First-year students come to Geneseo with a blank slate and boundless opportunity. Many have come with strong friendships founded at home, and by all means, it is important to treasure those relationships. However, friendships forged at college may be the most reliable assets in a student's life and can carry on for decades into the future.
Reduce all the judgments and rules of socializing to shaking hands and saying "Hi" to every person that passes by. Any kindergartner knows that this is a foolproof method for making friends. But with the inevitable formation of cliques and clubs, social circles and stereotypes, most people forget how simple the process truly is. The first month of freshman year levels the playing field once again. On move-in day, the popularity contest of high school ends.
Residence halls, especially those with a large percentage of freshmen, are designed as arenas for sociability. Attend programs and visit the lounges at night. Make a habit of walking around your floor before retreating to your room. You can invite yourself into any open room and make friends in a matter of minutes. If actively meeting people is a bit much, simply keep the dorm room door open, play your favorite song, and invite anyone to come in. Don't expect any long-term friendships or relationships to come of these introductions, but ride them like waves until different ones begin to stick.
Make a habit of saying "Yes." With few activities on your plate, it's tempting to lock yourself in your room and enjoy the freedom. There's a time and place for that, but not the first month of your first semester at college. There are 5,000 personalities on campus. Be proactive and look for informational meetings, intramural sports and other events that fit with your personality. In these early weeks, get a taste of everything that interests you. Later in the semester, one or two groups may prove worthy of a long-term commitment. The people you meet there may be your friends for the next fifty years.
Geneseo continues to expand its program for incoming freshmen, from "Weekend" to "Week" to the current "Weeks of Welcome." The top floor of the College Union has a calendar filled with interesting events and "Upstate Escape" activities. The "What's Up" e-mails are equally packed with what's happening on campus, and "Goings On" in The Lamron is an entire page of the week's activities. In the first month of school, classes are generally easy and commitments are few. Immerse yourself in these opportunities to be social.
Some of the most valuable friendships a freshman can make are with upperclassmen, who have the years under their belt to know the tricks, tidbits and pitfalls of life at Geneseo. They may have tips about one of your courses or professors. They may know the coolest places to go for the weekend. They may just point you in right direction to Welles.
The same goes for professors, who are a wealth of knowledge and experience that students often overlook until it's too late. In high school, teachers are teachers and students just have to deal with them. In college, the best professors may demand the respect of students but have no interest in intimidating them. Visit their office hours as you would visit any student's dorm room.
Getting to know professors is not about kissing up, but about establishing a genuine friendship with an extraordinary resource. Having professors as allies may not change test scores, but the long-term benefits of such alliances emerge after the course is complete. They will not only be there to advise you throughout your college career, but they can help you make critical decisions about your professional career. Befriending a great professor within your major secures free access to expert advice from someone in the field you want to enter. You can't even pay for that kind of opportunity.
The simple advice of a kindergarten teacher is something that can help anyone excel in college and in life, more than a 4.0 GPA ever could: Be friendly, always and to everyone.