Blog of the Peer Advising Leadership Program, College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley

September 19, 2011 3:52 PM

What I Wish I Knew as a Freshman

Today is one of those days. Those days where I look back at my past three years and think about the opportunities and resources that I wish I had known earlier. As a senior, graduation is looming close and I'm thinking to myself, "wow, in over 8 months, I am going to strike out in the real world." And boy, do I not feel ready at all!

Besides the fact that I don't want to leave college so quickly, there's still so many things that I wish I knew earlier and thus take advantage of opportunities earlier. Here are the things I wish I did as a freshman:

1) Make a list of what you are interested in.

Don't know what you want to major/minor in? Make a list with your fields of interest. Find overlapping classes (general courses) and take them. Talk to your professors and see what they like most about their field. Who knows? Maybe something that you learn about, either from class or from your professor, will pique your interest. At that point, I encourage you to pursue it!

If you'd like to get a personal perspective, make use of the easily-accessible resource: us! There are peer advisors in all the different colleges. Seek out peer advisors to see what they like about their own major.

2) Make a 4 year plan. Always be flexible, though!

It never hurts to have a good idea of what you'll be taking next semester. To my dismay, I've been in the position where I missed the opportunity to take a class that I really want simply because I didn't know that they weren't offered every semester. Some classes aren't even offered every year! (i.e. IB classes may appear once every four years... so make sure to include that in your 4 year plan!) Check out the classes you really want to take.

3) Take decals!

I'm slightly ashamed to say that this semester is the first time I am taking a decal. I'm not entirely sure why I never tried them out! Decals are classes taken for P/NP and have a big range of different subjects, from photography (which I am taking right now!) to Introduction to Chinese Martial Arts! They are offered every semester and give you a fun experience that is rewarded by units!

3) What skills do you want to gain?

Sadly, not everything is fun and games. When you start looking for jobs or internships, during or after your college years, one of the things that potential employers will look at are skills. How can you gain them?

It depends on each skill. If you're interested in sustainability, for example, you can become involved in the Sustainability Team and learn different ways to change our impact in our environment. Are you interested in public speaking and leadership? There are plenty of opportunities on campus where you can become involved through active participation and later appointment in their board. For example, a club that I am highly involved in, Cal Rotaract, has smaller committees where committee members can suggest their own projects and work with the committee leaders to see it actually happen. If you'd like to have more mathematical skills, there are classes that teach you how to use the statistical software R, such as STATS131A.

5) Make full use of your summer.

Get a job, volunteer abroad, study abroad or, if you'd like to be involved in research, get an early start! As a freshman, you may not think that you need to think about your career so quickly, but the summer-time is a perfect time to get to know different job fields. Summer is also a great to get a position in a research lab. It was relatively easy for me to get a lab position for the summer. It was definitely harder when I looked during the school year (perhaps because there are so many students around?)

Start looking early. Look into programs mid- to late-Spring semester, such as URAP, SPUR, etc. I personally was able to participate in the SPUR program. In the past summer, though, I participated in the STEER program, where I became so much more interested in Environmental Health Sciences. I only wish that I had been able to participate earlier.

And finally,
6) Take advantage of this wonderful location! We are close to SF! Berkeley is pretty awesome in itself. Keep an eye out on this blog, because we will definitely be talking about fun things to do and awesome eats around Berkeley.

As final words on this- it's been an amazing journey. I've learned a lot while missing quite a few opportunities, but I hope that by reading this, you will be better prepared for your remaining years here. If you have any questions, or if you'd like me to expand on anything, feel free to comment here or stop at my office hours on Wednesday, 10-11AM and 2-3PM in 260 Mulford!


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