Before my younger brother came to John Brown University, I decided to write him letters containing advice to help him succeed and enjoy his JBU experience. I think you’ll find some useful information in these letters, as well as some personal stories about my time as a JBU student. I hope the information in these letters will help you to succeed at JBU but, more importantly, I hope they help you to enjoy this formative time in life.
I hear you’ve decided to follow in my footsteps and attend JBU this coming fall semester. As your older brother, I feel obligated to write to you and share some tips that I’ve learned these past four years at JBU. I’ll tell you how to have a great experience and pass your classes at the same time. So pay close attention and take heed of what I tell you, because you won’t hear this advice from your admissions counselor.
I want to warn you about saying “yes” to EVERYTHING. I’ve seen many people, even close friends, fall into this trap that is often set specifically for incoming freshman. The first Sunday of the school year is dedicated to all the clubs on JBU campus and provides a time where students can get information and join clubs. I don’t have anything against clubs on campus, and I’ve even been involved in a few over the years. However, I wouldn’t advise signing up for clubs on the first week of the year. You don’t even know what your schedule or homework load will look like. You would just be assuming you’d have enough time. I think you should wait before saying yes to everything until you have a better grasp on what your day-to-day schedule looks like, from your class schedule to the homework load. A huge part of college is experiencing new things, so when you learn that you do have time, don’t hesitate to jump into clubs, student plays and intramurals.
Mom told me you were already stressed about deciding a major, and you were intent on deciding before coming to JBU. I want to assure you that you don’t need to declare a major before coming to JBU. Many students arrive “undeclared,” and they always end up finding a field that interests them. Freshmen typically don’t take many classes that are directly related to their major in their first two semesters anyway, so you could take those first two semesters to figure out your interests and strengths, and then declare your major. Mom also told me that you were stressed because you’re worried about finding a job after school. First of all, don’t be worried about jobs when you haven’t declared a major. Second, your interests, whether personal or professional, will change upon graduation, so don’t worry about job security until at least your junior year. Until then, there’s no point stressing about your career.
The last thing I want to mention to you is the actual school work at JBU. I know in high school we could both “wing it” when it came to scheduling and finding time to do our work, as well as having time to hang out with friends. But college is a little different. The main difference being that we’re solely responsible for completing our work and attending classes. We don’t have our parents hiding in our dorms telling us to do our work or wake up on time. I highly recommend using a weekly planner to schedule out your homework, meetings and social events. This might sound like overkill, but I’m telling you that it works. It keeps life simple and organized, and it will help you remember all your responsibilities. Mom and Dad probably didn’t tell you this, but my freshman year I spent a little too much time playing video games and not enough time doing homework. I received terrible grades my first two semesters and my GPA is still somewhat in shambles because of that year. After freshman year, I decided to put more time into homework and less time into Call of Duty so that I could improve my grades. The first step I took was using a weekly planner, which helped me know when I needed to turn in assignments or be at a meeting. My grades began to improve over time and eventually my GPA rose from the ashes of my freshman year. I don’t particularly enjoy telling you about my failures, but I hope you can take my failures and turn them into successes in your life. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did.
I’ll write more to you next week about people and friendships. Full disclosure: they’re important.