, the weather is nice, and everything is perfect. You will be the most content person in the world. Then there will be times where everything is due on the same day, the weather is miserable, everyone is cranky, and there's nothing good to eat in the dining hall. You will be sick of things. That's why the little things are important (see #3).
I think this was one of the lessons I learned.
- Treat it like an intellectual buffet. This seems like the best way to ensure you have a good time. Sign up for a whole bunch of things, more things than you could possibly manage together. Then just drop out of things as they become less interesting or too overwhelming. Don't avoid something because "you don't have time". You only have four years here - that time will fly by. I cannot stress this enough - do not skip an opportunity without a water-tight reason as to why you physically can't. As we say at Olin: work, sleep, fun. Choose two.
Wait, the first year is over already?