student advice on freshman year

Mira Howard graduated from Pomona College with a double major in physics and economics. During her time at Pomona, she became involved in music outreach, and spent her free time working at the recreational pool as a lifeguard. In her free time she enjoys rollerblading, playing piano, and reading books on psychology.

Simply put, college is an overwhelming mess of friends, and lectures, and revelations that seems to span both the course of a lifetime, and that of an introductory chemistry class. An unexpected mishmash of professors, hookups, and dining halls, college will prove itself to be one of the most startlingly beautiful and significant times of your life. However, the (give or take) four precious years you spend on this first step of higher education is often approached with the same jaunty carelessness of a traveler on a backpacking trip: spontaneously and with only a vague sense of direction. Beware this backpackers mentality.
While four years seems like a very long time, do not forget that a single semester constitutes an eighth of your college experience, and that at least 3 of these eights will be dedicated to a major you may or may not be aware exists yet. The number of classes you can take is finite and more limited than you might imagine. Therefore, exceedingly careful thought must be taken in considering enrollment in each class you take. So what about all the talk of self-discovery and exploration you have been hearing about?
It is here that I would like to interject the notion of slow-fast time. In brief terms, slow-fast time serves to explain how college both moves rapidly enough to warrant concern and care in course and activity selections, but also slowly enough to allow plenty of time for exploration and discovery in these same areas. An inexplicable phenomenon of college, no doubt caused by wild fluctuations in gravitational patterns around college campuses, slow-fast time, and an understanding of it, will allow you to gain the most from your expensive, exciting and with any luck, enlightening college experience. To better understand how to make sure this happens, first let us consider the fast side of slow-fast time. When planning college, it is often useful to first remember that time moves fast, and list out any field, course, activity, group of friends, or professor you might want to experience. While you contemplate how quickly college moves, and how limited your time there will be, the most important facets of your potential college experience will jump out at you, helping formulate an organic and holistic college experience outline. This is the step of the college planning experience I left out, leaving me to waste two semesters on chemistry and biology, which I not only disliked, but also found no use for in later courses. Where I excelled however, was in the consideration of the slow time side of the slow-fast time paradox.
When considering slow time, you remember how long of a time four years really is. Four years is long enough to enter college a teenager and leave in your twenties. Four years is long enough to enter college a virgin and leave a hipster. And four years is certainly long enough to try your hand at ultimate Frisbee, philosophy, pottery, Japanese energy movement, and African dance. Four years is a long time, and you will have many opportunities to partake in interesting classes, activities, clubs, talks, and friend-groups.
The best advice that could be followed before entering college is to identify how slow-fast time will play out your life. Hold a clear image and goal of what you want to get from college. Understand time will go fast and make sure to allow yourself room to get done what you absolutely want to be done. But you must also allow yourself to be distracted by the wild and varied nature of college. Understand that time will go slow and that you do have time to try those things you never even knew you wanted to try. By understanding the notion of slow-fast time, you will get out of your college experience everything you will need, though not everything that you want. Because the truth of the matter is that no college time can move slow enough to allow its students absolutely enough time to want nothing more from it.

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