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Sam Stryker | Friday, August 17, 2012

So Class of 2016, you’ve arrived to the tropical resort paradise known as South Bend, Indiana. You’ve moved into your dorm, met your roommates and are about to embark on the greatest four-year journey of your life. Undoubtedly, friends, family and chance acquaintances have thrown you way too much advice on how to approach your college experience – ask questions, don’t be shy, talk to your professors, be outgoing – and yes, most of this is true. But there is no uniform recipe for a triumphant freshman year. Every one of you is different (despite it seeming like the admissions office recruited an army of North Face models) and it would be remiss to think there is some formula to “winning” freshman year. I tried to do all the things I was told to do – yet still, there were periods during my first year at Notre Dame that were the most emotionally draining times of my life.
While there might not be a universal game plan that will indisputably yield straight A’s, a gaggle of friends and the avoidance of the Freshman 15, approaching college with a certain mentality is key.
That’s where YOLO comes in. Much has been made of this ubiquitous phrase. While many toss it around with such regularity you would think their life depended on it (myself included) others scorn its usage (like my friends, who have placed me on a strict cap of five YOLO’s for every time we hang out.)
For the uninitiated, YOLO stands for “You Only Live Once” and it perfectly epitomizes what freshman year is all about. YOLO’s immediate meaning urges one to live life to the fullest, otherwise one might suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out.)
For instance, go ahead and go out on a weeknight. Hang out with your friends instead of studying for that test you know you’ll do fine on anyways. Don’t hold back, eat that cupcake in the dining hall (actually, hold off – the Freshman 15 is a real thing.) You do only live once, so do all those crazy things you want to do!
But lost in the kitsch and obnoxiousness of YOLO’s primary meaning is its true value to all of you members of the Class of 2016. Sure, you can say “YOLO” before you have that non-alcoholic drink you know is going to put you over the edge, or before you engage in a DFMO at your first dorm dance (I’ll let you figure that last acronym out for yourself.) But Notre Dame offers some of the most incredible opportunities to undergraduates of any university in the world. The thing is, you do only live once. On that note, You Only Notre Dame Once – YONDO, if you will – and it would be a terrible waste to cruise through four years of college without taking the University up on some of its offers.
So in this Fighting Irish version of YOLO – YONDO – go out there, and do everything knowing you’ve only got one shot at college. Go on the Appalachia Seminar. Go to the Career Fair. Play a club sport. Write for the student newspaper (If you can string a couple of nouns and verbs together cohesively, we’d love to have you.) Take interesting classes – I bet you didn’t know we have probably the best Medieval Studies program in the United States. Be passionate about something, anything. Basically, get off your bum and be active in the Notre Dame community.
YOLO, YONDO – it doesn’t matter how you say it. You’ve only got one shot at college. Class of 2016, treat it as such.
Contact Sam Stryker at
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.