A Message to My Freshman Self

Looking for some advice for your first year? As a current junior, I write to my freshman self, offering tips and reflections from my time at U-M.

By Ellie Younger September 14, 2021
Blog post - A Messate to My Freshman Self

Now a couple weeks into my junior year, I figured I’d look back on where I started. I entered this school a nervous, introverted, hesitant freshman – I didn’t even want to go to the football games at first! Now, years later, I’ve made it through challenges I never thought I’d face, met people I could never imagine I would find, and learned things that pushed me way outside of my comfort zone. Reflecting on my first year, I figured I would give you a couple pointers.

U-M stadium
Michigan Stadium.

Don’t be so sure about your major.

You may think you know exactly what you want to do right now, but 18 is young to have your life all figured out. I don’t think I’ll have it all figured out for a long time. I suggest taking classes in a variety of subjects that interest you. Who knows, you might find something else you want to major or minor in, and at the very least, you’re learning about a topic that you’re curious about. As a first-year student, I felt so absolutely set in stone that I would be a nursing major, but that wasn’t my path. It’s important to allow yourself to explore and find what is really right for you.

Friendships are the most important.

Your friends should come before any relationship, hookup, ex, party, or event. One thing I learned throughout my time in college is how much my friends truly are my chosen family. As I was so far away from my home, the people I surrounded myself with became my non-blood-related family members. Their health, safety, and happiness are more important than any fun night out.

You don’t have to be best friends with the first people you meet.

As a first-year student, I put so much pressure on myself to find friends right away. I was lonely, homesick, and desperate to find my people. I didn’t consider the fact that it’s important to find the right friends — people who share my values and have common interests. Make friends with whomever you can, but the first people you meet might not end up being your best friends, and that’s OK. Strong friendships take time to build. Give yourself that time.

A photo of my first-year dorm at Oxford. 
A photo of my first-year dorm at Oxford. ​​​

Try out different clubs and organizations.

My freshman year I put my uniqname down on so many club sign-up forms, but went to so few of their actual meetings and events. Clubs are great ways to find people who share common interests, and I really missed out on a lot of valuable experiences because, at the end of a long day of classes, all I wanted to do was go back home to my dorm. Now, I recognize the importance of taking advantage of everything that college has to offer. The social side of college helps balance out the difficulty of the academics.

Explore your identity.

For so long I felt the societal pressure that told me my identity was intrinsically tied to my career. Therefore, when I transferred out of nursing, I felt incredibly lost. Now, I recognize that my identity is completely separate from whatever I choose to do for work. Your value does not come from your labor. You define who you are, what you stand for, and who you will grow to be. 

There are a lot of things I would tell my freshman self. Don’t be so afraid of change, put yourself out there, ask for help, invest in good walking shoes. I realize, though, that my freshman year wouldn’t have been the same without all those events that made me learn these lessons for myself. So I suppose the main suggestion I have is be willing to learn, and not just from your professors, but from your peers, yourself, and your experiences.


Ellie Younger

Ellie Younger is a sophomore in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and plans to study Biopsychology, Cognition and Neuroscience. Ellie volunteers with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC) and is happy to have found her U-M community in the club Survivor Michigan, for which she is an HR executive. She loves hiking in her home state of Oregon, conversations about social justice, and good poetry.