A Letter to My College Freshman Self

Photo Courtesy: Doug Keller

Dear a little nervous, yet excited freshman,

As I pack my belongings to return to school for my senior year I am full of excitement. I am ready to attack so many things for the final time. In the past three years, not everything has been perfect. I’ve learned and grown from these imperfections. As important as these experiences were, here are a few pieces of advice that might have made things a little bit easier along the way.

College is different.

College may be scary. But, college is fun. College swimming is not high school swimming and it is not club swimming. It is its own world, but it is the most incredible, wild ride. Your classes will offer you more freedom and opportunities than ever before. You’ll meet people from all over the world. You’ll expand past your bubble from home. Enjoy. It. All.


Photo Courtesy: Doug Keller

Set big goals.

There are four years left in your swimming career. There are less than four years until people will ask you about your grad school or job plans. These four years will fly by, as hard as it is to believe. So dream big. Write down your goals. Commit to them. Get better everyday at everything you do. Nobody will be mad at you if you fall short of your goals. The people surrounding you will still love and support you. Don’t settle.


Photo Courtesy: Doug Keller


When your coach says his door is always open, he means it. You don’t even need a reason to go say hello. Little conversations can turn your day around.

What kind of practice makes you confident? What motivates you? How are your classes? In 15 years, he’s heard and seen just about everything and even keeps tissues in his desk drawer.

You’ll enjoy your classes more if you build a relationship with your professors, too. Take the time at the beginning of the semester to drop by office hours and introduce yourself. Let them know if and when you’ll miss any classes. Be proactive. Be a responsible student-athlete.

Part of college is living with a roommate. You don’t need to be best friends with the girl sleeping two yards from you, but you do need to respect each other and the space you share. Talk.

Break free from routine.

It is easy to always go to dining hall X for chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast and then dining hall Y for chicken fingers for lunch. It is easy to always stand in the same space in the stretching circle. Don’t. Move around. Try new things. Interact with more people. The littlest changes make the biggest difference.

Take a risk.

Take lots of risks. Don’t stand back and think “maybe next year.” If you’re passionate about a leadership position, seek it. If you meet somebody neat, befriend them. What’s the worst that will happen? It won’t work out? Your support network is so large, nobody is going to let you fall flat on your face.


Photo Courtesy: Doug Keller


Trust the process. Trust the people. Your coach knows what he is doing. Trust yourself. You’ve been swimming for a long time. You know your body; listen to it. You know how to race, so swim like it.

Trusting means embracing teamwork. In the classroom. In the pool. Anywhere on campus. Everybody brings their own unique experiences into every situation. Learn from them. You don’t know everything, and it actually turns out that you don’t want to. Working with others will serve you far beyond these four years.

College swimming is less individual than club swimming. Your teammates want you to succeed because your teammates want the team to succeed. Be a part of something so much larger than yourself.


Photo Courtesy: Doug Keller

Asking for help just makes you human.

Do it. Your captains, teammates, friends, coaches and professors want to be there for you. They want you to be the best you can be. They will be happy to help. Don’t be afraid to ask.


You won’t come home the same person you left and that is okay. That is good. Be a student of the sport. Be a student in the classroom, but know that your education is not limited to the confines of the classroom walls. Don’t be afraid of something that challenges you. Let it change you.

Enjoy the next four years, the good and the bad, the ups and the downs. This time is special, and you’re not going to get it back.

Much love,

Somehow already a college senior


By Cathleen Pruden, Swimming World College Intern


  1. Sayed Nagy

    Good Start .. !

  2. Marichuy Frausto

    Se ven her mosas k gane la . mejor

  3. avatar
    Doug Keller

    Wonderful message and clearly written from a champion swimmer !

    • avatar
      Cathleen Pruden

      Thank you so much, Doug! And thank you for the photos! You’ve managed to capture an image to represent every memory and experience at Mount Holyoke!

  4. Jon Kristoffer

    I really enjoyed this. Great article!