Hannah Croft is a journalism freshman and Mustang Daily copy editor and freshman columnist.

I’m writing this from a hotel room, surrounded by the rest of the Mustang Daily staff and an overwhelming amount of soda and Girl Scout Cookies. We’re in Hollywood for a convention and downtime is treasured.

The rest of the staff is napping, touching up their hair and Facebook lurking. But me? I’m writing. It’s not working out too well, because we’re trying to figure out our dinner plans, and when we’re all in the same room without actually having to work it’s hilarious in the most dysfunctional way possible. But I’m happy. So completely, utterly and incandescently happy.

Cal Poly has taught me a lot. And I would wish upon anyone to have the same amazing experience I did with freshman year. A transition that flowed so seamlessly, a group of friends that welcomed me with arms wide open, faculty and staff there to help me if I ever needed it and breathtaking scenery right outside my door — what more could a college kid ask for?

Like I said, I’ve learned a lot. And since this is my last column, I figured I’d break down the best freshman year ever into five simple steps. And while this is technically the freshman column, it’s never too late for a little re-vamp of your outlook on college life.

Step one: Get involved. Mustang Daily, Poly Reps, ASI, Spectrum . . . pick a club. Pick a handful of clubs. Involvement is the single best way to meet new people and make connections. Play intramural sports — there’s bound to be one you like. I knew from the start that I wanted to be involved in as much as I could, and I took on a lot.

Between the Mustang Daily, hall council and now Poly Reps, I keep a pretty busy schedule, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve made friends, I’m doing things I love and I’m learning a lot about myself. Being busy challenges you to manage your time effectively and in all seriousness, I do better in school when I’m over-committed — there’s less time to procrastinate. Plus, it’s easier to scale back your activities than amp them up mid-school year, so jump in now and climb out later; it’s pretty hard to climb out of a hole you never jumped into.

Step two: Be fearless. On move-in day I walked down the hall and introduced myself to everyone. Any other day that probably wouldn’t have happened. But thanks to my spontaneous introductions that day, one of the girls down the hall is my other half. If you’re looking to do something like this now, approach someone who’s sitting alone at 19Metro Station, or strike up a conversation with the person behind you in the Starbucks line. You never know, this person could be your new best friend.

Step three: Be spontaneous and follow your heart. College is the place where you finally take that ballet class you’ve always wanted to. So if you’ve always wanted to do choir, then take a class. If you miss your friends back home, make a road trip to visit them. Things like that make the college experience. I can look back and smile at the adventure my friends and I took to San Diego to see our favorite band, even if it meant we slept in a car. It made college seem real — like the “college” they talk about in movies is actually what college is like.

Step four: Take advantage of your resources. Establish a rapport with your professors. When you need help with registration or need advice, someone directly involved in your department will be the best person to talk to. But if you don’t get to know them, you’re just another face. Office hours, e-mails, whatever — do what it takes to build a respectful, professional, yet comfortable relationship with your professors. And chances are, you’ll have some of the same professors throughout your college career, so you might as well get on their good side while you can.

Step five: Don’t regret anything. I spent a few days sitting in my room wishing I didn’t say this or do that some other cliché thing girls tend to overanalyze — until I realized I was being stupid. During all that time I spent sitting around feeling embarrassed, I could have done something fun. I could have gone for a hike and forgotten about it. Life happens. But it continues to happen, so in three hours, that embarrassing thing you did last night will be old news because someone is more drunk or more awkward or more clumsy than you.

You only live once, so live while you still can. I can probably think of a hundred other things I did this year, but I don’t want you to completely duplicate my awesome freshman year. I want you to have your best possible freshman year, the one that makes you smile when you call your mom to talk to her about it. The one that when you look back years from now, will make you sigh and think “Damn, life should always be this way” — which it should be.

You can’t be a freshman forever, but you can always live like one.

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