Dear Freshmen, Take My Advice

By Nicole Bolt

Before I embarked on my long and treacherous journey from Illinois to Iowa, I was given a lot of advice on what I should and should not do for the next four years. Prior to becoming a Hawkeye, the University of Iowa was the last school on my list. There were two very important reasons as to why I didn’t want to go. First, I do not like the color gold for apparel (this was almost a deal breaker in my book). Secondly, I thought all of my classes would be plopped down in the middle of a cornfield, and I would sit on a bail of hay instead of at a desk. As I start my senior year though, I really can’t imagine what life is going to be like outside of Iowa City nine months from now.

I think the biggest piece of advice I heard was, “Enjoy this time. This is going to be the best four years of your life.” Seems pretty anticlimactic as far as life goes if you ask me. Does that mean that after 22 I’ve reached my peak? Each year of college has only gotten better, so I’m hoping the rest of my life follows suit. But the cliché I heard so frequently the summer before college has been so true. I came into school undecided, and now I’m graduating with my degree, plus two minors. 

What I did know going into school was that I wanted a Big 10 marching experience, so I joined marching band as a freshman. If there is something that sparks your interest, follow it. 

One of my new professors told us this week, “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” When you experience that first spark, it really does make all of the sleepless nights at the library worth it.

I’ve been a four-year member of the Hawkeye Marching Band on campus, and as I gave incoming freshmen on advice where to study, eat, and shop, I was struggling to fully come to terms with the fact that this is my final year. The time really did pass so quickly. If I could give incoming freshmen one piece of advice, it would be this:

Embrace Failure.

You will fail. If you’ve never failed before, this may be hard to believe. But trust me. There will come a point in your college career when you fail. You will fail to remember your paper is due tomorrow, you will fail to get an A- by .3% and end up with a B+, you will fail to make everyone happy, you will fail to get a date. You. Will. Fail. Here’s the cool part: that’s ok. I managed to fail Elementary Functions of Math in college (it felt far from elementary). One failure doesn’t mean that you aren’t still amazing. You are not a perfect person, and if someone expects you to be, they’ve clearly forgotten their failures. It’s inevitable that you’re going to make mistakes. Don’t run away from failure, but also don’t run toward it. When it happens, it happens…just move on from there and do better. 

I asked some of my friends from all across the country what they would say to incoming freshmen, but even if you’re a senior, you still have a whole year ahead of you. That’s still a whole lot of time to do some great things. Here’s what they had to say:

Abhishek Dsouza

International Student, Major in Finance and Economics

University of Iowa

“Join student orgs, and get involved on campus. Try out something new that’s out of your comfort zone.”

Michelle Andrews

Major in Management & Human Resources and Clarinet Performance

University of Wisconsin

“It’s okay to not know right away what you want to do.”

Gina Denando

Major in Fashion Business, minor in Public Relations

Columbia College


“Trying something new in college doesn’t always necessarily mean school. Sometimes it’s about the coffee shop around the corner and the pottery club down the street. Make the college experience worth your while.”

Jon Katz

Major in Cell and Molecular Biology

Tulane University

“It goes by quickly. Don’t stress over the small things.”

Audrey Binder

Major in Nursing

University of Iowa

“My advice for incoming freshmen is get a planner! I found that having a physical notebook was more helpful because I could see everything at once. Write everything down – exams, a change in a professor’s office hours, even lunch with a friend. As a nursing major, I had a ton of random things to keep track of, and I think this has been one of my biggest keys to success.”

Chris Jang

Major in Mechanical Engineering

United States Air Force Academy

“My advice is catered to the freshman here, but I feel like it can be applied to other schools too. Basically, it comes down to three things: do your best, don’t do anything stupid, and don’t complain about things. Just embrace it all. That’s the best advice that I could give here and the best advice that I’ve been given over the last three years.”

Nicole Bolt is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in English with minors in mass communications and communications studies. The University of Iowa is home to the Alpha of Iowa Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.