A Letter to My First-Year Self

By Serena Lin ‘25

Tip #4: It’s ok to fail … cut yourself some slack.
(To be continued…)

graphic image of tips

Throughout my first year, I started the practice of writing weekly letters to myself to celebrate, commiserate, and collect meaningful moments. As I completed my first month of my sophomore year, I decided to write a letter to my first-year self. Hopefully, you’ll find some of this advice helpful.

Dear first-year Serena,

I hope things are going well and you’re adjusting to life on a college campus. Things definitely become progressively busier yet more balanced as you find a routine & build more connections. Here are seven things I wish I had known during my first-semester of college:

1: Get Organized!
You’ll have a lot more unstructured time in college, but there’s definitely lots of stuff to do. Use Google calendar or something similar. And don’t forget to schedule in time to rest!

2: Speak up in Class!
Sharing a half-baked idea or worrying about stumbling through a reading in front of others are valid concerns. I have done both, but, honestly, nobody really cares! We tend to be our own harshest critics.

3: Ask Questions!
I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve been super grateful for someone else who asked (what they considered to be) a “stupid question.” When you ask for clarification, there’s probably someone else who had that same question as well.

4: It’s OK to Fail… cut yourself some slack in the moment.
Progress over perfection. I majorly tanked one of my chem exams … but was able to improve and still do well in the class overall. Don’t let your doubts distract you from your dreams.

5: Try New Things!
Whether it’s salsa dancing, woodworking, Spanish, or birdwatching, the sky’s the limit. And you don’t need to be “good” at everything … I’m still a terrible dancer lol.

6: Try to Study Outside of Your Dorm!
It’s much easier to fall asleep / get distracted when your bed & craft supplies are nearby. Estella, Honnold-Mudd Library 2nd floor, and the Skyspace are great alternatives!

7: Learn as You Go.
I’m still figuring it out as I go. Be adaptable, keep an open mind, and don’t take yourself too seriously. Some of the most memorable moments are the spontaneous ones.