By: Skylar Zachian || Staff Writer

Attention incoming first-years: It’s Skylar, your friendly resident First-Year Advising Mentor, aka FAM, reporting for duty. You may have looked at the title of this article and thought: “Oh wow, Skylar’s about to drop some serious wisdom. She seems, like, super cool and smart and knowledgeable. And humble.” Thank you for the compliments! To be candid, though, I’ve spent the past week procrastinating writing this article because answering the question “what did I wish I knew before starting college” proved to be much more difficult than expected. Sure, I can tell you what to pack, how to make your course schedule, and how to excel in your classes, but I’m not going to do any of that here. I’m going to tell you a story. What? You really thought I would just share my advice and be done with it? I’m a creative writing major, you should have seen this coming. Let me start off with a quick metaphor — sorry, poetic devices come with the deal.

When I started college, I was a chihuahua. You’d think I would have been a fragile puppy, but man was I mighty. I was confident in my new territory and bouncing off the walls with excitement. Over the summer, I asked my own FAM — shoutout to Aryana Kavuri who is currently girlbossing in medical school at George Washington University — every question I could possibly think of to avoid making mistakes or being thrown any curve balls when I arrived on campus. What was she most surprised by when she arrived at Franklin & Marshall? What lingo did I need to know? Did students really call themselves fummers or was that just a quirky term coined by the Admission office? Side note— from what I’ve gathered I believe it’s the latter. When I arrived on campus, it was finally time to put everything I had learned into practice. And in this case, it seemed as though practice really did make perfect. On move-in day, a parent mistook me for a House Advisor. In class, a now-close friend assumed I was a senior. I was clearly ready to be F&M’s top dog. I had everything under control. 

Until about 2:35 pm on the first day of classes. Who knew that a torrential downpour and a safety alarm attached to my backpack wouldn’t be a good mixture? I sure didn’t think that one through. My entire CNX class can attest to the fact that incessant high-pitched buzzing filled the room for an entire hour and twenty minutes, and I had absolutely no idea that I was the culprit. After class when I finally realized what had happened, an alarm went off in my head. Well, yes, there was still a literal alarm ringing in my ears, but I also had an epiphany. No matter how hard I tried to plan out my college experience, unexpected twists and turns were inevitable. I would just have to roll with it. 

While some of the surprises to come were equally random and painfully embarrassing (again, I’ll save those for another time), others were much more fundamental to my college experience. As an incoming freshman, I didn’t think I stood a chance at Dance Team auditions, but I soon became a performing member. I was convinced that I wouldn’t be a fan of Greek Life, but my sophomore year self found that joining my sorority was one of the best decisions I’ve made to date. I certainly didn’t plan on taking classical singing lessons, but one spontaneous audition, a semester of vocal exercises, and a final performance of a song in a different language later, and here I am. If you would have told me that taking Geology as a distributional requirement would provide me with a newfound love for rocks, I probably would have laughed at you… but that happened too! The notion of studying abroad hardly ever crossed my mind, but this summer I had the time of my life at an F&M-led program in England — shoutout to Advanced Studies in England, you have my heart.  The list of unexpected experiences goes on and on, but at this point, you’re probably thinking “Okay Skylar you’ve done a lot of cool stuff but you still haven’t answered the question I’m here for.”

True. Thank you for keeping me on track. This retelling of my college career thus far might just seem like a long and winding way of advising you to be open-minded. Granted, it sort of is. But it’s more than that. I went into freshman year convinced that if I soaked up all of the advice from upperclassmen that I could, I would be able to learn from their mistakes instead of making my own. I thought that I could configure the perfect college experience so that by the time I was entering my junior year and looking back on what I wish I knew before starting college, I could honestly say that “ I already knew everything there was to know.” My answer now? It doesn’t matter what I knew going into college; what matters is what I’ve learned and how much I’ve grown by the time I come out of it. 

In two years, you might find yourself in a completely different place than you expect. That’s good! That’s great, actually. College is not going to go exactly as you expect. Embrace the experiences and opportunities that come your way. And most importantly, recognize that whatever you know right now is enough. You’ve got this. And if you need anything along the way, your friendly resident First-Year Advising Mentor Skylar — and all of the other lovely FAMs — are here for you. 

Rising junior Skylar Zachian is a staff writer. Her email is