Five things I wish I knew as a freshman

First friends aren't forever friends, apply for scholarships and take a deep breath

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courtesy Marissa Heffernan | The Daily Wildcat

 Marissa Heffernan on her only visit to Tucson before attending UA.

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When my plane touched down in Tucson in 2015, I didn’t know a single person there. Born in southern Maine, I had decided to make college the adventure people always called it, and transplant my life to Tucson – a place I had visited exactly once before.

I was nervous, of course, because I felt like I had to make this school work – I had thrown all my chips down to make this move. If I got homesick, my recourse would be difficult and expensive. 

But even if you’ve lived next to the University of Arizona your whole life, making the transition to college can still be nerve-wracking. Here are a couple tips from someone who did it successfully – or at least well enough.

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The first and most important thing is don’t overwhelm yourself. Sure, there are over 600 clubs on campus, but you don’t have to join all of them. Pick a few favorites and focus on those, because one club you really invest yourself in will be much more rewarding than five clubs you only dabble in. 

Similarly, don’t pour too much time into homework that isn’t worth it. As a type-A perfectionist, I dedicated more hours to gen-ed courses than they required, choosing two extra pages in my essay over going to the football game with friends. 

Now, looking back, I wish I had those memories instead of the super-high A. 

No, I’m not saying don’t do your homework, but I could have gotten the same grades with half the time my freshman year, and half the stress. Mental breakdowns in the first month of the semester are a sure-fire sign you’ve taken on too much.


courtesy Marissa Heffernan

Marissa Heffernan adapting to desert life one year after moving to Tucson. Heffernan, a Daily Wildcat reporter and editor, is studying French, journalism and environmental science. 


Speaking of friends, the first friends you meet don’t have to be your best buds for the rest of the four years. College is about finding yourself, and by extension, your people. Don’t be afraid to (gently and kindly) distance yourself from first-week friends if you find out they’re not quite your type. At a school of 45,000, people you’ll click with are out there. Don’t settle for less. 

And, after that first year, if you plan to move off-campus, choose that roommate wisely. Someone you’ve been loosely friends with all year, who seems all right, could turn out to be the worst roommate ever. Think carefully about what your pet peeves and ways of living are.

I can’t stand dishes left in the sink overnight, or hanging out with the same person 24/7. That led to trouble my sophomore year, when my friend and I shared an apartment. She wanted constant contact, and I wanted space. 

That didn’t just cause an uncomfortable year – we’re no longer friends. Living together destroyed our friendship, so sometimes, a house of besties isn’t the best idea. 

Finally, on a more financial note, log in to Scholarship Universe as soon as you’re done reading this and fill out your profile. It’s a scholarship compiler the UA uses. There are literally thousands of scholarships, with requirements ranging from long research essays to surveys and videos. Apply for them. Apply for all of them. 

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You may think it’s ‘only’ a $500 scholarship, but the obscure, small prizes are far easier to win, and if you get four of them, that’s $2,000 you don’t need in loans. If I had known about Scholarship Universe my first semester, I wouldn’t have needed to take out a loan – but I haven’t needed one since. Yes, applying for 70 scholarships a semester does take hours, but to me, that trade-off is certainly worth it. 

Overall, college is what you make of it, so don’t be afraid to make these four years what you want. 

Marissa Heffernan is a senior studying journalism and environmental science. She used to try to do everything, before learning to just do the important things.


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