Four years fly by at the University of South Carolina.
As yet another record-breaking USC freshman class starts college this week, here are some suggestions on what made the experience so great, and what might make it even better.
1a. I’m glad I ... took a few off-the-wall classes
A sophomore-year basketball class made me a better pickup player at the Strom. And for a long while after a class that required weekly nature walks with USC naturalist Rudy Mancke, I could identify every tree or plant in sight.
1b. I regret ... not taking more
In hindsight, I wish I would have taken a few more of those classes, rather than a couple of electives I took senior year so I could spend more time on journalism. Most of us get only one shot – four or five years – at college. If you want to learn how to sail, or study craft beer or take a deep dive into Sherlock Holmes’ forensic methods, when will you get a better chance than now?
2a. I’m glad I ... played a ton of intramural sports
I made some of my closest friends in life while playing softball, soccer and sand volleyball at USC. Our 2015 USC dodgeball championship was maybe the most important thing I did in college.
I’m kidding. (I think.)
2b. I regret ... not climbing the rock wall at the Strom Thurmond Wellness Center
At orientation, it seems so inviting, a 52-foot-tall rock wall that you’re sure you will conquer just as soon as you get on campus. Then four years fly by, and you never found the time.
3a. I’m glad I ... got to know Columbia
There is more to the Palmetto State’s capital city than USC, and there is plenty to like. You’ve got Five Points, the Vista and, now, a lively Main Street district. There’s a river, minor league baseball and a nearby national park.
Don’t be afraid to venture off campus. You might even decide to stick around after graduation.
3b. I regret ... taking out so many student loans
Like plenty of other 18-year-olds, I was fairly financially illiterate when I sat down to pay my first USC tuition bill. I accepted the maximum federal student loan offered, then freaked out two years later when it had accrued more than $1,000 in interest.
I graduated with just a few thousand dollars in debt, but other students aren’t as lucky. Know ahead of time what you’re getting into, and how exactly you will pay for it.
4a. I’m glad I ... made the most of my internships
Grades are important, but internships are what really count.
I don’t know where I would be without the experience of covering USC athletics throughout college, interning one summer at the Aiken Standard, and spending the next summer at the Tulsa World in Oklahoma. But I can’t imagine I would have landed a job in journalism.
If someone offers you a chance to wedge your foot in the door, take it, and see if you can kick it open.
4b. I regret ... not studying abroad
Truthfully, I’m not sure how my mom would have handled my living briefly on another continent. But by all accounts, a well-timed semester abroad can be a heck of an experience. I’ve never taken a selfie at the Eiffel Tower, learned Spanish in Barcelona or downed a beer in Munich. A study abroad semester likely would have changed that.
5a. I’m glad I ... went to an away football game (and then a bunch more)
My first live college football game – ever – was a freshman year road trip to Athens, Ga., with my roommate and two other guys I got to know over the course of the weekend. We watched USC beat Georgia in a 45-42 shootout that remains the best game I’ve ever seen.
5b. I regret ... not appreciating midday naps
One thing they forget to tell you about the real world is that you can’t just come back to your dorm halfway through the day and crawl into bed.
Sure, you can sneak a nap in on a lazy Sunday. But the days of the noon-to-2-p.m. power snooze will end soon.
Make them count.