If you’re making the leap from high school to college at the University of Texas at Austin, there are a few things you can do to ensure that your stay in Austin is worthwhile and enjoyable.
1. Skate like the Wind, Bullseye
If you were the kid who skated in high school, skate in college. There are plenty of Supreme-donning skater dudes and gals on campus. Don’t be afraid to do the same. But remember the reality of a professional skate career, and be open to other career paths that don’t involve nutsack-crushing rail grinds. The campus nurse is busy, and the price of retooling your nutsack is steep. “The hipster-skate scene is still a thing here,” sophomore Steven Reynolds said. “There is an endless array of Vans-looking kids around.” The point is, remember those “if I could go back” stories your grandpa told you. Take them into consideration, and do what you want. College is supposed to be the best four years of your life, right?
2. Take registration seriously
You were accepted into the business school, but you think that McCombs is a cult of slick-haired Jordan Belfort, sweater vest types. Don’t fret–there are plenty of electives available to give you insight into other areas of academia. Once you know what kind of lectures you actually enjoy, you can avoid changing your major three times. You can also determine what internships to pursue, clubs to join or scenes on campus to be a part of. “Don’t just skim through the class listings. Get on Rate My Professor and do some research. Read the descriptions. Don’t just check off the requirements,” senior Alyssa Solis said. In fact, UT releases class survey results online, so read up to make sure you’re not sitting in a class for hours listening to something that sounds like gibberish.
3. Or Don’t
Have you read Into The Wild? Is it your new religious text? Maybe you’re a free-spirited type who resents the institution of education, but you didn’t want to disappoint mom by buying that Kawasaki and blazing down Highway 65. Perhaps you don’t want to be pigeonholed as one thing or the other. Taking a step back and reviewing your options might put you at a disadvantage from some of your career-set peers, but you might not want a career. Deciding what college means to you can help you find your place at UT-Austin. “Take a philosophy class. Dabble in some Descartes. Take a field geology class. You can really do anything,” senior Mick Sterling said. Soak it all in, but take a shower afterwards. You don’t want to reek of pseudo intellect, and clean clothes don’t automatically pin you as a corporate lackey.
4. Be Prepared
Maybe you want to get your creative writing certificate. That’s great, and there are plenty of student media publications out there to get you published, like The Daily Texan and Texas Travesty. But remember, college is a place where flimsy editorials can get you into trouble. Know what you’re diving into before you get to the deep end. “I started writing for a digital magazine on campus…The comments section on my first piece was brutal,” junior Leo Toretto said. Know what you’re good at before you pursue a class or major, and understand the consequences of your pursuits. This helps you find your skillset and figure out how you can apply it to your studies. Plus, it’ll get you acquainted with the professors and student organizations that influence your interests at UT.
5. Try to get along with roommates
Nobody is perfect. That becomes abundantly clear when you stroll up to your dorm room and find your mild-mannered-seeming roommate doing something particularly strange. “My roommate was weird. I mean, really weird, but he opened my eyes to the fact that every dude, any random dude, has some perspective mulling around his brain that hasn’t dawned on you,” sophomore Alex Thompson said. His underwear might not belong on the showerhead, but he’s trying, and that’s the best anyone can do. Sometimes when you start college, your roommate is your first friend. What better way to explore a new campus and figure everything out than with someone just as lost and confused as you? Be open to the people you meet or you might miss out on some good ones. Knowing a lot of people helps you figure out which ones you want to spend the most time with.
6. Join a club
There are more than 1,300 student orgs and 70-plus sororities and fraternities at UT. Some clubs are just an excuse to exploit university funding, which may or may not be your thing. Either way, most students find some niche group on campus they can relate to. “I joined the Democratic Club because I wanted to learn more about local politics and have a group to actively participate in activism within Austin,” sophomore Jacob Stewart said.
7. Figure out the city
There’s nothing like arriving at a new place and not knowing where anything is. But you can figure it out. Download the University of Texas app. It shows you where your classes are and has other useful tools like a messaging center and building directories. “When I first got here I was clueless. People have this lingo for places. I had to get used to that,” junior Michaela Lange said. There are tons of places to study, drink, eat and play. Find them. Use Google if you have to. Make it your duty to visit a new venue every week. That way you can figure out where to spend your time. You might even meet someone cool along the way to go on new adventures with you. There are tons of fun places to explore, including Zilker Park, Sixth Street (The Dirty 6) and the Greenbelt, Austin’s long, winding river accessible via hiking trails.
8. Don’t just smoke pot and chill
“Honestly, I smoked a lot. Like a lot, dude,” sophomore Bryson Talbot said. “Kinda don’t remember a lot from sophomore year.” Ok you can do that some times, but without moderation you’ll find yourself in a very foggy place, and you wont be able to distinguish any of your smoking buddies from Sean Penn’s character in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. No, nobody has ever died from smoking pot, but testing that theory can prevent you from keeping up with your schedule and focusing on the future. In the end you might just be led down a dark rabbit hole at UT. Finding the right crowd for you is essential to making sure you stay (alive) at UT for all four years.
9. Be yourself
The stereotypical call-you-out-for-having-different-interests high school kid isn’t the reigning college cool guy. “Cool” isn’t even cool to some people. Don’t be afraid to be honest when the guy next to you in lecture asks you if that was a copy of Alice in Wonderland in your backpack. It was, and you’ll be reading it later, so take pride in it. “I didn’t think anyone would know Leonard Cohen,” senior Marissa Steward said. “He’s a scientologist, but his music is really good. And this guy heard him through my headphones one day and asked me who it was. I said it was John Mayer.” Austin has a huge music scene. There are tons of venues around the city hosting concerts every weekend playing music from punk to bluegrass to hip hop. Your taste in music, fashion and even the food you eat says a lot about you. You might find yourself appreciating other people with similar taste once you’re true to yourself. Being honest about your interests can help you surround yourself with people who won’t get mad if you have the aux cord or pick a place to eat for lunch.
10. Or somebody else
Be whoever you want to be. Change your name on Facebook. Write a blog about petunias. Join a quartet. “Freshman year, I literally tried out for 13 bands. I don’t play an instrument, but it was fun,” sophomore Jason Leigh said. Once you start exploring campus, you’ll find that UT-Austin students are not Star Wars stormtroopers. The student body is diverse, and there are just over 50,000 students in attendance. Nobody worthwhile cares how you spend your time as long as you’re happy and aren’t planning on being the next fascist dictator. In the end, you’ll have completed another chapter of your life. Make sure it isn’t a shitty read. Or don’t. It’s all up to you.