I’ve recently graduated from Brigham Young University (PROVO!) after five years on campus, so I’ve compiled my top ten tips for new Cougs. I’ve been planning this video for months; I meant to film it while I was still a student but it’s worked out nicely as freshman will be getting to Provo next week for summer term! I focused on a few practical tips (like if someone asks you if you like Harry Potter, you always say yes. For self preservation.) and more tips on how to grow as a person. Here comes the summary, but make sure to check out the full video on my channel and share with any fresh freshman you know. (Or, read this post but put the video on mute. Mama’s gotta get them views.)
1. Choosing a Major
- You have time.
- Visit the Academic Advisement Office in the WILK for help choosing a major.
- You’ll probably change your major once, or twice or three times. It’s okay if the one you picked first doesn’t end up being your actual major. It’s your time to explore! You learn and change and grow and experience new things and you could realize you found something better than what you came in to do initially.
- It’s okay to become well rounded by ending up in a different major than you dreamed of.
- Trust your gut and trust your promptings about what you want/should do. Choosing a major can be your opportunity to find something new to excel in.
- Any educational experience you get will be worthwhile.
- Just Say No to overloading your schedule! Take it easy- 14 credits at most. You’ll be surprised by how much time and mental energy your classes take, even though you may not have them every day. It’s better to take less credits and do well than squeeze in too many classes and do poorly.
- You have a new huge mental load to carry in college vs high school. You’re living on your own, planning when/what to eat, meeting new people, being homesick, being sick on your own for the first time, have callings, clubs, studying, etc. etc. Plan on taking a lighter load of classes your first year to adjust and save your sanity.
- Fun classes are fun, but they are work. Even a yoga class requires tests, quizzes and full attendance.
- Try skiing! Sundance Resort is so close. This class does take up a full afternoon though.
- DESPH 116 Photography (declare as an art minor first, but then you’ll learn how to use a DSLR manually and use that skill your whole life.)
- Beginner Ballet and Tap
- World Religion
- You can take Philosophy 150 instead of Writing 150 (if you need a challenge)
- DIGHT 230: Print Publishing is so great for learning the whole Adobe Suite
- University Chorale (non-auditioned and wonderful)
- Linguistics 110 fills a GE and was incredibly interesting and useful.
- I loved the one time I did spring term. The spring weather in Provo is perfect, campus isn’t crowded until EFY starts, and I felt energized in doing my classwork, but class periods are long and time flies by – it’s finals week before you know it.
- If you come to school with people that you know, be prepared that you will both grow and change and you’ll respond to new situations differently. You’ll go through different things. Be okay with moving on from friends if they are no longer the kinds of friends that you want. Say you find friends you gel with better; it’s okay to move on in a mature way.
- Be kind to people. It’s really easy to be cliquey, especially freshman year, so look for people who may not have friends or can’t make friends as easily as you. It’s so easy to be kind, but at the same time, don’t exhaust yourself. There are so many new people and it can be overwhelming, especially living in the dorms and being surrounded by people all the time. Take the time to yourself that you need, and don’t be afraid to do things/spend time on your own. It’s important to develop that confidence in yourself and to learn to enjoy your own company.
- How to find friends: I like to believe the universe puts like-minded people together. College is the time to be yourself, and your true friends will be drawn to your true self. If you’re not sure who you are just yet, it’s the perfect place to explore, meet new people, change and grow into yourself. Also, find someone who needs a friend and join things you like because you’ll find people who also like that thing.
- Once you find those true friends, hold onto them. These are the kind of friendships that last!
4. Clubs and Activities
- How you can make friends! Go in just wanting to have a good time and to do something you enjoy.
- It’s important to be involved. (I should’ve taken that advice and joined Big Brothers/Big Sisters or tutoring.) Go to the Y-Serve office and they’ll hook you up. Volunteering enriches your life, and you’ll need those types of experiences for your resume/grad school application.
- It’s nice to take a break away from yourself. Looking back, being a teenager means you’re naturally more self involved; it’s how our brains work. You should take any opportunity you have to serve or look out for someone else, especially when you’re feeling homesick and lost.
- Go to activities and join clubs that sound interesting. Most majors have their own club/pre-professional organization so get involved. (PRSSA became my family!)
