What’s most important for the first year of college, especially in the first term, is meeting as many people as possible. You’ll need those connections later when cliques begin to form and you want to spend time with people outside your primary social circle. You will have a primary social circle, and you will find yourself becoming complacent and hanging out with them all the time. Those that have a lively freshmen year network can move more easily through social circles, have more diverse friends, go to more events and parties and generally, have more control over who you spend time with.
The scariest part about Freshmen year is how random it all is. Things you have no control over can easily shape your life: your roommate, your dorm, the people in your class, who you always see at lunch. People are generally eager to find friends, so they hang out with people who are spatially close. Those friendships can last for four weeks or four years.
Meet as many people as possible. It’s much easier to meet people and join groups during Freshmen year than any other time.
Find something you enjoy and find other people that enjoy doing it. Hang out with them. “Something” does not include booze or drugs. Those friendships are generally extremely weak.
Don’t get too comfortable. Comfort leads to complacency, which leads to short term thinking and unintended limitations of social options.
Have goals, acknowledge them and accomplish them. “Just do it” should be your college motto. Now is the time to increase your confidence. If you want to be editor of the school paper, its a 3 year process.
Realize that labels are important on the outside, but ONLY on the outside. Unfortunately, being in a good fraternity or not hooking up with a loser are important in the bull shit social climbing college scene, but only on the outside. Once people get to know you those labels become much less important.
Social circles are small, even if the college isn’t. What you do and say can easily come back and bite you.
It’s much easier to stop hanging out with people than it is to start. Its also much easier to leave a group than it is to join one.
College goes quicker than you think. Seize the fucking day.
Greek life (frats and sororities) is different on every campus. Some places its essential; other places it’s not. It’s easy to figure out if it is or isn’t. What percentage of the campus is Greek? Are the frats throwing the parties? Are you running into Greeks? If so, it’s probably a something worth checking out.
If you have a strong interest and plan to hang out with other people with that interest (i.e. theater, film, debate, student government) then you’ll have a sufficiently large group of people to hang out with that share that passion, so going Greek isn’t as essential. If you don’t have a reason to hang out with an interest-group, going Greek is good because it provides you with 30-80 people that could become great friends. It creates a large primary social circle, and that’s essential. Also, going Greek allows you to more easily meet other Greeks from the opposite sex.
The most socially fulfilled people I know are Greeks with a strong interest group. They can date and hang out with people from two large social circles. Some people lead two different lives. Others bring the two groups together and both social circles benefit. The least socially fulfilled people I know didn’t go Greek and don’t have an interest group. They spend most of their time with a close set of friends forged during Freshmen year. This isn’t necessarily bad. A lot of people don’t like having large social networks.
Full disclosure: The primary author of this post is a senior in a fraternity, but there was input from a number of people, boys, girls, affiliated and unaffiliated with Greek organizations.