- Go see shows and performances at the HFAC. I saw Lea Salonga my last month in school and dreams. come. true. Use the freshman theater pass! (It’s still a thing, right?)
- Join an intramural team by some miracle (it can be hard to find one) and have a ball.
5. Leave University More Woke Than When You Got There
- I seriously hope when you leave college you are more open-minded, you’ve formed your own educated opinions and you’re able to have productive conversations with people who have differing viewpoints from you. The people you meet have come from different places and have been through different struggles than you. Be willing to learn from others and show respect to them.
- It’s great if you can let go of your view of how the world is supposed to be and keep your mind open to how other people live and what they think. Nothing is worse than a graduate who is still as close-minded as when they got to BYU and haven’t challenged their internal notions of racism, sexism or homophobia. Like, have you not talked to or gotten to know anyone different than yourself?
- Have a wide pool of people you know and keep your mind open. Be open to different professors and people in your classes.
6. Where to Live
- You’ve probably already picked your freshman housing, and if you haven’t, you’re probably freaking out!
- I lived fall semester in Wyview and winter semester in Helaman. The dorms are so much fun and I lucked out because I had my own room (mission age change mass exodus) which made it easier to have alone time. The shared bathroom wasn’t a big deal at all since you have a sink in your room to wash your face/brush your teeth. Make sure you have flip-flops and I loved having a velcro towel to use to get from the shower back to my room.
- Picking housing depends on if you have a car or not. Heritage Halls are amazing and in the best location (no hill) but there’s very limiting parking. And trust me, you do not need the added stress of trying to find a parking spot in your life.
- Off-campus: everything is a year-round FWSS contract and it is a PAIN to sell. There’s no way of getting out of it besides selling it – trust me, I’ve tried. Sell your contract early and hopefully to someone you know because they might actually respond to your messages.
7. What to Eat
- I eat mostly gluten-free and it was limiting, but hopefully it’ll get better while you’re a student. BYU food employees should know what is/what isn’t gluten/dairy/peanut free. Many things in the Cannon Center are labelled for allergens and the chefs can always whip up something.
- YOU HAVE CHICK-FIL-A. You’ll never know a Cougareat without a Chick-fil-A. #blessup.
- Scoreboard Grill makes a really good breakfast scramble that’s cheap and only served until 10:30 a.m. (and they are serious about that cut-off.)
- Maybe you will see the day they have caffeinated sodas on campus. BE THE CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD.
- CALM IT DOWN. I realize now in hindsight that I get the hype about wanting to marry quick and young, but I cannot imagine my 18-year-old self getting married. You change and grow and mature SO MUCH every year of this young adulthood period of your life.
- Date because you want to get to know new people and want to have fun, new experiences, not necessarily with marriage in mind.
- It’s so great to get married and it’s important, but you have so much time. Just have fun you guys.
- An important lesson I learned: You can date someone and not have it end up in marriage (which happens a lot) and not be crushed by it. Use it as a growing experience and to learn from someone. It sucks to break up, but it’s okay because that experience is worthwhile.
- It’s not fair to go into a relationship, or just on a date, with the mindset of “Oh I don’t see myself marrying this person.” It’s very limiting. You’ll be missing out on getting to know someone who’s cool or someone who could help you down the line or give you ideas for new directions in your life or new things you want to do. So just don’t say no to someone because you’re like “Oh I wouldn’t want to marry this person.” because you’re probably not going to. So, just calm down about that.
- This is your time in your life to be selfish. It’s your time to be on your own. It’s your time to do want you want. It’s your time to learn. It’s your time to grow as a person which will only help you down the line when you are later married and want to have a family. You want to have this time to anchor yourself and figure out who you are because sometimes when you go right into a relationship, you really don’t have much time to figure out who you are on your own. I think it’s important to have that sense of self. (PS: Everyone in my immediate family married around the age of 20-21 and many of them found their soulmate on the first try. There is much to be said about marrying young and growing up together. I’m only speaking from my personal experience about the benefits of waiting to get married and how to not be stressed about not being married young and in college. Everyone has a different life path and I’m in no place to judge if you did get married at 18 after your first semester! You do you, boo.)
Singles Wards and Dating
- Be aware of the dating pressure and reject it. I’m against pushing dating so aggressively in singles wards because you should be there at church to be at church, to learn about the Savior and grow your testimony. It should NOT be a meat market. You should not feel “I need to be looking good every Sunday because I need to meet my husband.” It should be “I’m here at church to worship.” It’s strayed so far from that simple purpose and it’s sad.
- You will meet so many great people in your singles ward but I think there is so much pressure to get married and to look good and frequently objectifying yourself (adopting an outsider’s gaze to always be obsessed with your looks) that you don’t get a chance to just be friends with people. The dating pressure prevents simple friendships between guys and girls forming, and that’s how you date people. Great relationships come from good friendships.
- Yeah, it’s important to get married but not this second.
- Value sincerity. Value people who are sincere because there are people who are not. There are people who date just based on looks and who aren’t interesting. You’ll learn how to tell when people are sincere along the way.
- Going to church is a big part of your time at BYU and your wards are very much a part of your cultural experience.
- I didn’t always have the best experiences in my wards and I’m not sure if that was just me or my outlook on it or if it was just not the best ward for me. Part of the trick is finding people you gel with and remove the dating cloud that prevents you from just making friends.
- My best piece of advice when going to a new ward/new anything: find someone who lonelier than you. Find someone who needs a friend and be that friend for them. This attitude will serve you your whole college experience and beyond.
9. Study Abroad
- Studying abroad in London my first semester of sophomore year (fall semester 2013) was the best thing I ever ever did. It completely changed my life direction. It changed everything.
- The main thing I took away from my study abroad (besides my obsession with going back and living in the most expensive city super far away) is my FRIENDS. My best, lifelong friends. I went on study abroad alone (and was terrified) but came out with my ride or die homies, including my #1 I ended up rooming with the rest of college. Meeting these friends saved me.
- Study abroads are the best way to make friends because you are stuck with a pack of strangers for months on end and have nothing else to do but become friends. It helps that you have common interests (the city you’re living in and what you’re studying). You really get to know people for who they are.
- If you end up not serving a mission like me, study abroads are a wonderful experience to have. You get to be away in a foreign place with people that you love and gain independence. Plus, when you get home you can have reunions and see everyone again. And cry about not being in London every day together like you were.
- BYU offers many ways to finance your study abroad with grants and scholarships. I worked for a summer at Home Depot as a cashier to help finance mine! Once studying abroad is your goal, you’ll be able to work to make it happen.
- Just do it. DO IT! You’ll be changed. Like I said, this is the time in your life to be selfish. Explore!
- (This includes Washington Seminar. DO IT!)
10. Be Yourself and Let Others Be Themselves
- It’s easy for us to project our worldview and what we have on other people but it prevents us from appreciating others’ points of view. It helps to serve someone because you forget your differences.
- BODY POSITIVITY IS SO IMPORTANT. BYU is a campus full of hot Instagram models and you have to train your brain to appreciate the body you have. Otherwise, you’ll get depressed and be so hard on yourself. Practice body positivity and encourage it among those around you. Follow Beauty Redefined for help to do this. Never punish yourself and love the body you have. Learn this young and you’ll save yourself so much grief. Plus, your looks are just one part of you and not everything that matters. Love all aspects of yourself. Reject the cultural pressure to look a certain way, and if you look a certain way, that’s perfect because that’s you!
- Get into your head early “I’m learning from someone and I’m not judging them.” It’s so easy to envy people because you’ll meet so many amazing and cool people. Surround yourself with people who love you for you.
- The best thing you can do in college is overcome your self-consciousness and develop your self-confidence.
- You’ll be exposed to new ideas, many you’ll accept. In your classes, challenge what other people are saying that you might not agree with. Stand up for yourself even if you might be the only one that has that opinion because what you have to say is important. People will learn from and remember the things you say down the line. Speak your mind, and if you don’t have anything on your mind, learn new stuff to have on your mind, because that’s what college is about. College is meant to teach you how to think and how to have your own ideas.
And in the blink of an eye, you’ll go from this:
Now it’s up to you! Rise and Shout Cougars, you’ll have the time of your life. Go get ’em!